Costa Rica

Sustainable Development Studies


This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Costa Rica.

Major academic themes include:

  • Agroforestry and permaculture
  • Climate change and tropical ecosystems
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Sustainable ecotourism
  • Hummingbird ecology and behavior
  • Urban ecology
  • National park management


On the Sustainable Development Studies program, you will take three 4-credit disciplinary courses, one 2-credit language and culture course, and a 4-credit capstone Directed Research course. Courses are participatory in nature and are designed to foster inquiry and active learning. Each course combines lectures, field exercises, assignments, tests, and research. All courses are taught in English.

Click on each course to view a description and download the syllabus

SFS 2050 Language, Culture, and Society of Costa Rica 2 credits
SFS 3740 Principles of Resource Management 4 credits
SFS 3770 Tropical Ecology and Sustainable Development 4 credits
SFS 3820 Environmental Ethics and Development 4 credits
SFS 4910 Directed Research 4 credits

Field Skills

You will practice valuable skills in the field which may include: GIS use and applications, habitat and biodiversity assessment, research design and implementation, forest soundscape techniques, songbird mist-netting, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, tourism impact assessment methods, research presentation, and Spanish language skills.


You will visit different ecosystems and communities while in the field, which may include low-land tropical rainforest, tropical cloud forest, the rainforest on the Pacific coast, dry forest on the Guanacaste Peninsula, communities surrounding national parks, agroecosystems, fishing villages, farms, volcanoes, mangroves and coastal ecosystems.

Directed Research

In the Directed Research course, each student completes a field research project under the mentorship of a faculty member – beginning with data collection and analysis and concluding with a research paper and presentation. Project subject areas span ecology, natural resource management, conservation science, environmental ethics, and socioeconomics.

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All program components are subject to change.