Posted: October 6, 2011

Name: Sergio A. Molina, Ph.D.
Position: Lecturer in Environmental Policy and Socioeconomics
Program: Sustainable Development Studies, Costa Rica

A couple of weeks ago we were immersed in the tropical cloud forest of the Monteverde Reserve, which happens to be the most visited private reserve in the country and is known as the most famous cloud forest in the world. This trip served to illustrate the complexity and richness of a cloud forest ecosystem, one of the most biodiverse in the world. Here, students also conducted their first field exercise on hypothesis development and testing.  Students assessed different ecological phenomena and came up with ways to explain the dynamic nature of this lush forest.

Last week we visited two fairly contrasting national parks. First, we visited Carara National Park and the nearby mangroves. Carara contains a unique transitional tropical wet-dry forest that supports a high level of species typical of each of these two ecosystems, including the iconic Scarlet macaw. Then, we drove up to 8,872 feet in elevation to Poas Volcano National Park, the most visited national park in Costa Rica, to enjoy the majestic views of the main active crater, the second widest in the world.

Along with Mauricio, the park´s Sub-Director, we discussed the challenges of managing a national park where recreation, research, education, and conservation are all critical objectives highly constrained by limited personnel and financial resources. For the second field exercise, students collaborated with park officials in administering a survey in order to assess visitors’ satisfaction levels and impacts during their travels.

Early this week we visited the University of Costa Rica, where a guest lecturer began our day-long debate on the topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As we continue with the rigorous in-class portion of the program, students now prepare for sharing a weekend with families from the community of Atenas, an invaluable life experience.