Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Study Abroad in

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

105 posts categorized "Sustainability and the Environment"


Sustainability and Environment Internship: Sustainable Hardscaping, by Griffin Cronk (Whitman College)

As my electric drill churns a screw down through the top of a wooden bench, I am aware of the initial proposal and design work that makes this moment more than manual labor. The first period of the internship focused on learning principles of landscape and hardscape design from my supervisor, Felipe, who is known in Monteverde as an excellent landscape designer. The goal of the first week was to accumulate necessary background knowledge which meant understanding the context of the property on which our projects would be grounded. This required learning about sustainable design, the climatic differences in the greater Monteverde area and the social aspects of the property itself. Knowing all of this, I began to work.

My task was to design, construct, and install some sort of hardscaping feature in the garden of Casa de Arte—a local business that offers garden paths and sells wares made by artists in the community. Aware of my role as a visitor to this town, I actively avoided imposing my preconceived ideas about what gardens should contain by performing a site analysis to generate site-specific project ideas. One of the main ways that I felt I could address a problem we identified was creating seating areas for people to stop and enjoy the gardens. There were few places to sit and all the available benches were in disrepair. I went through the creative process with this need in mind—continuously seeking to incorporate features of sustainability into the project.   

The sustainability justification of my project was a valuable step that could easily be part of all building and landscaping design processes. I believe that in our current era of development, it is crucial that buildings and their landscaping be composed of sustainably sourced materials. I hoped to get a sense of what it looks like to consciously choose inputs. Some of the components of my sustainability objectives were to 1) rescue materials, 2) use as few materials as possible, 3) and design with the intention to increase the social interactions of a community space. Strengthening social ties can increase accountability and decrease exploitation of the environment. I began by finding materials that had been abandoned along the sides of the roads. I used what I found to develop my designs. Most of the materials were logs and stumps that had been cut down and had been left to rot. However, I saw opportunities for these logs to be benches for 5-10 years before they rot and return to the soil and the nutrient cycle.

Through the course of my internship, I learned about the practical constraints and delights of working only with materials and methods that I determined to be sustainable. I had to be critical in my decision making each step of the way. This taught me to be flexible with my design plan and to frequently step back to consider the implications of each decision. In the end, I created one small seat and two benches. I hope that the benches will become well-used spots to rest and enjoy the natural garden and forest. As I sat to inaugurate one of my benches, a blue morpho butterfly fluttered towards me—validating the hours of sawing and drilling. 

Griffin constructing bench

Griffin constructing one of the benches.

Griffin testing bench

Griffin tests a bench.

Griffin tests bench with homestay family

Griffin and his host family test a bench.

Griffin tests bench with homestay family
Griffin presents at the CIEE Internship Symposium.

Griffin tests bench with homestay family




Sustainability and Environment Internship: Nature Trail Design and Creation, by Colleen Baker (University of Tennessee)

For the past month I was an intern with retired forestry professor Dev Joslin along with another CIEE intern, Karlene Cudak. We worked at the Monteverde Friends School to design an educational nature trail in order to emphasize the biodiversity of plant life that can be found on their property and to foster increased interest in the flora of Monteverde through the use of interpretive signage. The Friends School is a Quaker founded, bilingual school in Monteverde. They heavily emphasize diversity, fostering a more peaceful world, and building a strong appreciation for nature and the surrounding ecosystem. On their property lies a patch of old growth forest that exhibits a high amount of biodiversity. We wanted to focus on educating the Friends School community on why this forest area is important and which plant species in particular can be found there.

I was originally interested in this project because highlighting biodiversity is very important in areas like Monteverde and I also have a passion for community involvement in regards to fostering sustainability and environmental conservation. With this trail we hope to increase student involvement. In addition, nature trail creation has always been something I have had an
interest in, so this project seemed like the perfect fit.

