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Research Experience for Undergrads in Tropical Biology in Costa Rica

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Academic Level:
For most summer research programs, this is your upcoming status as of the fall. Always check with the individual program's website for details.

Undergraduates - First Year
Undergraduates - Sophomore
Undergraduates - Junior

Note: this opportunity encourages applications from community college students.

Students from diverse ethnic and academic backgrounds will complete an independent research project in the field with an experienced tropical ecologist, from the project planning stage through to symposium presentation and potential publication. Ten undergraduates will be selected through a competitive application process for a ten-week research program at the world-renowned La Selva Biological Station in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica. The program provides students with a first-hand look at the challenges and rewards of tropical field ecology. Students will live immersed in a rich academic community of researchers conducting novel tropical research, and they will attend workshops on field skills, current research in tropical biology, international research ethics, statistics, and scientific written and oral communication. Participants also have access to the social, cultural, and recreational activities of rural communities surrounding La Selva. Former participants of the OTS REU program are now pursuing successful careers in the biological sciences, including field ecology and tropical medicine.

Program Highlights

.Ten weeks of field study at a premier biological station in a diverse tropical rainforest

.Experienced scientific mentors to guide you through independent research

.Cultural exchanges with Costa Rican and international students and researchers

Program Prerequisites

OTS hopes to offer this opportunity to students from a broad range of backgrounds. Competitive applicants will have a strong background in biology and a demonstrated interest in field ecology. An introductory knowledge of Spanish will be helpful but is not mandatory. Prior field experience is not a requisite for admission. As part of the application process, students must designate the mentors with whom they wish to work. It is recommended that they also contact those mentors to confirm that they share similar research interests. Projects in previous years have investigated the ecology and conservation of various organisms and their ecosystems, such as GIS mapping of regenerating forests, behavioral ecology of understory insectivorous birds, and pesticide and climate effects on declining amphibians.

Why work at La Selva Biological Station?

La Selva is one of the most important sites in the world for research in tropical biology. Owned and operated by OTS, it is visited annually by over 1,500 scientists from 200 institutions and 20 countries, as well as by over 200 education groups. Research at La Selva covers diverse areas, ranging from organismal to ecosystem level biology. These studies have led to the publication of more than 3,000 scientific articles, theses and books. Two-thirds of the La Selva property (1,536 ha) houses species rich old-growth forest, while the remainder is abandoned pastures and plantations in various stages of secondary succession or experimental usage. An extensive trail system provides access to a wide range of terrestrial and aquatic habitats. The entire property has been topographically surveyed to a high degree of accuracy, and spatially referenced data are managed on the Geographic Information System (GIS). Two well-equipped laboratories, including a large analytical lab, offer air-conditioned work space, common-use equipment, and wireless internet connections.

Who can apply?

The program is open to undergraduate U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents enrolled in accredited institutions in the United States who have taken at least 2 semesters of upper-level biology (beyond introductory courses). Graduating seniors are not eligible.

What does the REU award cover?

The OTS REU award covers the cost of room and board and international travel to and from Costa Rica. Participants will also receive a generous stipend of $4500 for their 10 weeks of research.
study abroad program

Application Deadline: 1/31/2018
Note: Most programs maintain a similar program cycle (including similar application deadlines) year after year. Click here to understand dates and deadlines on

Program Dates: 6/4/2018 - 8/7/2018

 • Note: Funding pending
Participating Institution(s):
(Click an institution to see all programs it hosts)
Organization for Tropical Studies (Lead)

Program Materials:
 • Program Website 

This Program can be Described by:
Academic Disciplines:
Conservation Biology & Wildlife
Environmental Sciences
Natural Resources

Amphibian Conservation
Behavioral Ecology
Forest Ecology
Insect Ecology and Evolution
Landscape Ecology
Plant Ecology
Tropical Ecology
Wildlife Biology

Learn More and Apply!

This program is funded by:
National Science Foundation (NSF)

Page last updated 11/8/2017
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