San Ramón, Costa Rica
USAC
1-866-404-USAC1-775-784-65691-775-784-6010studyabroad@usac.unr.edu

Course Information

San Ramón, Costa Rica | 2017-18 Yearlong

Studying abroad can be a more meaningful and invigorating learning experience than at home—both inside and outside of the classroom. You may be more curious and alert than you usually are so use this heightened energy to enhance your studies as well as your cultural and geographical explorations. You may also encounter different teaching styles and course processes; be prepared to adapt and to learn.

Academics

You will enroll in 12 to 18 credits per semester comprised of language study plus electives in life and health sciences, and Latin American studies. Course availability is contingent upon student enrollment and is subject to change.

Spanish Language Tracks

USAC offers intensive language courses grouped into tracks in which courses are taught sequentially (back to back) within one semester. If you have already taken the first course in a track, you do not have to take it again for credit, but you must audit it to be prepared for success at the next level. Language courses are small and typically have a maximum enrollment of 15 students each.

Track I (8 credits total)—Prerequisite: none

Track II (6 credits total)—Prerequisite: two semesters of college Spanish

Track III (6 credits total)—Prerequisite: four semesters of college Spanish

Track IV (6 credits total)—Prerequisite: six semesters of college Spanish

Fall Semester

Language and Literature Electives

Taught in Spanish

Culture and Area Studies

Courses are taught in English unless noted in Spanish; courses taught in Spanish are for students in Track III or above unless otherwise indicated.

Life and Health Science Studies

Taught in English

Spring Semester

Language and Literature Electives

Taught in Spanish

Culture and Area Studies

Taught in English or Spanish

Life and Health Science Studies

Taught in English

Field Studies

Deepen your academic experience through the optional Cuba Field Study which helps you explore the historical, cultural, and natural features of the region. Students who enroll in this 1-credit course will select a particular topic of interest to examine as part of the field study, and complete a research paper drawing from their field study experience as well as from additional readings, research, and written assignments.

Internships

USAC internships are rich resources for your academic and professional development. Students are placed in a Spanish-speaking environment, with high exposure to culture and language, and must be able to communicate at an advanced language level. Interns earn credits but no financial compensation. The schedule and the number of work hours will be determined by the schedule of USAC courses.

San Ramón internship opportunities fall into broad categories; prior placements include: local hospital in medicine, hospital administration and maintenance, microbiology, pharmacy, elementary and secondary education centers, research assistance (including birds, leaf cutter ants, fish, shrimp, trees, and plants), natural trails, the Senior Citizen Center, Vet’s Clinic, Centro José Figueres Ferrer, the municipal government, NGOs, and industry. Other internship sites are possible but require at least three months advance notification so that the internship coordinator can attempt to find something that suits you. Placement is not guaranteed by USAC, rather it will be determined by your application and supporting materials and an interview on site with the internship sponsor. For most positions, students will be required to attend orientation training sessions at the beginning of the internship.

Eligibility: enrollment in the San Ramón program, a minimum GPA of 3.0, Track IV Spanish proficiency, and junior standing at the time of the internship. A refundable fee of $100 is charged and returned upon successful completion of the internship.

Course Descriptions

Advanced Spanish I

Fall (Spanish; 400-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Spanish; 400-level; 3 credits)

This advanced level course of Spanish has been designed for students who have completed three years of Spanish and although they may manage in completing daily tasks and interactions, they still need to improve their control over different oral and written registers. In addition, this course offers the students the opportunity to enhance their vocabulary in specific and technical areas, and to improve their grammatical accuracy in oral and written production.

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Advanced Spanish II

Fall (Spanish; 400-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Spanish; 400-level; 3 credits)

Advanced Spanish II (SPN 411) has been designed for students who have completed more than three years of Spanish and although they may manage in daily tasks and interactions, they still need to improve their control over different oral and written registers. In addition, this course will offer them the opportunity to enhance the coherence and cohesion of their production, and to improve their grammatical accuracy.

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Biological Diversity

Spring (Biology; 400-level; 3 credits)

The diversity of life forms is one of the greatest wonder and treasures of the world. This diversity is the product of millions of years of evolution, and can be thought in many different ways. One could start by viewing the overall perspective of evolutionary time and the radiation patterns from single ancestors. Another way of looking at it is to explore the characteristics of natural communities and intricate tapestry of relationships between life forms living in these communities. At the ecosystem level, we can look at the diversity of the biota and recognize different biomes. We can also view diversity globally and collectively by estimating the number of species and determining where species are concentrated. Finally, we can measure the amount of genetic variation within species to look at the genetic level diversity.