To complete this project we placed gravel over the trail and lined it with branches to form a more definite border. Following that we researched several relevant topics to the area and decided which plant species we should create signs for in order to highlight the biodiversity and flora in the forest patch. Through this internship and my time spent with Dev Joslin and biologist Willow Zuchowksi, I really gained an increased appreciation for the flora of Monteverde and the necessity for community education in this area. Willow possesses an incredible amount of knowledge regarding plant species in this area and working with her was definitely a bonus of this project. I also gained knowledge in several areas where my prior experience was lacking including sign design and construction.

This project taught me how tonavigate around difficulties involved in projects like this. Several times our schedule and proposed deadlines had to change to accommodate unforeseen difficulties and conflicts. This project really taught me the importance and necessity of flexibility and compromise. For me, I am most proud of the transformation of the trail that passes through the property. Previously it was a simple trail that the children took as a cut through to the school. However, after gravelling the trail and placing our various signs the trail has become an extension of the nature education they receive at school. My hope is that this trail will foster curiosity in the students that will continue throughout the rest of their lives. Also, the hope is that by creating curiosity and awareness in the students we can gain some involvement from their parents and
the extended Friends School community. 

Karlene posing with one of our finished signs

Karlene posing with one of our finished signs.
Karlene posing with one of our finished signs

Installing one of the small species signs

Karlene posing with one of our finished signs

Colleen (left) and Karlene (right) make a presentation at the CIEE Internship Symposium. 


Sustainability and Environment Internship: Design and Creation of a Nature Trail for the Monteverde Community, by Karlene Cudak (Providence College)

I am studying abroad in Monteverde, Costa Rica for the duration of my Spring 2018 college semester, learning about sustainability, renewable energy, conservation, tourism, and so much more! During this semester abroad, I am participating in a month-long internship, which has given me the opportunity to work at a local school creating informational signs to aid in the environmental education of the students and the surrounding community. My interests in this internship stemmed from increasing environmental education, and building ties to the local community by working at a local school.


Another student, Colleen, and I are collaborating on this internship, although we both have individualized aspects and
responsibilities as well. Our supervisor, Dev Joslin, is a resident in Monteverde who encourages environmental education. With this introduction into the people I am working with, I can now explain more about my specific internship’s goals and what I have gained from having this experience.


The focus of my internship is to develop ideas or creations that benefit the nature trails at the Monteverde Friend School (MFS). This includes enhancing the already existing trails by adding gravel and natural wooden barriers to clearly mark the paths. We also removed a large, broken firepit to better the aesthetic of the trail by making it look more natural. Another focus is designing educational signage that engages students and the local community, in turn, increasing environmental education and awareness in the Monteverde area. MFS is a bilingual school established by Quakers over 50 years ago, and has now grown to be an incredibly successful school with enthusiastic students, and the hopes of this internship is to provide this school with another resource for environmental education. The surrounding forest is unique and extremely important, and by encouraging students and community members to use the paths and read the signs, awareness about these topics will spread and future preservation may become a priority. Students almost always learn more when they are able to engage the material being taught, and these signs on the paths are perfect tools to aid in the environmental education of students.


The benefits of this internship will hopefully continue to be present at MFS after I leave, and there are several skills I have gained from this internship that I know will help me in the future. First, I learned how to create informational and attention-grabbing signs without overpowering the natural aesthetic of the short trail at MFS. I also gained knowledge of climate change and its impacts on premontane wet forests through research and proposal writing, while learning that the protection of this section of forest on MFS property is crucial to preserving premontane wet forests’ unique habitats. Another beneficial skill I acquired is how to gear information to different audiences, such as students or local community members in this case. There are several other benefits from this internship, not only for me, but for contributions to the community. These signs will aid in the environmental education of students and community members, while hopefully increasing efforts to preserve these cloud and premontane wet forests. These forests contain extremely specialized habitats that are critical for biodiversity.


Learning how to handle power tools!

Example of signage

An example of the kinds of interpretive materials that Karlene supplied. 


