Experience a semester of sustainability in Costa Rica, known worldwide for its innovative conservation and economic development strategies. This program examines different models that Costa Rica uses to balance biodiversity conservation with socioeconomic benefit, especially in rural areas. Students examine the effects of globalization on development issues such as agriculture, urban sprawl, population growth, waste management, and water quality. Students compare the SFS Center farm with other sustainable farms in the region through an ecosystem services assessment approach.
Students visit cloud forests, dry forests, volcanoes, lowland rainforests, farms, and plantations as they explore environmental policies and sustainable solutions in the context of the environmental changes facing Costa Rica.
Coursework is taught in English
One semester of college-level ecology, biology, or environmental studies/science
Week 1: Introductions, orientation, classes begin, trip to the rainforests of the Caribbean
Week 2: Excursion to Santa Rosa National Park
Week 3: Field lectures at Carara National Park
Week 4: Guest lecture at University of Costa Rica, excursion to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Week 5: Day-stay and classes
Week 6: Midterms, community dinner, weekend away
Week 7: Classes and field lectures
Week 8: Field trip to organic coffee farm, practice field skills for Directed Research
Week 9: Multi-day excursion to Nicaragua
Week 10: Classes, field lectures, and community outreach
Week 11: Mid-semester break
Week 12: Directed Research field work begins
Week 13: Data analysis and research writing
Week 14: Individual and community research presentation, closing activities
Itinerary subject to change.
A Note about Program Costs
Includes all pre-program advising services, room and board at the field station and on excursions, park entrance and research fees, program-related transportation, emergency evacuation insurance, and official transcript processing.
Does not include international airfare, international medical insurance, medical costs, and personal non-program related expenses.
SFS 2050 Language, Culture and Society of Costa Rica (2 credits)
This course contains two distinct but integrated modules. The Spanish language module offers listening, oral, and written practice of the Spanish language at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels of proficiency. Students engage in oral and written grammar and vocabulary exercises, and develop Spanish language skills and tools required for their research projects. The sociocultural module helps students to develop a more refined understanding of Costa Rican culture and the various communities with which we work. Students participate in lectures, field exercises, and other activities including a homestay—all of which teach them strategies and skills for working with people in a community-based research context and help them to assist with community extension projects.
SFS 3740 Principles of Resource Management - Costa Rica (4 credits)
This course is designed to examine the connection between society and natural resources, and how application of management tools can lead to biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods. This course introduces underlying concepts and practical tools used in addressing complex environmental problems, including protected area planning and management, guidelines for ecologically sustainable development, and environmental impact assessment. Students examine local case studies using the theory and practice learned in this course.
SFS 3770 Tropical Ecology and Sustainable Development (4 credits)
This course examines the ecological impact of human activity, especially agriculture, in a tropical country. Students study the agro-ecology of important crops, with emphasis on biodiversity as the source of production means and materials. Students identify renewable and nonrenewable resources and examine their historical use. We study the long-term and
large-scale impact of local agricultural and other practices on the national and global environment (e.g., water pollution, waste management, climate change). Students examine options for alternative resources use, land restoration, and preservation from ecological, sociopolitical, and economic viewpoints, and use basic field techniques and measurements to examine the efficacy of different options.
SFS 3820 Environmental Ethics and Development - Costa Rica (4 credits)
This course addresses the intersection of the human and environmental sides of sustainable development in Costa Rica. Linking human rights to sustainability is an emerging field that combines the important dimensions of economic and social rights with the environmental underpinnings of sustainability. We use a multidisciplinary methodology to cover themes of local and global social and environmental policies, valuing of and access to ecosystem services, development aid, agrarian reform, indigenous rights and local livelihoods, and climate change. Students examine the roles of local people, government, and local and international non-governmental actors in the implementation of sustainable development models. Students also review specific local case studies to explore the empowerment of local people and their reaction to local and non-local proposals for sustainable development.
SFS 4910 Directed Research - Costa Rica (4 credits)
This course prepares students to distinguish hidden assumptions in scientific approaches and separate fact from interpretation, cause from correlation, and advocacy from objectivity. Students learn specific tools including: experimental design; field techniques; basic descriptive statistics; and parametric and non-parametric quantitative analysis. Emphasis is placed on succinct scientific writing, graphic and tabular presentation of results, and effective delivery of oral presentations.