By: Brenna Barber

Posted: December 20, 2021
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Final Impressions: Fall in Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Why did you pick an SFS program? What were some of your favorite things about your program in Costa Rica and what will you miss most?

I chose an SFS program because I wanted to experience field learning. Sit-down lecture style classes haven’t been very conducive to my learning, but with SFS’s “learning by doing” classes, I learned a lot more this past semester than I would have anywhere else. I fell in love with Costa Rica during my time with SFS–from the wildlife, weather, and landscapes, to the food, communities, and language. I’ll miss everything about Costa Rica, but I’m especially going to miss finding the occasional anole or house gecko around the dorms and collecting eggs from the chickens.

The author collecting eggs from the chickens at the Center’s farm. Photo by Brenna Barber.

What piece of advice would you share with a future SFS student coming to your program?

It’s natural to want to focus on just the “big” things that happen, like field trips and weekends away, but that can get pretty overwhelming. Take a minute to notice the everyday things, too. You’re going to want to remember things like the sleepy “good mornings” at breakfast every day, what the area around your campus looks and sounds like (for example, every dog in the neighborhood barking at you as you walk up the street to get ice cream), the nonstop calls of native birds (warblers, toucans, and motmots), or your professors’ cool outfits.

A toucan sitting in the guanabana tree in front of the Center’s porch. Photo by Brenna Barber.

Now that Directed Research (DR) is over, how would you say it went? What kind of research did you conduct?

DR was my favorite experience of the entire semester! I was really looking forward to it at the beginning, and it definitely did not disappoint. My classmates and I worked with our Tropical Ecology professor, Víctor. We had the opportunity to stay at the Texas A&M University Soltis Center, which is surrounded by preserved rainforest land. While there, we conducted ecological surveys of the amphibian and reptile species living in the area to compile a preliminary list of what the species composition of the center looks like. We combined our survey data with the data in the ongoing iNaturalist citizen science project for the center and recorded a total of 91 different species, with still more to be found in the area. This type of ecological study is SO important–especially in the face of global climate change–so that we can understand how populations change and adapt in a changing environment.

Photo of a red-eyed tree frog captured during Directed Research. Photo by Brenna Barber.

Has your experience with SFS influenced your identity?

I had never left the United States before this semester, so, naturally, I was incredibly nervous about it all. Thinking back on all of the things I accomplished this semester, such as flying alone and out of the country for the first time, doing (and enjoying!) field research in areas of study I never thought I’d want to try, making new friends, and hiking/climbing/squelching up a literal mountain during our last weekend away, my experience with SFS has strengthened both my sense of self and my confidence in my abilities, and I could not be more grateful.

What three adjectives best describe how you are feeling right now?

Thankful, inspired, and nostalgic.

Final thoughts?

I just want to thank all of my classmates (friends) and the staff at SFS for making this semester amazing and unforgettable!

Curious to learn a bit more about the SFS Costa Rica Center? Click here to read about why we’re based there, our environmental research focus, how we connect and support the local community, and even take a tour of the Center.

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