Colleen and Karlene take questionsColleen (left) and Karlene (right) take questions from the audience during the CIEE Internship Symposium.

Sustainability and Environment Internship: Sustainable Hardscaping at the Monteverde Art House, by Zehra Cheatham (University of Colorado-Boulder)

This past month I interned with Felipe Negrini, a Monteverde resident dedicated to increasing sustainable landscaping and hardscaping in the local community. We allocated the internship to helping the Monteverde Art House (M.A.H.), a locally owned private business that promotes local artists and artisans. In October of 2017, Tropical Storm Nate severely damaged the signs, plants, and benches in front of the M.A.H. making it difficult to navigate through the area without feeling lost. The signs around the M.A.H. are supposed to help you navigate the various paths to the gallery, gazebo, and river but since the storm, they have been destroyed and misplaced. Felipe and I did a site analysis of the area to determine what I can do in just a month’s worth of work that will benefit M.A.H. in a sustainable manner and acknowledged that reconstructing the signage around the area was reasonable. The ultimate goal was to offset negative environmental impacts by strategically using sustainable hardscaping practices by utilizing reused materials for aesthetically pleasing signs that are durable enough to be resilient to harsh weather conditions.

I am a Junior at the University of Colorado at Boulder majoring in Environmental Studies and Geography. I have an interest in pursuing a career in sustainable development and this internship gave me direct insight in this field of study. In every workplace there’s always room to be more sustainable because some people don’t realize the negative environmental effects they’re causing. I would like to educate people about sustainable measures they can take in order to mitigate negative effects and decrease their carbon footprint. This internship guided me in all of the right steps to achieving sustainability in a workplace we all mutually share but sometimes take advantage of, the great outdoors. I was lucky enough to be able to work outside every day and solve a problem with using only reusable materials to benefit the local community.

Before starting this internship I had some background experience with hardscaping but what I learned from Felipe overpowers everything I knew before this internship. Sustainable hardscaping begins with an appropriate design that includes functional, cost-efficient, visually pleasing, and environmentally friendly materials as well as an easily maintainable area. To determine all these factors, it was important to analyze the geography of where the M.A.H. is located and understand the native flora and fauna to gain perspective. I sat in solitude at the M.A.H. and observed the birds, flowers, and plants in the area. Then Felipe and I created a site analysis to pinpoint the exact locations the signs needed to be placed in order for people to properly be guided around the area. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than Felipe. Felipe knew all the ins and outs for making these signs as sustainable and resourceful as possible. We gathered wood from a local junkyard and he instructed me on how to saw them down to the exact measurements needed for the project. The next step was to sand down every piece and start designing them. Designing every sign was my favorite part of the process because I was able to be creative while creating a functional product for others to use. There were some limitations but through trial and error I successfully designed, constructed, and installed every sign.

The greatest contribution that I was able to give from this internship was a bond between humans and nature without harming nature’s natural beauty and enterprise. The nature paths in front of the M.A.H. provide an opportunity for members of not only the community, but tourists to explore the pure joy of Monteverde’s natural beauty. Now, anyone who enters the M.A.H. area can navigate properly and enjoy the scenery.

Zehra 2 installs signage

Zehra install signage at the Casa de Arte (Monteverde Art House)

Zehra 2 installs signageZehra creates handmade, one-of-a kind signs for the entire grounds of the Monteverde Art House.

Zehra 2 installs signage

Zehra tours her family around the grounds of the Casa de Arte to show them her work. 

Sustainability and Environment Internship at Finca Filosofía, by Arielle Jones (Ursinus College)

A Reflection on my internship experience in March 2018


My internship was with Justin Welch with Finca Filosofía, along with two other CIEE students as fellow interns.


When I first saw the choice for this internship, it was described to me as the following.

Engineering students before me had started work with a biodigester and I should I decide to take this internship, I would be helping by continuing such work.

