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.

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!

Field Notes From Kenya


Sunset over Tsavo East National Park, near Banks’ research site.

A few weeks ago we heard from John “Buck” Banks, a professor of Environmental Science in the Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences program at UW Tacoma, and an adjunct professor with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS).

Banks has just wrapped up a month in East Africa conducting field research at a forest regeneration site on the Kenya coast. The work is part of an ongoing, interdisciplinary project in collaboration with local ornithologists and a forestry faculty member from Michigan State. “We were doing a second expedition to look at the recovery of the restored forest during the dry season,” says Banks. “We did a wet season sampling back in May and June.”

The project site is a five-hectare section of forest about three miles inland from the ocean. It had previously been farmland until 20 years ago when the area was replanted with native tree species. After two decades, the forest looks fairly mature and developed, says Banks, but it has fewer birds and insects, and generally hasn’t recouped the biodiversity of surrounding healthier forests.

Sykes monkey

A Sykes monkey lurks around their field site.

Using 27 test plots, Banks and his collaborators were looking at different components of the forest’s biodiversity, including tree recovery rates, arthropods and birds. Among the questions they’re trying to answer is why the bird and insect populations haven’t returned to the levels they find in nearby reference forests.

In the next few years, Banks plans to broaden the project and continue monitoring the forest’s growth and recovery. It follows similar research he’s previously conducted during the past few years looking at the links between forest birds and the arthropods they eat, and elephant disturbance in nearby Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.

Banks posted regular updates on his blog, so check out some of his recent notes and photos—including their struggles with forest antelopes and “rambunctious” monkeys sabotaging their fieldwork!

Photos © Buck Banks.