Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Study Abroad in

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

125 posts categorized "Semester Tropical Ecology and Conservation"


From Wet Forest to Dry Forest: getting to Santa Rosa National Park

We left Corcovado behind and it is time to move on the Pacific slope going from wet to dry forest.  Our final destination is Santa Rosa National Park, located on the north part of the Pacific slope; but on our way there we are making a short stop at Carara National Park.  Carara National Park is located in the Central Pacific and is a transition between the wet forest and the dry forest; this moist forest has a mix of species that you can find in both wet and dry habitats being the limit of the distribution within the country for some of these species.  Here we spent the morning walking along the trials learning about many of the species found here.


Janie&KayleCashewtree(Carara)*Kaile Kimball (Husson University) and Janie Reavis (Arizona State University) climbing on lianas around a huge wild cashew tree (Anacardium excelsum).



The Spring 2018 group posing by the buttress of a huge tree at Carara National Park.


We arrived to Santa Rosa National Park and discover a completely different ecosystem than the ones we have visited before. A historical site and an area in regeneration that used to be mostly cattle pastures; this National Park showed us many species of animals: monkeys, birds, lizards, bats, insects, etc., and many species of plants that make this area an unique habitat for Costa Rica. 

We enjoyed hikes during the day, night hikes, lectures and activities that teach us about the importance of Conservation of Tropical habitat and how you can bring back nature to areas even after only a few years of regeneration and protection when things are done the right way.


CapuchinMonkey*(White-faced Capuchin Monkey (Cebus imitator) at Santa Rosa National Park.


Haley&Roach(SR)*Haley Evans (University of Colorado - Boulder) with a Central America Giant Cave Cockroach (Blaberus giganteus) during our night hike at Santa Rosa.


Owl(SR)*Pacific Screech-Owl (Megascops cooperi) spotted during our night hike.



Our bat expert, Richard LaVal, showing the students one of the species captured at the bat cave in Santa Rosa National Park.


Richard&bats.*jpgKaile Kimball (Husson University), Althea Pendur-Thorne (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee), and Gaby Sarri-Tobar (Oberlin College) admiring the Short-tailed Fruit Bat (Carollia perspicillata).



Eli Nixon (Bates College) and Janie Reavis (Arizona State University) on top of a Fig tree (Ficus sp).


GroupatMirador(SR)*Spring 2018 group at the mirador in Santa Rosa National Park, with the view of some volcanoes on their back.


The first field trip is over, but now is time to meet our new home and make it to Monteverde where we will be learning more about Conservation and Tropical Biology. 



The last days at Corcovado: Hike to Llorona and Visit to Isla del Caño

Corcovado has been an amazing place to be, after spending a few days learning about the species of plants and animals found in this Wet Forest it was time for us to do a hike to Llorona beach; the reason to do this 10 km hike (one way) is to explore probably the most amazing forest you can find in Costa Rica, to get to our destination we have to hike through a pristine patch of forest, here the students do the hike at their own pace and feel and experience this old growth forest on their own particular way.

During the hike we got to see an amazing forest with really tall trees, monkeys, many species of birds, lizards, frogs, insects, fungi and lots of other interesting wildlife.



The amazing forest of Corcovado on the way to Llorona beach.


Emma Kayle&Caitlin(Llorona)Emma Lungren (Whitman College), Kaile Kimball (Husson University), and Caitlin Nordheim (University of Tampa) standing by the buttress of a big tree at Corcovado.


We got to see an amazing sunset as we were getting close to our hostel on the way back, this was probably the best way to end an incredible day in the Tropical Wet Forest.


Sunset(Llorona)Sunset view at Corcovado. 


After a wonderful day exploring a primary wet forest in Costa Rica it was time to visit Isla del Caño, this island is located 17 km away from the shore. We visited Isla del Caño to lear about island biogeography, explore the forest there and compare it with the forest we had hike the day before and also to have our first experience snorkeling in Costa Rica. Another amazing day on which we got to see many species of marine wildlife: lobster, stingray, shark, sea turtles, and many species of fish were spotted during the time we were exploring the water around the island.


