Graduate Field Course in Tropical Biology: An Ecological Approach

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About Program

Since 1963, this OTS course in Costa Rica has trained ecologists and evolutionary biologists using an active learning approach, which engages students in a fun and fast-paced research environment. This is an intensive course in tropical ecology that will challenge you in every way. At its heart lie the highly regarded OTS “field problems”, which engage students in the fast-paced formulation of research questions, experimental design, data collection, analysis, oral presentations, and written papers. Students will take away advanced skills in research design, data analysis, writing, science communication, modeling, and collaborative research. All the skills will be strengthened through research practice in all OTS field stations, comprising lowland wet forest, tropical dry forest and montane forest. Partial fellowships/scholarships available.

Program Highlights
  • Visit all three world famous OTS field stations, giving you a perfect representation of Costa Rican ecosystems (Tropical Dry Forests, High-Altitude Forests, & Caribbean Tropical Forests)
  • Get the "boots on the ground" research skills you need to conduct your own independent research project with the mentorship of faculty and other experts
  • Rub elbows with some of the world's leading tropical scientists while living at our field stations
  • Immerse yourself in one of the world's biodiversity "hotspots"

COVID-19 Update

Applications for Spring 2021 are due by November 1st. We have also updated our refund policy for this semester by making all payments for tuition and fees, (including the deposit) fully refundable up until 30 days prior to the start date of the program. We also have summer field programs available, including field courses and practicums, as well as online courses. Last but not least, we have scholarship funds available for students who qualify.

Program Reviews

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Yes, I recommend this program

Field Ecology Rocks!

This inexperienced Detroit girl found the loves of her life during her OTS graduate summer course in Costa Rica. I was going to be a cell biologist, spouted 10 reasons why a woman should never marry, and was NOT going somewhere with spiders. And bugs! Hmmm. I became a tropical field ecologist, married a Costa Rican naturalist, and got a PHD in Entomology. Well, well. I guess you can say that an OTS/OET course can change your life. Yes! 40 years of great adventures. Recently retired (Professor Emerita), I bought a small piece of land near Corcovado National Park where I conducted my individual research project for my course in 1978. Life is good.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
We ecologists from the 1970s, I’ve heard are famous for “ putting everything in our mouths.” Indeed, our instructors, and so we, used our senses - we tasted leaves, bark, fruits, ants, whatever. It’s not a great idea.... thus the teasing from the more sophisticated students we later took out into the forest.
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