Postcards from Costa Rica

The Odum School’s semester-long Tropical Ecology study away program brings undergraduates to Costa Rica for an intensive 12 weeks to experience what the syllabus describes as “one of the most biodiverse and complex ecosystems in the world.” Based at the former UGA Costa Rica Campus in San Luis de Monteverde, now operated by non-profit study abroad organization CIEE, the program offers foundational classes in general ecology, conservation biology, and natural history in an immersive setting.

Over the course of the semester, students visit coastal areas, mangroves, dry forests, cloud forests, lowland tropical forests, and local farms and nature reserves. Students also conduct independent research, learning how to formulate research questions, collect and analyze data, and communicate their findings. Lecturer Amanda Rugenski coordinated the fall 2021 program with the help of Ph.D. student Carolyn Cummins and faculty members Jeb Byers and Sonia Hernandez, PhD ’08. Eleven ecology students participated in day and night hikes, ziplining, coffee and chocolate tours, amphibian surveys, and avian and bat mist netting. They learned about biodiversity, conservation, sustainable farming, and Costa Rica’s culture and history.

image of slopes of Monteverde

In the upper Pacific slopes of Monteverde… we visited the plot of Finca la Bella belonging to a farmer named Gilbert. On his farm, Gilbert has a wide variety of crops including banana, coffee, peppers, sugar cane, and many other fruits…

Finca la Bella – By Will Ellis

class in front of massive tree

As important as it is to the ecosystem, this tree was also extremely important in Mayan culture… These connections the Mayan drew between the heavens and the universe with this tree are not hard to understand when you stand in front of a nearly 200-foot-tall tree that towers over everything else in the forest…

The ceiba tree – By Kate Moore

intertidal zone

On our trip to Guanacaste, we visited a beach with an expansive intertidal zone composed mainly of rocks and tide pools. I’ve never seen tide pools with so many organisms in them before…

Tidal pools – By Elizabeth Shaffer

students on trail

The Sendero Pacífico is a network of trails, but the main line connects the Monteverde Cloud Forest to the Gulf of Nicoya…

Sendero Pacífico – By Caroline Anscombe

person with snorkel and fins underwater

Our first snorkeling spot was covered in sea urchins, and we saw many damselfish swimming around as well… On this excursion we also explored and learned about mangroves and saw a young crocodile…

Snorkeling in Cuajiniquil – By Cody Whitlock

These are excerpts from the fall 2021 class blog. On the course website, you can read more >.