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Tropical Field Ecology – BIOL 499A

Students by river
Students on mtn top

BIOL 499A: Tropical Field Ecology in Costa Rica

Travels during Winter Break

3 Credits

Prerequisite: BIOL 220W


A research-intensive, active learning course taught entirely in Costa Rica during the winter break. Students depart from wherever they are and rendezvous in Costa Rica, with detailed plans and contingencies in the event of problems with flights. We work at rustic but comfortable (beds, meals, indoor plumbing) field stations where we have immediate access to pristine habitats where we perform faculty and student-designed research projects. These research projects involve collaborative design, data collection of data to test specific hypotheses, data analyses, oral presentation, and writing formal journal-style reports. Faculty present evening lectures comprising background and examples that connect finished work to these nascent projects. Main field sites comprise a pre-montane moist forest on the Atlantic slope and a lowland rainforest on the Pacific coast of the Osa Peninsula. Course objectives are diverse, including i) provide an opportunity for students to gain confidence traveling to a non-English speaking country, independently of family but supported by faculty, peers, and our in-country partners; ii) learn how to perform research in a setting where learning methodology is deemphasized while intellectual engagement and ownership are maximized, iii) experience and learn about a broad sweep of natural history and ecology of the neotropics.

For more information:



BIOL 499A students are eligible to apply for the following scholarships (among many other financial opportunities), some depending on students' individual circumstances:




Contact Dr. Jim Marden at

Visit the program website for more information and link to application.

Next offered over winter break 2021-22



Dr. Jim Marden, Professor of Biology and Associate Director, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences