The outdoor learning experience has been greatly emphasized in our recent field trips. Two and a half weeks ago we took a boat through the Tarcoles River to appreciate two contrasting aspects: the wilderness and pollution. From the boat we observed crocodiles, ospreys, herons, ibises and basilisks, to name a few members of the river basin wildlife. We continued to a mangrove forest patch where the students received a field lecture in situ on mangrove ecology.

After this wildlife expedition, we moved to a heavily polluted beach site where another field lecture on waste management was delivered by our professor of natural resource management. Shortly after, we were hiking through the wet-to-dry transition forest of Carara National Park. This park protects 5,242 hectares of primary and secondary forest with myriad micro-habitats. However, a segment of the forest edge is bordered by a trafficked road that emits pollutants and generates noise. Taking this condition as a case study, another field lecture on “road ecology” was delivered in the nearby forest.

At El Sur, a small rural community close to the northeast side of the park, the students interacted with community members and learned about various issues including the amount of community organization necessary to operate successful rural tourism, the relationship between the national park and the community, and the local recycling program. In addition, the students experienced the rustic method of obtaining “atado de dulce”, a brown sugar product processed by a sugar-mill powered by oxen.

After a short overnight break back at campus, two more field trips served to study the management of the most visited national park in Costa Rica and the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). In Poas Volcano National Park, the students hiked and observed one of the largest craters on earth. They also conducted a survey to assess the behavior of tourists and park service perceptions. Finally, at the University of Costa Rica, a guest lecturer delivered a talk on GMOs and the current situation of GMOs in Costa Rica.