The study of biodiversity (and all of its components) is a crosscutting issue because human activities have affected the diversity of life forms to the point where large numbers of species have gone extinct and the genetic diversity of many species has eroded. These treats continue have increase in magnitude and several studies predict that we are now experiencing a new era of mass extinctions due to negative anthropocentric activities. The conservation of biodiversity can be achieved only by: “characterizing it, saving it, and using it in a sustainable way”. To achieve this goal one must study life diversity, and quantify it in order to be able to monitor it and save it.

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Biological Diversity Field Study

Spring (Biology; 400-level; 1 credit)

We see that laboratories should play a dual role in introducing biological diversity while at the same time keeping those methodologies within context and within a conceptual framework. The conservation of biodiversity can be achieved only by: “characterizing it, saving it, and sustainably using it”. To achieve this goal one must study life diversity, and quantify it in order to be able to monitor it and save it. Thus you will have several writing assignments and a presentation that you will be responsible for. (Spring semester)

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Cuba Field Study: History and Society

Fall (Anthropology, History, Spanish; 200-level; 1 credit)
Spring (Anthropology, History, Spanish; 200-level; 1 credit)

Cuba was a key factor in the colonial Americas—its history exemplifying the impact of slavery and imperialism. Physically close but politically isolated from the United States, Cuba was also pivotal in twentieth-century events impacting the US, from the Spanish-American War to the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a result, Cuba has maintained a cultural and mythic presence in the history of the US and surrounding region. The Cuba Field Study course will give you the opportunity to experience the layers of history and culture in Cuba firsthand—the past, present, and future realities of Cuban society and its fusion of Spanish, African, and American flavors to create a rich culture all its own. The Cuba Field Study offers an unmatched opportunity to visit this enchanting island and culture, and provides a rich layer of understanding to your time living and studying in Costa Rica and Latin America by examining the contrasts and similarities between two former Spanish colonies and their histories since independence.

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Dances of Latin America

Fall (Dance; 100-level; 1 credit)
Spring (Dance; 100-level; 1 credit)

The Latin American Dances class is addressed to those students who enjoy dancing and want to learn how to relate traditional Latin American dances like “Cha chachá”, “Son”, “Bolero” “Merengue”, “Salsa”, “Guaracha”, “Cumbia” and so on. At the same time, the students have the chance to practice Spanish and become more acquainted with the Latin American culture.

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Ecology and Population Biology

Spring (Biology, Environmental Science; 300-level; 3 credits)

Ecology and population biology explains the distribution and movement of organisms in the natural world. It should ideally be one of the capstone courses of biology major for it incorporates many themes you have learned through your biological education. As a result we will touch on many biological principles that you should already be somewhat familiar with. My hope is that you gain an appreciation of ecological principles as they relate to the natural world. And what better place to explore that natural world than Costa Rica!

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Ecology and Population Biology Field Study

Spring (Biology, Environmental Science; 300-level; 1 credit)

We see that field studies should play a dual role in introducing ecological methodologies while at the same time keeping those methodologies within context and within a conceptual framework. You will need to master several kinds of learning since ecology is both quantitative and qualitative in nature. As a result, it is also imperative and essential that you can articulate this learning in a meaningful way. Thus you will have several writing assignments and a presentation that you will be responsible for.

Ideally the field study practices should correspond, in some way, to the topics covered in lecture. Given that the pace and structure of lecture is dynamic this may not allow for a seamless overlay. However, rest assured we will adequately cover any relevant material before commencing the practice. The main activities and field practices will be carried out during field trips.

Field trips will require you to keep a reflection journal. These journal will involve you examining the adaptations to the environment, species relationships, community structure and organization present in the places we are going to visit. You must include pictures, a brief description of the ecosystems, the species and their habitat and relationships with others.

Students will work in projects during the field trips and will write a scientific report for each field trip with the data collected in these projects.

Dress appropriately for field trips. We will spend the majority of our time outside so please keep that in mind. If there are any other clothing requirements, I will let you know ahead of time.

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Elementary Spanish I

Fall (Spanish; 100-level; 4 credits)
Spring (Spanish; 100-level; 4 credits)

Elementary Spanish I is a four-credit language course offered to students who are enrolled in USAC and have not taken any Spanish courses at college-level before. This course is designed to help non-native speakers of Spanish to acquire basic communicative competence by providing the opportunities to develop the basic skills of a language: listening, speaking, interacting, reading and writing. The main emphasis of this course is on communication and, therefore, class attendance is essential.