This work would be for the purpose of future benefit for all of Monteverde and maybe the entire municipality should this work.  There were several things happening (and still happening at Finca Filosofía at the time).

There were plans to use restaurant scraps to make compost, and collection of food oil from restaurants to give to another location to make bio-diesel.  The plan for the biodigester was to see if animal waste put into the biodigester could help generate Methane gas. (Yes Methane gas, however instead of drilling, Methane gas produced from other wise well, wasted animal waste. With the potential to be used as fuel to help burn and turn the food oil into biodiesel. [Maybe in the future directly at the farm site itself])

Why I wanted to do this internship: I really wanted to work in this internship because I have a very strong interest in renewable energy. I am always intrigued by the idea of a future of a completely renewable grid. Also I believe biofuels could fit very well into part of this equation.


Working on my part the project itself, accomplishments and what I have learned from this experience:

 My part of the project focused on the set up and function of the biodigester. We decided not to use animals waste from pigs (to feed the biodigester system) due to the labor necessary for maintenance and care of the pigs. We received a used biodigester from a pig farm that did not have much success with the system due to a few technical errors in set up.

Before starting the physical biodigester set up, I wrote a proposal based on Justin’s explanation and diagram of the plan, along with a digital (presentation) of the diagram.

I dug holes and moved the biodigester several times before finally deciding on a perfect spot for the set up. As mentioned there were some technical errors with the use biodigester. Thus we first emptied it, then modified the tubing of set the biodigester for functionality.

Also we planned to use the wastewater effluent from the biodigester, and put it in a constructed wetland to help filter the water, as possible irrigation water.  We ordered a plastic IBC cube, cut the top, filled it with sand, rocks and a hole for a future exit for the water. (Planting of wetland plants will also have to be a future project).

To test the system (biodigester plus constructed wetland) we got as far as to almost filled it with water but did not yet finish the test before the end of the final internship day.

Currently thanks to all of our efforts and efforts before us, there is now the availability of compost as product, a set up for worms (to use with composting), a set up biodigester, the beginnings of a constructed wetland, and the basis for helping to calculate any possible emissions impact.

Arielle presents at symposium

Arielle presents her work to the audience at the CIEE Internship Symposium.

Arielle presents at symposium

Arielle prepares for a test run.

Arielle presents at symposium

The pig farm gave us two biodigesters but we only used one.

Arielle presents at symposium
Arielle presents at symposium
A constructed wetland.

Sustainability and Environment Internship: Compost and Worms, by Ella Kilpatrick Kotner (Brown University)

The goal of this internship is to come up with and refine creative solutions to the complicated and growing problem of organic Ella in the bin
waste in Monteverde. It has implications to affect the five-year plan of COMIRES and CEGIREH, as well as Monteverde’s overall goal of carbon neutrality. I worked in collaboration with Justin Welch on his project, Finca Filosofia to expand the capacity of his aerated static compost system, analyze and organize the data his previous interns collected, create a streamlined data collection and organization process, and determine the potential for incorporating vermicomposting into the process. Over the past weeks I have doubled the capacity of the composting operation at Justin’s farm, as well as assembled air delivery tubes to make all ten of these bins capable of aerated static composting. I have also created a data collection sheet that can be used to collect important information about each compost batch daily, as well as record lab results. I am currently in the process of determining what is needed (population, space, time, etc.) to incorporate vermicomposting into the compost flow and have both vermicompost and regular compost as marketable products.

Ella mixes compost1Ever since I was a young child I have loved compost. My sister and I used to ski down the compost piles on our farm using pieces of wood. This internship provides me with the opportunity to love compost in both a hands on and scientific way. After participating in this internship I have a much fuller understanding of the process and potential for aerated composting, knowledge that will be very useful for my future career in local food systems. It is important to understand all aspects of the food system in order to positively contribute to it, and this internship has helped me progress toward this full understanding.

