Come explore Costa Rica’s diverse and imitable ecosystems and gain comprehensive insight into their conservation through theory, hands-on exposure, and direct experimentation.
Through rigorous coursework, and unique field opportunities including two extensive field trips throughout Costa Rica’s varied ecosystems, and the Panamanian coast, studying abroad in Monteverde, acquaints you with practical biological problems associated with agricultural development, eco-tourism, and grassroots conservation efforts in developing countries.
Study abroad in Costa Rica and you will:
Gain hands-on experience through an independent research project
Participate in two 2.5 week field trips, including a trip to Panama to observe marine diversity in the coral reefs off the Bocas del Toro Islands
Live in a biological station surrounded by the Monteverde Cloud Forest
Get to known rural Costa Rica during a one-month homestay with a local family
Study Spanish at nine different levels with no more than four students per instructor
The CIEE Difference
In Monteverde, the field is your classroom. Explore issues of tropical diversity, community ecology, and human impact in the tropics firsthand, from your biological research station in the Cloud Forest.
You’ll also spend almost six weeks traveling with your professors throughout Costa Rica to explore the country’s various ecosystems.
As part of the study abroad program, you’ll explore the Monteverde regional forests and Costa Rica’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts, visiting areas including a lowland rain forest equal in stature and diversity to forests in Amazonia; and the volcanoes of Rincón de la Vieja National Park. In all, approximately half the program is spent off site, exploring and studying the diverse ecosystems within Costa Rica.
Camping, hiking, snorkeling, swimming, traveling by bus and boat, and research are all part of the trips. In addition, there are a variety of cultural events and activities available to you in the town of Monteverde.
Use your newly minted skills and knowledge to carry out a project in tropical ecology or conservation. Beginning with personal observations, you’ll formulate a hypothesis and design an appropriate test, spending the next four weeks gathering an analyzing data. The project culminates in a formal scientific report, a poster presentation to local students, and a symposium presentation.
Total recommended credit for the semester is 17 semester/25.5 quarter hours.
Biology course contact hours are 60 hours and recommended credit is 4 semester/6 quarter hours per course, unless otherwise indicated. Spanish language course contact hours are 60 hours and recommended credit is 3 semester/4.5 quarter hours.
All study abroad students take Humans in the Tropics, Tropical Community Ecology, and Tropical Diversity, as well as an Independent Study and Spanish language course.
Just below its world famous Cloud Forest, Monteverde is a small community of 4,000 that accommodates up to 200,000 tourists each year. Its forest is part of the largest private reserve in Central America and reflects a long heritage of grassroots conservation. The reserve encompasses not only Cloud Forest but everything from Dry Forest to Rain Forest habitats. Monteverde’s forests house over 2,500 species of plants, including over 500 species of orchids. In addition, Monteverde has over 60 species of amphibians, 100 species of mammals, and over 450 bird species, including the famed Resplendent Quetzal.
Where You’ll Study
The CIEE Study Center in Monteverde is located at the edge of the forest in a small, friendly, bilingual community surrounded by a cloud forest. Monteverde is free of biting insects and green all year-round. Monteverde’s Cloud Forest has been studied for more than 35 years by both visiting and Costa Rican biologists. This widens the research opportunities available and acquaints students with practical biological problems associated with agricultural development, eco-tourism, and grassroots conservation efforts in developing countries.
Housing & Meals
Housing and all meals are included in the study abroad program fee. For two months out of the four, students live in a biological station, which is situated adjacent to the magnificent Monteverde Cloud Forest. Students attend all classes in this beautiful setting. Up to four people share one room (two bunk beds provided), with a private bath and hot shower in each room. Meals are taken at the biological station and served family style. Vegetarians and vegans can easily be accommodated.
A one-month homestay is also included in the program, during which participants live and take their meals with local Costa Rican families throughout the Monteverde-Santa Elena regions. Homestays are assigned based on Independent Study research interests. All meals are included for the length of the homestay period.
Students spend several extended periods of time (about a one month and a half total) traveling with their professors throughout Costa Rica to explore the country’s various ecosystems.
Two teaching assistants live with students at the station and are available to help answer questions about health issues, living conditions, and the academic program. A logistics coordinator, Spanish Language Institute and the academic staff also plan social activities and make the group aware of cultural and community events.
The CIEE Study Center in Monteverde began as a summer program in 1989, then in 1996, a semester study abroad program was added. The Tropical Ecology and Conservation program is geared to biology and related majors who have completed an introductory biology sequence and one of the following electives: animal behavior, conservation biology, ecology, or evolution. The academic content of the program is designed to immerse participants in tropical ecology and conservation through rigorous classwork, including exposure to systematics, current and classic scientific literature, and academic lectures. The program also offers unique field opportunities, including two extensive field trips throughout Costa Rica’s varied ecosystems, the Panamanian coast, and a directed independent research project. Spanish language compliments the biological studies by focusing on related vocabulary and a one month home stay with a rural Costa Rican family. All courses, except the Spanish language course, are taught in English.
The small, rigorous courses with a biological focus are offered for CIEE study abroad students only and incorporate extensive travel, research, and field study. U.S. and Costa Rican biology professors teach and evaluate students in both the classroom and on field trips. Students should expect an academically intense experience and should be willing to learn in a variety of settings, including classrooms, beaches, waterfalls, and treetops. The biological station that houses the program abuts a large, stunning forest contiguous with the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, the major tropical mountain forest research center in the Western Hemisphere. Together, the various Monteverde forest preserves make up over 25,000 hectares (57,000-plus acres). Students have a unique opportunity to study in a comfortable facility close to this spectacular biodiversity. Unlike other programs, the Tropical Ecology and Conservation program in Monteverde is housed alongside the biodiversity that participants will study every day. One wakes to the sounds of Howler Monkeys, not to city traffic noise. Courses run from 8AM to 6PM daily but no two days are exactly the same.