University of Costa Rica field biology

T. Jesse Fox tjfox at
Tue Apr 8 13:10:19 EST 1997

Growing Concern Over Tropical Forests Spawns Educational Opportunity in 
Costa Rica 

T. Jesse Fox, Dr. Mauricio Quesada
World Class Adventures in Education
1300 Post Oak Blvd. 1750
Houston, Texas 77056

Office 713-961-3836
e-mail: worldc at or mqavenda at
For Release At Will:
English Speaking Undergraduates Encouraged to Participate

Houston/San Jose -- Tuesday, April 08, 1997---  A new generation of 
Costa Rican scientists, concerned about the global consequences of 
tropical deforestation, have developed an innovative strategy to help 
save the few remaining tropical habitats left on earth.  After obtaining 
their PhDs from US universities, this group of dedicated biology 
professors returned to the University of Costa Rica, with bold 
initiatives, to develop a special program of biological and 
environmental sciences for English speaking undergraduate students from 
around the world.  This unique program not only teaches students about 
ecology and conservation biology in the classroom, but also takes them 
throughout Costa Rica’s many tropical forests to experience first-hand 
the research techniques and circumstance of tropical field biologists.  
This new and innovative semester abroad program provides twelve credit 
hours which satisfy undergraduate science requirements as well as four 
credit hours of Spanish language.  Due to the careful consideration of 
all economic issues the coordinators of this program have been able to 
keep costs within the budget of most college students.

	There has been much concern over the last 20 years about the 
destruction of tropical forests.  A large part of  this concern is due 
to the fact that approximately 2/3 of the estimated 10 million species 
that occur on earth are found in tropical regions.  Costa Rica, a small 
country in Central America contains 2-5 % of the biodiversity on earth. 
 The professors from the Department of Biology at the University of 
Costa Rica are aware of the invaluable biodiversity that their country 
hosts and they are striving to reach as many people as possible through 
this international education effort.  
	Saving and protecting tropical forests is an incredibly 
complicated task.  It involves strategic planning of incentives and 
motivation.  What should be done?  Why should we do it?  The 
catastrophic effect of the loss of biodiversity on the future of human 
existence is the primary motivation for deeper study and understanding. 
 However, the challenge is convincing a sufficient number of people that 
the effects will be catastrophic.  This new semester abroad program 
offered by the University of Costa Rica provides a hands-on educational 
experience where large groups of students can learn the issues, 
obstacles, and possible solutions of this global concern.  The tropical 
forest’s best hope is young men and women with the motivation, tools and 
experience to develop proposals and execute initiatives that safeguard 
our biodiversity.  There may be no easy answers.  However, if answers 
exist, fresh young minds present the greatest opportunity of finding 
	The University of Costa Rica recognizes the potential role that 
undergraduate education can play in helping in the conservation of 
tropical forests in Costa Rica and other tropical countries.  They 
believe that immersing undergraduate students in tropical biology will 
have an influence on the direction that their future studies and careers 
ultimately take.  Students that participate in this semester abroad 
program will assuredly have a positive effect on the future of 
conservation in Costa Rica and throughout other tropical areas.
	This program provides the opportunity for students to have a 
“hands-on” experience in tropical field ecology.  In addition to formal 
classroom lectures, a large component of the course is taught in the 
field.  During this 3 month program, students will visit 10 different 
sites, mostly national parks and field stations operated by the 
University of Costa Rica.  They will conduct field projects in small 
groups, led by a specialized team of University of Costa Rica faculty 
members.  The first part of a field trip will concentrate on describing 
the habitat and the natural history of  the flora and fauna of the area. 
 The next part of each field trip will focus on either an ecological 
question or a question related to conservation biology.  These field 
will evaluate tentative assumptions (a hypothesis) and form the 
foundation of conclusions based on actual data collected or observed.  
After conducting the field work, the student groups organize the data 
and prepare an oral analysis to be presented to the rest of the class.  
At the end of the semester, the students will present the best of their 
projects in a public poster presentation on display at the University of 
Costa Rica Department of Biology, as well as, on the World Wide Web.  
High quality photos available on request.  (Kodak digital, high 
resolution .tif files)

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