Costa Rica

The SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies

Costa Rica

The rugged rainforests and sandy beaches of Costa Rica are brimming with life – from sloths and frogs to brightly colored toucans and hummingbirds. Costa Rica hosts an astounding 5% of Earth’s species despite covering only 0.03% of its area. Shaded coffee farms integrated into the rainforest constitute just one example of the sustainable conservation strategies for which the country is known.

Despite efforts to preserve this wild beauty, climate change and increased urban development bring new and unforeseen challenges. Biodiversity is threatened, while natural resources are stretched to their limits. SFS research in Costa Rica helps NGOs, government officials, and policymakers as they seek to sustain the balance between conservation and socioeconomic benefit in a time of transition.



Sustainable Development Studies

Experience a semester of sustainability in Costa Rica, home to rainforests, volcanoes, rushing waterfalls, and a laid-back culture that reflects the national motto: “Pura Vida.” Explore the country’s many diverse parks, farms, and reserves to learn how Costa Ricans have balanced conservation and development issues. Wrap up the semester in the field, collecting data for your research project.
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15 Weeks
18 Credits
Fall 2019

Sep 2 - Dec 11


Spring 2020

Jan 27 - May 6


summer session I

Coffee and Chocolate: A Taste of Sustainability

Coffee and cacao are two of the world’s most popular crops, and both are intimately intertwined with the culture, ecology, and history of Costa Rica. This summer, get a taste of Costa Rica as you explore the connections between these iconic crops and issues of conservation, social justice, and sustainable development.
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04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2019

Jun 3 - Jul 3

In The Field

Summer 2020

Jun 1 - Jul 1


summer session II

Fundamentals of Sustainability Research

Spend your summer investigating issues of biodiversity conservation and sustainability in Costa Rica’s vast network of national parks and protected areas - the perfect natural laboratory. Hone your research skills in the field as you design and conduct a research project, collecting data and presenting your results to members of the community.
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04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2019

Jul 8 - Aug 7


Summer 2020

Jul 6 - Aug 5


Life In The Field

The Center is an active organic farm overlooking the vibrant Central Valley, where green is the predominant color as far as the eye can see. Dorms and classrooms intermingle with orchards and gardens, while Center dog Hera keeps watch over it all. The friendly town of Atenas is a 10-minute cab ride away, offering restaurants, shops, parks, and cultural events.

  • Dorm living with 4-person bunkrooms
  • Classroom, library, computer lab, and laundry next to dorms
  • Porch with hammocks and chairs for lounging
  • Dining hall with scenic valley views, on-site cooking staff
  • Farm with chickens, pigs, greenhouse, and gardens
  • Swimming pool, soccer field, and outdoor pizza oven
Click here to read stories from students, staff and faculty in the field

I knew I needed a change of scenery to broaden my world-view and expand my understanding of what I had learned at school, and I couldn’t have picked a better place to find it!

Stefanie Farrington
Clark University


Research at the Center for Sustainable Development Studies focuses on the complex links between conservation, economic development, and ecosystem function. Students and faculty at the Center engage with local communities, small NGOs, and farmers to learn about their perspectives and needs. Our research provides essential data and contributes to the sustainable development of Costa Rica.

Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

  • Agroforestry and permaculture
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Sustainable eco-tourism
  • Hummingbird ecology and behavior
  • Urban ecology
  • National park management

Environmental Issues

Our Centers are strategically located in regions facing critical environmental issues. Students and faculty study these issues and collect data to help facilitate sustainable responses. In Costa Rica, we’re currently investigating the following issues:

Climate Change
Biodiversity Conservation
Land Use Change
Tourism Impacts
Pollution & Waste Management
Natural Resource & Water Management
Learn More About the Issues


The Local Community

SFS is an active part of the Atenas community. During the program, students help maintain a local recycling program, meet local families and host them for community dinners, teach environmental education and English at local schools, attend festivals, cultural performances and join soccer games. SFS research data is shared with the community and used to establish local environmental policies.

Meet Our Team