MantaRaya(IslaCaño)Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana) spotted during the snorkeling around Isla del Caño.



One of the stars during our snorkeling around Isla del Caño, a Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).


F9LoyNR7RDWh5uPAeBsepg_thumb_7f5Gaby Sarri-Tobar posing with the Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).


Anna&Tortuga(IsladelCaño)Anna Zizza (University of South Carolina) getting close to the Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).


It has been an amazing journey in Corcovado, but our time here its done and it is time now to go and explore other areas of this tropical paradise.









Learning Tropical Ecology in the best classroom (Part 2 - Visit to Paradise)

After visiting the Sierpe Mangroves we move to our next destination, Corcovado National Park. After a 1 hour boat ride along the Pacific Coast we arrive to the place that was our destination for the next 6 nights, as soon as we got out of the boats we knew we were just arriving to paradise, staying right in front of the beach, with a wonderful forest right behind us, we knew the next few days in the wonderful wet forest of Costa Rica was gonna bring us many amazing species to discover and lots of knew things to learn about Tropical Ecology.

Hikes around the magnificent forest of Corcovado, night hikes, bird watching and many other different activities show us the wide arrange of species found on this area and the importance of conserving tropical forest.  

Just after a few hours of arriving to Corcovado we hear a staff member calling the whole group to come and check something, we ran a few meters to check what was happening just to discover that someone has just found a Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii), the largest terrestrial animal of the Neotropics. 


Danta(Corco)Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) at Corcovado.


Caitlin kailey Sandy&Danta(Corco)Caitlin Nordheim (University of Tampa), Kaile Kimball (Husson University), and Sandy Hattan (Whitman College) amazed by the presence of the Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii).


Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) feeding at Corcovado. 


Emma Kailey&Sandy with Katydid(Corco)Emma Lungren (Whitman College), Kaile Kimball (Husson University), and Sandy Hattan (Whitman College) admiring a leaf Katydid. 


Janie&Danta(Corco)Janie Reavis (Arizona State University) posing with the second Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) we saw at Corcovado, this individual was calmly eating some bananas just a few meters away from us.



The night hikes are one of the prefer activities for the group; at Corcovado we got to see frogs, insects, spiders, lizards and one species of snake.


Sophia&Snake(Corco)Sophia Simon (University of Pennsylvania) with the star of our night hike, the Brown Spotbelly snake (Coniophanes fissidens).



Learning Tropical Ecology in the best classroom (Part 1)

After spending a couple days in the city it is time to start our first field trip and learn about tropical ecology in the best way possible, visiting many different ecosystems that we could find in a tropical country with many wonders as Costa Rica has to offer.

Our first stop its at a ecosystem that people may not think about it as a tropical habitat, the Paramo, but this habitat is an important part of the highlands in the Tropics and offers a good amount of interesting species of which many of them are only found at this habitats.

To explore this ecosystem we stopped for a couple of hours at a mountain called Cerro de la Muerte at an elevation of about 3200 meters (10 500 feet) and learn about this important habitat and the particular species found here.


ViewofCerroView of Cerro de la Muerte 


GroupatCerroPart of the group learning about the Paramo, an important ecosystem found at the tropics highlands.



The highlands are important habitat for many species of plants and animals, hummingbirds are one of the important groups found at this habitat. Here a female of the Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) posing for us.


After visiting the amazing Paramo it was time to move down the mountain and get to the lowlands where the warm weather was waiting for us.  At the lowlands our first stop was at a town call Sierpe in which we will be exploring another really important ecosystem, the Mangroves.  The mangroves of Sierpe is one of the biggest and most important on the Pacific side of the Neotropics.

We arrived to Sierpe at night to spend the night at a hotel and patiently wait for the morning to explore the Mangroves around the area.  The next morning we got into a boat and move along the Sierpe river exploring the mangrove habitat and all the species associated to this area, at the end of the morning we stopped at an area dominated by red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) and got the chance to walk around the prop roots of this species.


As we arrived to Sierpe we had the chance to celebrate a birthday, here Emma Lungren (Whitman College) with her birthday cake; what a great moment to get a little dessert for all of us.


ManglaresSierpeSierpe Mangroves.