This internship also exercised my resourcefulness and adaptability. There were many points when I had to change my course of action or come up with a plan as I worked in order to fit the unique location and circumstances. The project also helped me to develop my interpersonal and teamwork skills, as we had to maneuver fitting together separate but interrelated projects.

On a more tangible level, I learned important construction skills while building the aerated static system. I also gained much knowledge about the ideal compost mixture, the necessary conditions for the mixture, and the process of decomposition.

I think that my greatest contributions to this project were the expansion of the aerated static compost system and the data collection sheet, both of which will be used daily. I always try to be aware of my positionality in a community that I am only a temporary member of, and I know that I should not be the driving force of change in such communities. My contributions should be the product of putting my community partner’s needs first and respecting their time and knowledge. I think the physical labor and material results that I provided during this internship were appropriate for my positionality, and I am proud my contributions.

Compost bin 1

Aerating compost1


Sustainability and Environment Internship: Waste is a Terrible Thing to Waste, by Serena Dudas (University of Redlands)

Through CIEE, I had the opportunity to work as an intern for Vision to Reality Consultants (VTR) with Justin Welch.  The focus of my internship is to provide supporting evidence for organic waste management through aerobic composting which can be used to create scenarios to scale up our current composting system to the municipal level in Monteverde, Costa Rica.  Organic waste such as food scraps, waste vegetable oil, and waste water have the potential to create valuable commodities such as fertile compost, biodiesel and treated irrigation water.  Yet, approximately 464 tons of food waste is sent to the landfill each year in Monteverde alone! (COMIRES)  We know that commodity items can be created from this waste, but another question loomed; will an adjustment in sending organic food waste from the sanitary landfill to an aerobic compost system produce greenhouse gas emissions or remissions for Costa Rica with account of decomposition, transportation, and other factors?

I was personally interested in this internship because I enjoy the challenge of solving problems with innovative thinking and geo-spatial applications.  With climate change ever looming, changes need to be made in terms of how we process our production, consumption, and development.  Here was an opportunity, one of the first of its kind for a developing country, needing a passionate and dedicated student who could sort through dozens of scientific publications to pull out applicable data.  This internship challenged my critical thinking and spatial thinking skills; I needed to create waste management scenarios specifically tailored for Monteverde and use greenhouse gas emission factors from scientific studies to make estimations of possible emissions.     

Through this internship I compiled a small database with annotations on the basic science behind greenhouse gas emissions sources from decomposing organic matter, provided emission estimates for VTR’s composting system with comparison to standard sanitary landfill emissions, constructed and implemented a survey, and processed these materials into a presentation for a general audience.  These responsibilities developed my vocational skills in communication, spatial thinking, research, and data analysis.  The data for the survey of businesses in Monteverde was manually collected in order to learn about demand for a centralized waste collection system and current emissions wi
thin the current system.  The improvement in my Spanish conversational skills and social confidence is very noticeable! 

The products of my time here can be used to write grant proposals, to build scenarios, and to share the mission of Vision to Reality’s waste management solutions with a wider audience.  I am very proud to say that I contributed my highest standard of work to this position, and I am looking forward to bringing the skillset I have acquired to future positions regarding sustainable solutions in the environmental sector.

Emissions calculations Serena does calculationsSerena makes calculations of emissions related to municpal solid waste and associated transportation.

Serena takes questions from the audience
Serena is a pro at handling questions from the audience during the public symposium!



Sustainability and Environment Internship with the Monteverde Commission for Resilience to Climate Change, by Kiara Vought (Merrimack College)

            The past four weeks I worked on a fairly large project regarding climate change outreach, with community activist Orlando Calvo, and fellow student Hailey McKeever. The organization we worked with is the Monteverde Commission for Resilience to Climate Change, or, CORCLIMA. Their mission is to unite efforts in Monteverde to lower emissions, capture carbon and adapt to climate change. CORCLIMA hopes to become a model for Costa Rica and the world in regards to recapturing as much carbon that we emit into the atmosphere. Throughout the internship we set a foundation of future training workshops for nature guides in Monteverde. Our goal is to get nature guides from all areas, involved in climate change outreach.

