Atenas, Costa Rica
English instruction with 2-credit Spanish Language & Culture course
Fall, Spring, Summer
Semester: 18 credits
Summer: 4 or 8 credits
Rolling admissions


The School for Field Studies (SFS) semester and summer programs in Costa Rica provide the opportunity for students to examine the effects of globalization on classic development issues such as agriculture, biodiversity protection, economic development, urban sprawl, population growth, waste management, and water resources. Student research analyzes different development and resource management models that protect the biodiversity of Costa Rica’s ecosystems while promoting socioeconomic benefits for its people.

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  • Take an extended field expedition to Nicaragua to compare and contrast development and resource-use issues: hike the volcanoes is Isla Ometepe; explore the rich cultural history of Granada; and study impacts of tourism in the region
  • Visit several national parks to investigate the pressures of ecotourism on small gateway communities and learn about tropical forest ecology
  • Explore the biodiversity and cultural significance of cloud forest habitats such as the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  • Learn about bio-indicators of ecosystem health and rainforest ecology
  • Develop management policies by continuing long-term bird monitoring programs and analyzing the impact of roads on fauna in protected areas
  • Conduct social science research in the local towns and conservation areas to better understand both residents' and tourists' perceptions about the surrounding environment
  • Explore rare and threatened tropical dry forest ecosystems while camping in the national parks of the Guanacaste Province and studying one of the most successful management models for protected areas in Latin America


Session I: Sustaining Tropical Ecosystems: Biodiversity, Conservation, and Development

Students explore and address key features of sustainable development strategies including the most pressing challenges occurring at the intersection of conservation and economic progress, as well as tropical ecosystem function and connectivity, allowing them to understand the impacts of development on the environment and on society.

Session II: Applied Research Techniques and Strategies toward Sustainability

Students learn about the ecological, natural resource management, and socioeconomic drivers impacting protected areas and surrounding communities and farms in Costa Rica. This program focuses on developing relevant research questions that address local issues related to sustainability and conservation goals.

Summer Combined: Sessions I + II

Summer courses can be taken individually (4 credits) or back-to-back (8 credits). The combined summer program provides a thorough introduction to the sustainability of tropical ecosystems, as well as field research techniques for addressing conservation questions. Students participating in both sessions receive a tuition discount.


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