University of Costa Rica field biology
T. Jesse Fox
tjfox at sam.neosoft.com
Tue Apr 8 13:10:19 EST 1997
Growing Concern Over Tropical Forests Spawns Educational Opportunity in
T. Jesse Fox, Dr. Mauricio Quesada
World Class Adventures in Education
1300 Post Oak Blvd. 1750
Houston, Texas 77056
e-mail: worldc at neosoft.com or mqavenda at cariari.ucr.ac.cr
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 Ricas 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
forests 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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