            The past four weeks have been very busy with trying to gather as much information as possible. I created a series of questions designed to get a solid understanding of what nature guides understand about climate change. Tour guides interact with a very wide range of audiences. This means they can be very useful in regards to communicating climate change to people around the world. I asked 17 guides what they knew about climate change, if they have noticed effects in Monteverde, and other questions touching on climate change in Monteverde. I also asked them if they ever talked about climate change to their clients during a tour. We wanted to have a thorough understanding of how much they knew about climate change, and how much they communicated it to their clients. We then used these results to figure out what information and content to use for the workshop.

            I was interested in this internship because climate change is the reason why I became an environmental studies major. I began college as a communications major, and from that I learned how little climate change is talked about. This topic has turned into such a controversial issue because of politics, and I am very interested in how to change that. I believe climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Therefore, it is time to set our differences aside and begin to help the world we live in. I believe a very important way to inspire action is to educate others on what is happening. This internship gave me a chance to learn about how to spread the word of climate change effectively. I also got the chance to be directly apart of how to get more people talking about this subject. The guides are such a good resource to be able to make so many different groups of people around the world aware of this issue and its effects

            Going into the internship we knew it would be a very big task to take on. There was a lot of different information in different areas that needed to be sorted through. I have learned a lot about how to organize information, and convey it in the correct way. Through the two preliminary sessions we conducted I learned how much time and effort is needed to organize this information. I also learned a lot about how difficult it is to create training classes like this in general. Time is the most important aspect needed in order to create any kind of workshop. There is also a lot of practice, and feedback needed.

            I am very proud to have been a part of the beginnings of this great project. My interview results will be used in the future to perfect the class, and hopefully will be expanded. My partner and I also created a great presentation that Orlando will be able to use in the future to organize information. Throughout our internship we realized that our little idea needs to be a much bigger event. This workshop could possibly bloom into many different directions, and could be changed to help different audiences. Our work will be the foundation that Orlando, and CORCLIMA will use to further develop the workshop, and I am very proud to have been a part of it.


Kiara plans workshop

Kiara plans the Climate Change Workshop with supervisor Carla and intern partner Hailey.


Kiara interviews tour guideKiara is interviewing a tour guide (naturalist) at the local business, Sky Trek. 


Kiara explains her work to the audienceKiara explains her work to prepare the Climate Change Workshop to an audience at a public CIEE symposium.



Sustainability and Environment Internship: CORCLIMA outreach, by Hailey McKeever (Merrimack College)

CORCLIMA is the Monteverde Commission for Resilience to Climate Change and was established in 2016 to work together with Monteverde to lower carbon emissions, capture carbon, and adapt to climate change.  The mission is to make Monteverde a town that can be a model and world leader for carbon neutrality.  One of the ways CORCLIMA intended to do this was climate change outreach through an internship that would collect information about climate change that is relavant to Monteverde through a series of interviews with experts as well as other literature.  My internship focused on the tourism sector and began to create the foundation for climate change education within tourism in Monteverde.  The end of the internship was ended with a preliminary workshop for naturalist guides in the area giving them the information they need to well equip to speak effectively on the topic of climate change to their clients.  I chose this internship because of my studies in both Environmental Studies and Sustainability and Biology.  Through this internship I was able to use my knowledge of climate change as well as learn more about biological impacts in the Monteverde region through studying the research already gathered and interviewing experts. 

The interviews I conducted helped us to gather important information regarding biological impacts in the region as well as experts that have noticed or have needed to adapt to climate change.  This involved speaking with experts on birds, water management, bats, orchids, amphibians, education, and coffee.  I asked a series of questions and gathered this information as well as take a short video of their message about climate change to the public with Orlando so that CORCLIMA can make a video that can be used at events in the area such as Fería in April. 

