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Earth Expeditions

Costa Rica: Ecology & Ecotourism

Trek through lowland rain forest, montane forest, and coastal ecosystems while investigating the biotic, physical, and cultural forces that affect tropical biodiversity.

Course Details
In Costa Rica: June 11-20, 2020
All students arrive at least one day before the course begins.
On the Web: April – December
Credits: 7 graduate credits from Miami University;
Course can be applied to the Global Field Program
Course Cost: Field course (in-country + web): $2,750
(price includes tuition for 5 graduate credits and in-country costs) + airfare to San Jose, Costa Rica.

Fall project course (web, required): $600
(price includes tuition for 2 graduate credits)

Course Overview

Due to their astonishing diversity and high rates of destruction, tropical ecosystems play a central role in debates about the nature and maintenance of the earth’s biodiversity.

Travel to Costa Rica to explore issues of biodiversity in lowland rain forest and montane cloud forest environments. Scientists equate the rapid loss of species due to human activities in the modern era to the massive extinction events evident in the geologic record. However, these two types of extinction events differ in important ways. In the extinction event in which we now live, humans make decisions about which species to save. We also decide, explicitly or implicitly, which species will go extinct. How well do we understand this process? On what ecological, economic, and political factors do we base these decisions? Understanding and formulating solutions to modern extinctions is a central concern of conservation biology, a discipline that requires skills in the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

Burgeoning ecotourism in Costa Rica is playing a greater and greater role in the conservation of biodiversity. Questions remain as to whether ecotourism can truly fulfill the promise of social, economic, and environmental benefits. What are the pros and cons of ecotourism; what constitutes best practices and who is defining or enforcing them? Does ecotourism by indigenous communities help or hinder the promotion of livelihoods and community empowerment? What new approaches can best save vulnerable species such as Costa Rica’s sea turtles?