Caitlin&KaylewithCrab(Sierpe)Caitlin Nordheim (University of Tampa) and Kaile Kimball (Husson University) admiring a little spider that decided to join us during our boat trip.


Haley(Manglares)Haley Evan (University of Colorado - Boulder) ready for her hike on the Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) roots.


Sandy(Manglares)Sandy Hattan (Whitman College) enjoying her time at the mangroves.


Gabriella&Steph(Manglares)Gabriella Benko (Indiana University) and Steph Taylor (Bucknell University) after a little "jungle gym" at the mangrove roots.









Spring 2018 Tropical Ecology & Conservation program has started

The Tropical Ecology & Conservation Spring 2018 cohort has arrive to Costa Rica. Eighteen enthusiastic students arrive to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, eager to learn about biology, ecology, and conservation and also admire all the beauties that this amazing country offers.

Before heading to our field trip the students have 2 days to explore the city; during these days they get in contact with the locals, learn about urbanization and Costa Rican culture, and have the first contact with biology with a review about flowers and fruits.

The first morning in San Jose, the students get an assignment in which they get a picture of a tropical fruit and with this, they go to the Central Market and learn about the name, seasonality, and uses of fruits that are really common in Costa Rica and they will be in constant contact during the whole time they will be in the country.


1Sophia Simon (University of Pennsylvania) gathering information about her tropical fruit from a Costa Rican fruit seller.


5Janie Reavis (Arizona State University) choosing the perfect Star Fruit, the fruit assigned to her.


After exploring the Central Market of San Jose and getting in contact with some of the locals, the students start learning about flowers and fruits, they had a lecture about flower morphology and the variations found within tropical flowers, to a better learning and understanding of the topic they got to dissect some flowers to get first hand and view in all these different parts.


2Emma Lungren (Whitman College) dissecting a Lily flower and learning about all the whorls and parts that form this flower.



Eli Nixon (Bates College) and Thomas Meinzen (Whitman College) with many different flower parts separated.


And of course the students got to share all the information they learned about the fruits at the market, and there is no better way to learn about tropical fruits than getting to try most of these delicious fruits found on this region.



A good variety of Tropical fruits for the students to give it a try.


3Steph Taylor (Bucknell University) tasting some of the new "weird" tropical fruits.


7Mallory Barbier (University of Tennessee - Chattanooga) and Althea Pendur-Thorne (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee) cutting some fruits and getting them ready to be tasted.


After an exciting day learning about culture and biology no better way to finish than having our first dinner as a group at a Typical Costa Rican food restaurant in which the students go to try most of the unique dishes with fresh ingredients produced in Costa Rica.



The Spring 2018 Tropical Ecology & Conservation group at the entrance of a Costa Rican Typical food restaurant.


After exploring San Jose for a couple of days the students are ready to go and explore the different ecosystems of Costa Rica and the many natural wonders they have to offer.  First stop of the field trip: the Mangroves of Sierpe and the forest of Corcovado National Park.








Celebrating the Independence of Costa Rica

On Friday September 15th Costa Rica celebrated 196 years of Independent life.  In a country with no army and a great education system this holiday means a big celebration for people of all ages.  

Every single town in the country has a traditional parade with school kids demonstrating their patriotism and their artistic skills in front of the communities where people leave their houses to be part of this important celebration. The parade is full of music, color, tradition and happiness and our Tropical Ecology & Conservation Fall 2017 students wanted to be  part of this cultural experience.


IMG_3397School kids marching with Costa Rican flags, one of the most common scenes during the parade.


IMG_3370Many different schools have their own bands playing music during the parade.


IMG_3381From left to right: Stevie Lennartson (Occidental College), Rachel Blood (Oregon State University), Anika Lindsey (Oberlin College), Raquel Peterson (Whitman College), Lexie Codd (Seattle University), and Cait Barnes (Belmont University) enjoying the parade.


IMG_3386Lots of color in the traditional Costa Rican vestment from the Independence period.


IMG_3389Even the little kids enjoy being part of the traditional parade.


IMG_3391Nick Siebert (Saint John Fisher College) amazed by the Costa Rican Independence parade.


