This Summer: Two Costa Rica Field Opportunities!

This summer, SEFS doctoral student Robert Tournay will be co-leading two different programs in Costa Rica through UW Tacoma: a month-long field course in ecology and community (12 credits), and a month-long internship in sustainable agriculture and conservation (5 credits).

The courses are hosted through UW Tacoma, but they are open to all UW students—and the credits should be transferable to SEFS. So check out the two opportunities below, and contact Robert if you have any questions!

Microsoft PowerPoint - Presentation1Costa Rica Field Studies: Ecology and Community (TESC404)
Summer B-term (July 23 – August 20); 12 credits

UW Tacoma’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and the Office of International Programs are pleased to offer a field course abroad, Costa Rica Field Studies: Ecology and Community, during Summer Quarter 2016. The program will introduce students to issues in tropical ecology and sustainability, focusing on sustainable agriculture. This 12-credit course is centered around a three-week stay in and around the rural village of Mastatal, in the Pacific lowlands of Costa Rica. Students stay in communal bunk facilities at a local environmental sustainable field station for part of the program; to round out the experience, the program also devotes time to exploring the coastal environment in and around Manuel Antonio National Park, a few hours to the west, the coffee producing region, and the spectacular Osa peninsula in the south.

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Costa Rica: Sustainable Agriculture and Conservation in the Tropics (TESC 496, Internship)
Fall Quarter, but travel dates are August 21 – September 18; 5 Credits

La Iguana Chocolate Farm Internship, Mastatal, Costa Rica
Come experience the breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural history of Costa Rica while exploring the connection between sustainable agriculture and conservation. You will spend a month living and working on La Iguana Chocolate farm assisting the Salazar family in crafting their hand-made chocolates. This is a true tree-to-truffle experience, and you will participate in each step of the process, including harvesting the cacao pods, the fermenting, drying and roasting of the cacao beans, and the making and packaging of their chocolates.

Microsoft PowerPoint - Presentation1La Iguana Chocolate is located in Mastatal (population approximately 150), a rural farming community nestled into the foothills above Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, and bordering the majestic La Cangreja National Park. One of only a handful of chocolate farms in Costa Rica, La Iguana Chocolate is dedicated to organic chocolate production in a sustainable manner that benefits the family and their community, while conserving their natural resources and protecting the incredible biodiversity in the area.

During your program you will, through hands-on experience, gain a deeper understanding of the general principles and practices of sustainable agriculture in the tropics, and gain specific knowledge on the small-scale production of organic chocolate from cacao. Through working at La Iguana Chocolate, and interacting with Salazar family and the community of Mastatal, you will broaden your awareness of the traditions and heritage of the Costa Rican culture. You will examine the connection between land-use and conservation through assigned readings, two on-site lectures led by the course instructor, and guided hikes in the rainforest of La Cangreja National Park. Upon your return you will conclude the course through participation in group discussions, and the completion of a reflection paper.

For more information, visit UW Tacoma Study Abroad.

Winter Study Abroad: Costa Rica!

This February, you could earn 12 credits while spending four weeks studying in Costa Rica as part of a field course, “Costa Rica Field Studies: Ecology and Community.” Organized by UW Tacoma’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and the Office of International Programs, the field course will introduce students to issues in tropical ecology, focusing on sustainability and rainforest conservation.

Costa Rica Study AbroadSEFS doctoral student Robert Tournay, who is working in Professors Sharon Doty and Tom DeLuca, is an alumnus of UW Tacoma and took this course as an undergraduate. He’s now handling logistics for the trip—transportation, accommodations, excursions, etc.—and will be traveling with the group to assist Professor John Banks, who is leading the class. (He handles arrangements for other Costa Rica programs, as well, including Professor John Marzluff’s with UW and trips through U.C. Irvine, Villanova and Seattle University).

It’s a tremendous opportunity and experience, and some of the many highlights include:

  • Independent student rainforest research projects
  • Living in a rural farming village (including optional homestays with local village residents)
  • Cultural exchange with indigenous people in nearby Zapaton
  • Excursions to coastal habitats, wildlife viewing, and service learning projects

The course runs from February 2 to March 1, 2015. Students will stay in communal bunk facilities at a local environmental/sustainable field station for part of the program. They will also spend time exploring the coastal environment in and around Manuel Antonio National Park, a few hours to the west, as well as a visit to the spectacular Osa peninsula in the south. Course work will include required readings, designing and conducting independent research projects in the field, participating in group discussions, and presenting a summary (via PowerPoint) of research projects at the end of the course.

Eligibility
Undergraduate students from any UW campus may apply, and a maximum of 15 students will be selected to participate in the program. Participants are selected on the basis of academic merit, preparation, interest, motivation, emotional maturity and financial responsibility. No previous international/language experience is required, though a willingness to engage in hard physical activity is necessary, and familiarity with at least basic Spanish is a plus.

