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Session II: Applied Research Techniques & Strategies Toward Sustainability

Costa Rica

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Location Atenas
Language English

2014: July 7 - August 5


Rolling admissions. Early submissions are encouraged.


$5,400 ($500 discount for enrolling in both sessions; Includes all tuition, room, board, local travel. Excludes airfare)

Financial Aid

Need-based scholarships, loans, and travel grants are available.


College Undergraduates: No academic prerequisites

Credits 4 credits (8 credits if taken with Session I)


The School for Field Studies (SFS) Costa Rica summer program offers two four-credit courses that may be taken individually or back-to-back to provide a thorough introduction to the sustainability of tropical ecosystems, as well as field research techniques for addressing conservation questions. In Session II: Applied Research Techniques and Strategies Toward Sustainability in Costa Rica, students learn about the ecological, resource management, and socioeconomic factors impacting protected areas and surrounding regions in Costa Rica, and apply the scientific process in a field research project that addresses a local environmental issue.


Costa Rica is known worldwide for its conservation efforts, which have attracted millions of tourists to the country and especially to its natural protected areas and sustainable coffee farms. Accelerated economic growth and urban development are taking place in the absence of coordinated land-use planning, consideration of water and energy sustainability, and waste management systems. These oversights, in combination with climate change impacts, constantly challenge the sustainable development goals of the country and threaten its biodiversity.

This summer course can be taken individually or in combination with Sustaining Tropical Ecosystems: Biodiversity, Conservation, and Development in Session I. Students participating in both sessions are eligible for a $500 discount.


Students learn about the ecological, natural resource management, and socioeconomic factors impacting protected areas and surrounding communities and farms in Costa Rica. In this research- intensive program, the focus is on developing relevant research questions that address local issues related to sustainability. Students are involved in designing and conducting field research on a topic of immediate relevance to local clients and proposing alternative approaches toward sustainable development in an effort to help address challenges to conservation goals.


  • Students participating in both sessions are eligible for a $500 discount.
  • Students earn 8 credits
  • Home school financial aid may be applied toward the program. Earning 8 credits likely will allow students to qualify for federal financial aid, depending on their particular situation
  • There is a five-day break between components for independent travel
  • There are no prerequisites


Field exercises, research projects, and lectures introduce students to models of conservation, biodiversity protection, and development of Costa Rica's national parks, within the context of the Costa Rican cultural application of conservation ecology.

  • Explore Poco Sol Biological Station within the Children's Eternal Rainforest to quantify forest dynamics
  • Hike the oak forest and páramo ecosystems of the highlands of Cerro de la Muerte, and participate in the restoration project of the Quebrada Matías watershed
  • Visit Arenal Volcano National Park and evaluate the human capital of La Fortuna in an effort to inform park managers about opportunities to foster better relationship with surrounding communities


Our program in Costa Rica is oriented toward helping the community conserve its natural resources and develop sustainably. And close connections with the local community help establish SFS as a trusted and respected resource. SFS students enjoy a warm welcome into the community of Atenas, with opportunities to interview residents during academic projects, practice Spanish, learn about Costa Rican culture, and participate in community service projects. Students also enjoy joining local sporting events and spending time socializing at local cafes.


Students who study at The SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies' field station in Atenas will live on a hillside with spectacular views overlooking the Rio Grande River in the fertile Central Valley. The field station includes a large house, an outdoor classroom, a moderately sized organic garden, a patio and pool, as well as banana, mango, and orange groves, a chicken coop, and untouched forest areas with trails.

Students live in a dormitory (up to four to a room) with bathrooms. There is a classroom, small laboratory, and a computer room with internet access. The field station is part of the small neighborhood of La Presa/Los Angeles. The friendly town of Atenas is a short walk from the field station, while Costa Rica's tropical forests, beaches, mountains, and volcanoes are within a day's travel.