IMG_3400High school students dressed with clothing from different provinces and used for different social activities during the 1820's.



Nora Lazerus (University of Colorado - Boulder), and Maddie Tilyou (University of Pennsylvania) joining the parade and dancing with the traditional Costa Rican mascaradas. 







More science!

Cristina Riani 

Question:Do different species of bryophytes have different water holding capacities and water absorption with same water input and does elevation affect the bryophytes water holding capacity and water absorption?

Major findings:



There is differences in the mass of moss between hanging and dehydration and the morphospecies in different weather conditions

Conclusions:There is differences in water absorption between morphospecies in wet weather condition due to elevation and morphology


-Cristina Riani. Department of Environmental Science. Oregon State University.


Grace Ditch

Purpose: Determine if there is a difference in bryophyte and lichen diversity between native and exotic windbreak tree species and how to protect the biodiversity with encroachment of exotics.

Major findings:


















There is no statistically difference between the species and the morphospecies of liquens and bryophytes

. Grace3

There is higher diversity in the native species than the exotic

Conclusions:Only a subset of bryophytes and lichens form a positive relationship with exotic tree species, therefore to conserve biodiversity prioritize native species for windbreaks.


-Grace Ditch.Department of Forest Resources.University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.


Emma Ordemanm

Question:Are the differences in bacterial growth among site and antibiotic treatments and do nutrient concentrations in the soil differ between sites?

Major findings: 


There is differences in the antibiotic resistance at study sites

Conclusions:Antibiotic resistance is likely present in water and not soils.


-Emma Odermann. University of Colorado Boulder.


Abigale Enrici

Question:Are leaves more clean when they reach the nest compared to when foraged and do minima still know to clean leaves while leaves are in transit?

Major findings:


leaves without minima are more clean than leaves with minima.

Conclusions: Atta cephalotes minima "hitchhike" on leaves to clean contaminants, but leaves are not completely clean before they reach the nest.


-Abigale Enrici.Department of Biology. Augsburg College.


Patrick Wallin

Purpose: To determine the effect of Eciton burchelli on arthropod diversity in the highlands.

Major findings:


There is differences in the number of species of arthropods before and after swarms.

Conclusions: Arthropod dominance increases over time after an raid of Eciton burchellii


-Patrick Wallin. Department of Biology.University of Puget Sound.


Deborah Williamson

Question:How does habitat disturbance, seed size, seed color, palatability and predator presence affect foraging by agoutis?

Major findings:

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 5.57.04 PM

There was no differences in the palatability and color of the seeds by the agoutis.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 5.57.20 PM

The presence of predators did not shown an effect in the seed predated by agoutis.

Conclusions: Agoutis are very tolerant to seed conditions and habitat disturbances.


-Debora Williamson. Purdue University.


Kay Garlick-Ott

Purpose: Estimate crab dispersion in pools throughout a freshwater cloud forest stream, explore spacing across different morphs and sizes and characterizing the optimal habitat.

Major findings:


There was more crabs in deeper pools.

Conclusions: Monteverde freshwater crabs are territorial and optimal habitat has deeper water and is structurally complex.


-Kay Garlick-Ott.Department of Biology.Pomona College.


Kathrynn Ross

Question: What effect does mist have on the Caligo memnon?

Major findings:


There was a difference in the emergence days of the butterflies according to the mist input in the system.

Conclusions: Emergence was overall impacted by mist.


-Kat Ross. Eckerd College.


Emily Ellison

Question: If Caligo memnon butterflies may get intoxicated by ethanol found in rotting fruits, at high concentrations will they be able to avoid predation, even with adaptations of predator avoidance?

Major findings:


At higher etanol concentration, there was more trials of predation(pokes)

Conclusion:Behavior, flight pattern and reaction time was affected by ethanol consumption.


 Emily Ellison.Department of Environmental Science. Ramapo College of New Jersey.


Melisa Rodríguez

Purpose:Difference in the rate of calls types produced during stranger and neighbor calls in the Long tailed manakins.


"Toledo" call present differences in the number or calls between neighbor and stranger responses.