Starting the internship with my fellow intern, Kiara Vought and my internship leader Orlando Calvo, we decided to divide the internship into two parts with Kiara conducting interviews with guides while I interviewed the local experts. Interviews as we went along helped to shape how we viewed the future workshop for guides and we learned how to improve our plans.  I learned through my interviews that it is important to have experts speaking on their expertise to convey certain information to ensure that it is accurate, credible, and effective.  We collected a series of information of recommendations for CORCLIMA to consider for the future workshop including a panel of experts, involving the guides in data collection, more in depth climate change research, as well as more interviews and planning for the future workshop for guides. 

Through the interview and research process, I learned not only about climate change specifics, but also that it is a very difficult topic of research and study.  It is very hard to pinpoint certain phenomena and call it climate change without assumptions being made.  I also learned how to become a better communicator and what questions are important to ask experts to find the information I need. 

I believe I was able to accomplish successful beginnings of what could be an even larger event in the future.  I was able to provide the foundation for this workshop as well as collect relevant information that CORCLIMA can use in the future not only for the education of guide, but to reach other audiences as well. 

Hailey and Carla speak
Hailey and Carla speak



Advancing sustainable coffee production practices at LIFE farm in Monteverde, by Mackenzie Agosta (Arizona State University, School of Sustainability)

This past October I was an intern at LIFE farm in Monteverde, Costa Rica. LIFE is a family owned coffee farm that strives to produce environmentally friendly coffee. They are unique from other coffee farms because they make their own organic compost on site from coffee skins and animal waste. Some of their goals include using less synthetic fertilizer for coffee production in order to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as utilizing their organic compost as fertilizer for the coffee plots.

On LIFE farm in Monteverde

In order to meet these goals I created an updated map of the farm; a database that consisted of physical characteristics and management history of all thirty-eight coffee plots; and a protocol for an experimental design to test the effectiveness of organic fertilizer as a replacement for synthetic fertilizer.

I started by first recording data collected from interviews I conducted on the farm in English and Spanish. This data includes the farm’s land use history, physical characteristics of the plots, and varying management practices. Using this data, I then organized it into a database the farm could use as a template for future management strategies. I also created an updated version of the farm’s map for a better visual representation of the farm layout, as well as for educational purposes for farm visitors. Using the updated map and database, I then created a protocol describing an experimental design the farm could use in order to test whether the addition of organic compost could compensate for the reduction of synthetic fertilizer. I presented this protocol to the owners of the farm and they are planning on conducting the experiment on four coffee plots this upcoming March, when the next coffee season begins.

I am currently a third-year student working towards a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sustainability, so this internship with LIFE gave me the opportunity to put my knowledge on this subject and background in science to the test.

All of these skills were newly acquired; including developing my Spanish skills, knowledge on the coffee production process, creating a database in Excel, statistical data analysis, and designing an experiment.

My biggest contribution to the farm was first the database, because previously the farm didn’t have any written documentation on how the farm was managed. This database can be used on LIFE and other farms as a more systematic way of managing coffee plots and for guidance on future management strategies.

My next big contribution was the protocol for experimental design. This achieves their goal of utilizing their use of organic compost, as well as reducing the use of synthetic fertilizer and therefore reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. No matter what the results show, the experiment will give LIFE insight on how to better manage their organic compost and coffee plots. LIFE’s results can also be a model and inspiration to other coffee farms as a way to produce more sustainable coffee.

Working on LIFE farm provided me with substantial hands-on knowledge and guidance on how coffee is produced and all the challenges associated with it. People around the world enjoy coffee every morning and normally don’t think twice about where it comes from, how it was grown, or its impacts on the environment. It was extremely rewarding being behind the scenes and potentially contributing to the added environmental deliciousness of your next sip of coffee.

Mack is congratulated by LIFE Farm manager
Mackenzie with coffee guru César Santamaría of LIFE Farm