At SFS Costa Rica we are now well into the Directed Research course. Each project falls under the parameters of our 5-Year Research Plan agenda for 2013-2017, constructed with multiple stakeholders including community leaders, national parks administrators, and research colleagues. The aim of these projects is to generate needed information to respond to local and global challenges while securing the functionality of Costa Rica’s natural and human systems.
This semester the projects are:
- Quantification of ecosystem services in agro-forestry systems and forest fragments
- Ecological impacts of infrastructure and tourist visitation on wildlife in Poás Volcano National Park
- Assessing the community capitals and relationships of surrounding towns with Guayabo National Monument
- Ecological assessment of the impacts of hummingbird feeders in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Before departing to the field, students receive training in statistics, research ethics, scientific communications, and also field research techniques.
On the specific project I’m directing at Monumento Nacional Guayabo—Costa Rica’s most important archeological site—students are divided up and charged with visiting three rural communities to conduct interviews, in Spanish, of community leaders and random households in order to gain insight into the set of capitals the communities have. Speaking with locals about their organizations, educational opportunities, roles of gender, environmental issues and many other topics, will help determine areas where the Park and the communities could work together, and thus improve their relationship.
Despite the language challenge, students experience firsthand the reality of sustainability issues faced by a developing country and the specific challenges of rural communities around protected areas.
After the field work, students will rigorously analyze the data collected, and each will write a scientific paper, make a poster, and present their findings to the group. Yes, it is highly demanding, but also highly rewarding for all of us to be a part of this Directed Research, and I am confident that this will be an unforgettable experience for all.