SUMMER 2020 UPDATE: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SFS has cancelled this and all other programs for Summer 2020. For Summer 2021, we will be offering a new Summer 2 program in Costa Rica. These details should be available in July 2020.
What does it take to build a sustainable society? 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 your peers and key community stakeholders.
Explore national parks in the Central Pacific lowlands, where lush rainforests, white sandy beaches, and mischievous primates attract multitudes of visitors – as well as a host of conservation challenges.
Program Costs & Financial Aid
Meet Your Admissions Counselor
SFS provides a comprehensive study abroad experience during a 6-day/week program schedule. SFS delivers the highest level of support and an unparalleled academic experience.
All students are welcome to apply for our need-based financial aid. Students who exhibit financial need for their program will be offered SFS financial aid. SFS aid is offered through a combination of scholarships, grants and loans.
Pell Grant Match
SFS matches Federal Pell Grant funding for students applying to an SFS semester program.
Many SFS students receive aid through their home institutions or other outside sources, so check with your financial aid office to see what aid may apply to an SFS program.
Amber grew up on a small family farm in Prairie Farm, Wisconsin. She attended Boston University and earned a degree in Environmental Analysis and Policy. She learned to love the natural world early in life and during her time at BU she studied abroad twice, once in Grenoble, France and once with SFS in Atenas, Costa Rica in 2012.
She was lucky enough to work on two Directed Research projects during her time with SFS in Costa Rica. One to contribute to an ecological assessment of the impacts of hummingbird feeders on pollination networks in Cloud Forests in Monteverde and another studying the impacts of trafficked roads bisecting or bordering the forest of Carara National Park.
During her career she has worked in student leadership development, run community organizing efforts, and spent time on several small farms (including her family farm in the Midwest) rediscovering her agricultural roots. She returned to SFS as an Admissions Counselor in 2015. Her experience in the field and abroad was transformative and she is delighted to have the opportunity to work to support students through the admissions and pre-departure process and share her experience with the next generation!
In her free time, she loves to cook, bake, hike, read, play ukulele, pet dogs, see live music, and be outside.
Itinerary varies from term to term and is subject to change. Program activities take place 6 days a week with one day free.
Week 1: ¡Bienvenido a Costa Rica! Move into dorms, meet roommates and SFS staff, and attend program orientation. Tour Atenas. Learn about SFS’ Rainforest Alliance Certification, biodiversity of Costa Rica, conservation and land management, and history and culture. Multi-day expedition to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: hike through the cloud forest, learn about cloud forest ecology, habitat connectivity, biodiversity assessment, and bioindicators. Apply the scientific method and study tourism practices and impacts in the reserve, collecting/analyzing data and writing up results.
Week 2: Return to SFS Center. Learn about sustainable tourism, protected areas management, research ethics, and data management. Field trip to the tropical rainforest and beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the country’s most popular parks. Conduct field exercise on tree diversity and forest composition, laying transects and collecting data in Cerro de la Muerte oak forests and paramo ecosystems. Select topics and groups for final research project.
Week 3: Scientific method deep dive. Develop an ecology-related research question and design an experiment to test your hypothesis in the field. Begin data collection with your research group.
Week 4: Data collection in the field. Analyze your data and learn about science communication. Prepare a presentation and write a final report based on your findings. Present at a research symposium with SFS students and staff and members of the community. Re-entry exercises and room cleanup. Closing activities. Head home.
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:
Climate change and tropical ecosystems
Agroforestry and permaculture
Hummingbird ecology and behavior
National park management
On the Fundamentals of Sustainability Research program, you will take one 4-credit course. This course is participatory in nature and is designed to foster inquiry and active learning combining lectures, field exercises, assignments, and tests. This course is taught in English.
Click on each course to view a description and download the syllabus
Applied Research Techniques and Strategies Toward Sustainability
SFS 4930 Applied Research Techniques and Strategies Toward Sustainability (4 credits)
This course provides students the opportunity to apply the scientific process in a field research project that addresses a local environmental issue. Students’ exposure to several parks and protected areas helps them design a field research project related to sustainable development and tourism that contributes to the strategic research plan of the Center. Participants collect, manage, and analyze data, and communicate research results to our local stakeholders.
You will gain practical skills in the field such as: GIS use and applications, habitat and biodiversity assessment, forest soundscape techniques, songbird mist-netting, transects and vegetation surveys, basic Spanish language skills, tourism impact assessment methods, research design and implementation, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, scientific writing, and research presentation.
You will visit different ecosystems and communities which may include low-land tropical rainforest, tropical cloud forests in Monteverde, the rainforest on the Pacific coast, dry forests in Santa Rosa National Park and along the Guanacaste province, communities surrounding national parks, agroecosystems, fishing villages, farms, mangroves and coastal ecosystems.
Take back-to-back summer sessions and get the hands-on learning and skill-building experiences of an internship, while also going off the beaten path and exploring the world. Each summer session focuses on a different topic, and you’ll have time to travel independently between sessions. Receive a $1,000 discount on your second session (effective for Summer 2020).
RECOMMENDED PROGRAM COMBO
Biodiversity and Sustainable Food Systems (Costa Rica Session I)
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 room
Open-air porch with hammocks and chairs
Dining hall with scenic valley views, and on-site cooking staff
Swimming pool, soccer field, outdoor classroom and pizza oven
Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farm
Click on the icons below to learn more about our Center in Costa Rica.