Conclusions:Long-tailed manakins appear to discriminate against stranger playbacks

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 6.51.54 PM

-Melisa Rodríguez. Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. University of Minnesota.


Cali Wilson

Question: Do captive Dermanura tolteca show evidence of personality and behavioral syndromes?

Major findings:


There is significant variation between individuals in behavioral traits.

Conclusions:Some evidence for personality traits in captive D. tolteca bats and no evidence for behavioral syndromes .


-Cali Wilson.Department of Biology. Bucknell University.


Emma Didier

Question: How does ecotourism impacts the coati behavior?

Major findings:


No effect of sex, sociality, reserve visitation, habitat or distance from the entrance on vigilance or foraging.

Conclusions:High potential for coatis to capitalize on food through ecotourism.


 -Emma Didier. Department of Biology and Environmental Policy.University of Puget Sound












Questions of science, science and progress

Part of our experience in Monteverde consist on independent projects that we develop during our home stays...the best part of it? It's totally ours! With our professors help we think in our own idea and what about our surroundings can we investigate.After some days we design our methodology and here we go!!! doing science by our own..

After one month of data collection, we will like to introduce you our projects:


Megan Kruse 

Question of the project: Does Momotus lessonii use the tail-wag display as a signal of territoriality?

Major findings:



Conclusions:Lesson's Motmots are territorial


Megan Kruse.Forest & Wildlife Ecology.UW-Madison.


Colleen Egan

Question: What is the distribution of bryophyte-dwelling arthropods and are these effects of a decrease in moisture level during dry season?

Major findings:


There was a statistically difference in arthropod abundance in the tree section.

Conclusion:Due to significant arthropod abundance in the canopy, but overall evenness of richness and significant diversity at the base, it can be concluded that height is not the driving factor in variation

Slide1 (1)

-Colleen Egan.University of Pittsburgh.


Andrea Lukas

Purpose: Compare the strength of both public and private schools enviromental education curricula pertaining to climate change to evaluate their effectiveness in a location where climate change's impact are evident(Monteverde, Costa Rica).

Major findings:


There was a difference of knowledge about climate change between the different classes in private and public schools

Conclusions:Highlights the need for further curricular reform

Slide1 (3)

-Andrea Lukas.School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Jeffrey Palm

Question:How is mammal diversity and abundance affected by the impacts of a forest edge?

Major findings:


There was a difference in the diversity of mammals in the middle vs interior and interior vs edge.


There was not a significant difference between edge, middle and interior in the number of individuals of mammals.

Conclusions:Forest edge has a negative impact on mammal diversity.


-Jeffrey Palm. Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies.University of Wisconsin-Madison


Science matters

"The good thing about SCIENCE is that it's true whether or not you believe in it". Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Here our students making science, learning about color and textures of soils in three different places like Monteverde, Santa Rosa and important are soils and in which way do they determine the ecosystems diversity? IMG_7150

-Kat,Melisa, Grace and Emma O working on their soil samples.


Who said science is not fun? Thumb_IMG_2634_1024

-Patrick, Colleen and Emily playing with dirt and doing science at the same time! IMG_7154

-Jeff... really excited about data collection..that's the spirit! Thumb_IMG_2631_1024

-"Come on Deb! get your hands on the dirt!" We think she's not convinced about it, Emma and Grace enjoying their time with soils!

Did you know that our program offer two fieldtrips? this guys are ready to show you the CIEE experience

Expect to see more animals, forest, waterfalls, corals coming!! until next time:)


The Pacific II


This is Puma of the biggest cats that you can find in Costa Rica, known as "Leon de montaña"(Mountain lion) as costaricans call them this young puma was a nice surprise during our hike to the old growth forest of the Corcovado National Park.

With the largest terrestrial range that an animal has in the continent, pumas are unfortunately threatened  by poaching since they kill  livestock, so usually farmers hunt them in a way to get revenge. Also habitat loss is a big cause of their rapid population decrease since they need a wide fragment of forest. IMG_2461

Because of that costarican puma's population have decrease their size, there's less genetic diversity in consequence. This could lead to a poor resistance of diseases and of course higher risk of extintion.

Although the sadly situation of the costarican puma, we definitely enjoy our time with our friend.