Mathew E. Dornbush
Ph.D. Iowa State University 2005

ENV SCI 499:
Tropical Conservation and Ecology in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Collage

Course Description:

This three credit course immerses students for approximately two weeks in the tropical ecosystems of Costa Rica. Student experience is centered on a living, working relationship with the staff at Carara National Park. Located on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast, Carara is characterized by high biological diversity resulting from its unique juxtaposition between the wetter forests of the south and the drier northern deciduous forests. Course topics take a system's approach, exposing students to a wide range of biological, geological, and socioeconomic issues related to Costa Rican ecology and conservation. Student interaction with park staff enhances group discussions by providing a Costa Rican perspective to Costa Rica's natural resource challenges. Two overnight excursions expose students to additional tropical ecosystems, geological processes, and land management approaches. The extensive student exposure to Carara's moist tropical forest provides a solid baseline from which students can build a systematic understanding of the similarities and differences among Costa Rica's varied tropical ecosystems. Required activities include attendance at a minimum of four pre-departure meetings, and while in Costa Rica, several off-site field trips, prolonged hiking on uneven trails, and an ability to conduct vigorous activities under tropical conditions. Spanish language skills are not required.

Information about some of our activities:

Participating Professors:

Assistant Professor Mathew Dornbush               Associate Professor Kevin Fermanich
Natural and Applied Sciences (Plant Ecology)       Natural and Applied Sciences (Earth Science)
Phone: (920) 465-2264                                            Phone: (920) 465-2240
email:                                  email:

Associate Professor Daniel Meinhardt                 Professor Steven Dutch
Human Biology (Herpetology)                                Natural and Applied Sciences (Earth Science)
Phone: (920) 465-2398                                            Phone: (920) 465-2246
email:                                   email: