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Sustaining Tropical Ecosystems

June 8, 2015 - July 7, 2015


Sustaining Tropical Ecosystems: Biodiversity, Conservation, & Development

 Session 1


The School for Field Studies (SFS) Sustaining Tropical Ecosystems summer program offers two four-credit courses that may be taken individually or back-to-back to provide a thorough introduction to the sustainability of tropical ecosystems, as well as field research techniques for addressing conservation questions.

In Session I: Sustaining Tropical Ecosystems: Biodiversity, Conservation, and Development, students will explore and address key aspects of sustainable development strategies in Costa Rica and the most pressing challenges at the intersection between conservation and economic development.


We were presented with a variety of local issues on field trips such as water and waste management, ecotourism, and forest fragmentation… issues critical for continued sustainable economic and environmental development. Professors encouraged us to come up with our own solutions to these issues… it required me to think not as a student but as an environmentalist.

— Holly Lindberg, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Summer ’12



Costa Rica is known worldwide for its conservation efforts, which have attracted millions of tourists to the country and especially to its natural protected areas and sustainable coffee farms. Accelerated economic growth and urban development are taking place in the absence of coordinated land-use planning, consideration of water and energy sustainability, and waste management systems. These oversights, in combination with climate change impacts, constantly challenge the sustainable development goals of the country and threaten its biodiversity.



Students explore and address key features of sustainable development strategies in Costa Rica and the most pressing challenges at the intersection between conservation and economic development. Understanding historical and current aspects of sustainable development strategies in Costa Rica, coupled with knowledge of tropical ecosystem function and connectivity, allows students to understand the impacts of development on the environment and on society. Field exercises and lectures introduce students to models of economic development and biodiversity conservation in and around Costa Rica’s protected areas. A short field research project provides a practical introduction to research design and methods for achieving conservation goals.



Field exercises, research projects, and lectures introduce students to models of conservation, biodiversity protection, and development of Costa Rica’s national parks, within the context of the Costa Rican cultural application of conservation ecology.

  • Explore the biological diversity of the rainforests of Braulio Carrillo National Park in the Volcanic Cordillera Conservation Area
  • Compare and contrast biodiversity protection in examples of conventional and organic agriculture in the Caribbean lowlands
  • Evaluate tourism services and park management practices in Poás Volcano National Park
  • Analyze the challenges of the ecotourism project of El Sur community near Carara National Park; hike through the rainforest; and interact with local schoolchildren through outreach projects


This summer course can be taken individually or in combination with Applied Research Techniques and Strategies Toward Sustainability in Costa Rica in Session II.

  • Students participating in both sessions are eligible for a $1,000 discount.
  • Students earn 8 credits
  • Home school financial aid may be applied toward the program. Earning 8 credits likely will allow students to qualify for federal financial aid, depending on their particular situation
  • There is a five-day break between components for independent travel
  • There are no prerequisites


Our program in Costa Rica is oriented toward helping the community conserve its natural resources and develop sustainably. And close connections with the local community help establish SFS as a trusted and respected resource. SFS students enjoy a warm welcome into the community of Atenas, with opportunities to interview residents during academic projects, practice Spanish, learn about Costa Rican culture, and participate in community service projects. Students also enjoy joining local sporting events and spending time socializing at local cafes.


The Center, located an hour from the capital city of San José, comprises a campus facility integrated with a small Rainforest Alliance Certified™ mango and orange farm overlooking the fertile Central Valley. Practicing sustainability is part of the student learning and living experience. The Center’s facilities include a dormitory and cafeteria, indoor and outdoor classrooms, an organic garden and greenhouse, a soccer field, a basketball court, a swimming pool, and a forested area with trails. The campus is part of the small neighborhood of La Presa/Los Angeles, and the friendly town of Atenas is only three miles from campus. Costa Rica’s tropical forests, beaches, mountains, and volcanoes are within a day’s travel.

Location Atenas, Costa Rica
Language English
Dates 2015: June 8 – July 7
Deadline Rolling admissions. Early submissions are encouraged.
Cost $5,600 ($1,000 discount for enrolling in both sessions; Includes all tuition, room, board, local travel. Excludes airfare)
Financial Aid Click here for more information about need-based scholarships, loans, and travel grants.
Prerequisites College Undergraduates: No academic prerequisites
Credits 4 credits (8 credits if taken with Session II)


June 8, 2015
July 7, 2015
Event Category:


The School for Field Studies
Atenas, Costa Rica
View Venue Website


Ellen Reid

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