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Students Experience Diverse Ecosystems, Biodiversity on Costa Rica Study Abroad Trip

The Costa Rica Natural History study abroad course offers students the opportunity to explore biodiversity and Costa Rican societal values in tropical rainforest, Pacific dry forest, Pacific rock reef and Pacific mangrove ecosystems.Amanda King stands atop a mountain in Los Quetzales National Park

The 10-day excursion includes birding, boat trips, seining in rivers and hiking, while exposing students to sustainable management of tourism, conservation in Costa Rica, and hands-on experiences in wildlife and aquatic sciences. 

“I had the opportunity to learn about and explore the variety of ecosystems and organisms within tropical regions,” May 2024 graduate Amanda King said. “One of my favorite parts of the trip was snorkeling! I had not done it before, and I really enjoyed seeing all the bright fish and swimming with sea turtles. My favorite encounters were with all the bats! There were so many that would fly around at night and we spotted a few that would perch under the large leaves during the day!”

A collage of various plants and animals the Costa Rica study abroad group encountered on its trip ranging from butterflies to birds, frogs, insects, crabs and even a tapir and a crocodile. A collage of various plants and animals the Costa Rica study abroad group encountered on its trip ranging from butterflies to birds, frogs, insects, crabs and even a tapir and a crocodile.

Components of the Spring Break trip included:

The 2024 trip reacquainted master’s degree student Kaitlyn Young with sites and people she encountered as a student in Costa Rica in 2022, but also offered new experiences. 

“My favorite experience from this year's Costa Rica trip was reconnecting with friends that I had made when I first went on the trip as a student two years ago,” said Young, a 2022 wildlife alumna who acted as a teaching assistant this year. “Also, when you are in Costa Rica, the biodiversity can be overwhelming, so I appreciated the opportunity to visit the same places again and really soak in both familiar and new species. We had a great group on this year's trip and I'm so grateful that I got to share that experience with them. A couple highlights for me included being able to see a male Resplendent Quetzal with the group near Las Vueltas EcoLodge and seeing several species of sea turtles while snorkeling. All in all, I clocked in about 65 new birds on my Costa Rica list on this trip, which I wasn't expecting.”

A collage of the people on the Costa Rica study abroad trip: from students standing inside of a tree trunk to sitting atop mountains, birdwatching, snorkeling, boating, eating and learning from local researchers. A collage of the people on the Costa Rica study abroad trip: from students standing inside of a tree trunk to sitting atop mountains, birdwatching, snorkeling, boating, eating and learning from local researchers.

This year’s participants saw 294 species of birds, 17 species of mammals, 12 species of reptiles, nine species of amphibians and 39 species of fish. Highlights of the 2024 trip included watching Pantropical Spotter Dolphins escort the group’s boat out to the snorkeling reefs at Cano Island. Students also encountered 21 species of hummingbirds, three species of toucans and multiple individual Baird’s Tapirs at Corcovado National Park. They also went swimming with white-tipped reef sharks as well as hawksbill and Pacific green sea turtles at Cano Island.

A full photo gallery from the trip can be found on Facebook. 

A collage of photos of the Costa Rican landscape from sunset beach scenes to mountain views and rainforests. A collage of photos of the Costa Rican landscape from sunset beach scenes to mountain views and rainforests.

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