The total cost of the program is $4,250, and the deadline to apply is November 10, 2014. Learn more about the course and how to apply!

Exploration Seminar: Costa Rica!

For the past five years, Professor John Marzluff has led a group of 15-20 students on a month-long exploration seminar to Costa Rica. The course, “Natural and Cultural History of Costa Rica,” is equal parts expedition and cultural immersion, and students get to learn about everything from local history and ecology to language and tourism.

Costa Rica

One of the group’s activities involves a day following one of four monkey species (including this white-faced capuchin monkey).

The day-to-day itineraries often vary slightly from year to year, but the trip generally begins in central Costa Rica around the city of San Jose. From there, the class heads south to higher-elevation oak ecosystems, then back down to low elevations and the rich tropical rainforests of south-central Costa Rica.

The next destination is the far southern Pacific coast along the border with Panama, including Corcovado National Park. “It’s quite a wild area,” says Marzluff, “and it involves a full-day hike along the beach to get into it. All the big cats are there.” They haven’t seen one yet, but the chance to spot an ocelot or puma is always there. This year, though, they did come face to face with several rare Baird’s tapirs on the trail. “There aren’t many places left in the wild to see them,” he says.

After a few days in and around the park, they start working their way back up the coast while exploring sea turtle breeding and other sorts of coastal recreational development (students and instructors also find time to fit in a bit of fishing, waterfall hiking and surfing here and there).

Marzluff’s co-instructors for the course are Professor Marc Miller from the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, and SEFS doctoral student Jack DeLap. Marzluff focuses on the birds, natural history and tropical ecology of the region. Miller approaches the social dimensions of the area, including sustainable tourism along the Pacific coast, and DeLap works with the students on scientific illustration techniques—paying special attention to field characteristics while drawing the plants, animals and habitats they’re seeing and studying. Marcos Garcia, a local Costa Rican, attends to language lessons for the students and provides unique color commentary. (One other fun SEFS connection is that Robert Tournay, a grad student in Professor Sharon Doty’s lab, is the travel coordinator for the trip. He works with Tropical Adventures in Education, and he helps arrange local contacts and set up accommodations.)

Costa Rica

This year, the group came face to face with several rare Baird’s tapirs.

Course Takeaways
While traveling the country, students get thorough exposure to tropical ecosystems, learning firsthand how they function and the incredible diversity within them. In terms of wildlife, you’ll have a chance to see close to 300 species of birds, all sorts of snakes, sea turtles laying eggs on the beach, maybe even another tapir. You’ll gain experience identifying a wide range of plants and animals, including close observations of hummingbirds, and a day following one of four monkey species. “You never know what you’re going to see,” he says.

Central to the course, as well, is cultural immersion, and students spend a lot of time learning how people live in different parts of Costa Rica, including the use of sustainable, low-tech operations (human- and animal-powered machines), composting toilets and other creative innovations. “There’s a lot of ingenuity as an everyday part of Costa Rican life,” says Marzluff.

Spanish language education is another component, and Garcia travels with the group to provide general language support and Spanish lessons every day. You don’t need to have Spanish language experience coming into the program; the lessons are flexible to suit beginners up through fluent speakers looking to hone their skills.

Costa Rica

Don’t expect a cushy stay in Costa Rica on this trip, as you’ll be doing a ton of hiking and getting incredible access to remote ecosystems.

What It Takes
“It’s a great class, no doubt about that,” says Marzluff, but it definitely requires a serious commitment. It can be seriously hot and humid in Costa Rica, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so you need to be in pretty good physical condition—or at least be willing to get in shape in the months before the class begins. You’ll be engaged full-time from early in the morning until late in the evening, from longer treks and night hikes to other tours and projects. You won’t be camping, but your lodging will vary from fairly high-end to rustic, as well as a homestay with a local Costa Rican family for up to a week. You should expect periodic heavy rains and unpredictable floods, and even a possible earthquake. All of which is to say, if you’re willing to live and travel with a group of students in these conditions, and you have a bit of an adventuresome spirit, you’ll be all set—and have one sensational experience to recall at the end of it!

How to Sign Up
Organized through the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences and the UW Study Abroad office, the field seminar runs from the August 28 to September 19, just before the start of the fall quarter. Most participants are undergrads, but occasionally graduate students come along as well.

Registration is open now, and the deadline to apply is March 1. The course cost is about $4,000, which is essentially all-inclusive when you’re there, but students are responsible for airfare to and from Costa Rica. You can check out a more detailed description of activities and sites you’ll visit, as well as the overall application process and schedule.

So take a closer look, and sign up for an unforgettable month in Costa Rica!

Photos © John Marzluff.

Costa Rica