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Elementary Spanish II

Fall (Spanish; 100-level; 4 credits)
Spring (Spanish; 100-level; 4 credits)

Elementary Spanish II is a four-credit language course offered to students who are enrolled in USAC and have taken one course of Spanish at college-level or its equivalent before. This course is designed to help non-native speakers of Spanish to acquire basic communicative competence. It provides opportunities for the development of the basic skills of a language: listening, speaking, interacting, reading and writing. The main emphasis of this course is on communication and, therefore, class attendance is essential.

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Environmental Policy

Fall (Environmental Science, Political Science; 400-level; 3 credits)

Environmental degradation is at its historic worst, and threatens many human accomplishments. The situation is especially severe in the tropics, where all of the countries are either third-world or developing and the economic pressure for the short-term utilization of their natural resources is extreme, exacerbated by the insatiable demand of the industrialized countries. Economic issues are an important component of determining environmental policy, but too often they are deemed the only factor.

This course is an introduction to the environmental policy. We will examine the nature and extend of environmental and natural resource problems, contrasting perspectives on their severity and policy implications in the U.S. and Latin America. We’ll examine the complexity of policy development and implementation along with its multiple actors involved such as ENGO’s; academia, corporations, governments, and other institutional forces.

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Global Health

Spring (Health Ecology; 400-level; 3 credits)

This course is directed towards the student who wants to deepen his/her knowledge of global health and how preventive and promotive work can be carried on from an international perspective. Provides an introduction to problems involved in assessing international health needs and designing, implementing, managing, and evaluating public health programs in international settings. Topics include: issues in global health; major health problems and concerns of developing vs. developed countries; international health organizations; international health care systems and health development assistance; development of population/demographic transition; the global economy and health; access to medical care; cultural differences; emerging crises in global health.

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Global Issues in Environmental Sciences

Spring (Environmental Science; 400-level; 3 credits)

The goal of this class is to discuss and research current and important concepts affecting and/or involving our environment to gain an understanding of core environmental science principles and how these relate to pressing global issues. These concepts will revolve around the following themes of environmental science: Globalization, Bio-prospecting, Aquatic Ecology, Soil and Agriculture, Environmental Ethics, Policy and Law, Energy, Environmental Economics, Solid Waste and Human Population and Consumption. This course aims to provide learning opportunities that include gaining knowledge and skills necessary to be an informed and perceptive citizen regarding impacts of human activities in the environment and your role in it. The class will also provide opportunities for developing proposals and projects for local institutions, dealing with global environmental issues. A final goal is to promote in the student the analysis and reflection upon his or her behavior and the identification of ways of lowering the ecological footprint.

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Independent Research

Fall (200-level; 1 - 3 credits)
Fall (400-level; 1 - 3 credits)
Spring (200-level; 1 - 3 credits)
Spring (400-level; 1 - 3 credits)

USAC offers a range of independent research projects to students in varying areas of biology.They are designed for undergraduate students who want experience beyond the classroom. This research placement assumes that the student will take part in an ongoing project and duties will be closely supervised.

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Intermediate Spanish I

Fall (Spanish; 200-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Spanish; 200-level; 3 credits)

Intermediate Spanish I is a three-credit course offered to students who have completed a year of college Spanish or its equivalent. In this course, the students will learn to narrate in the main time-frames, as well as to recognize the different uses of the subjunctive mood in the expression of different degrees of certainty, of wishes and of advices.

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Intermediate Spanish II

Fall (Spanish; 200-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Spanish; 200-level; 3 credits)

Intermediate II is a course designed for students who have completed a year and a half of college Spanish or its equivalent and want to learn how to use the language with increasing syntactic complexity and grammatical accuracy, paying special attention to the change of time-frames, as well as the expression of hypothesis and different degrees of certainty.

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Latin America and its Cultures

Fall (Anthropology, History, Spanish; 200-level; 3 credits)
Fall (Anthropology, History, Spanish; 300-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Anthropology, History, Spanish; 200-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Anthropology, History, Spanish; 300-level; 3 credits)

The course focuses on two large topics. The first one concerns the social and cultural foundations established by the ancient peoples that inhabited Latin America as well as the new societies and hybrid cultures that arouse after the arrival of European populations to this part of the world. The second topic encompasses contemporary issues such as the building of national identities, social and cultural “modernization” of urban and rural populations, and responses to global challenges. This course explores the tensions between continuity and change as cultural processes develop to shape Latin America today. It also looks at general trends and it provides opportunities to become acquainted with particular cases. Taught in English at the 200 level. Taught in Spanish at the 300 level.

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Latin American Cuisine

Fall (Nutrition; 200-level; 1 credit)
Spring (Nutrition; 200-level; 1 credit)

The Latin American Cuisine class is addressed to those students who enjoy cooking and want to learn how to prepare traditional Latin American dishes like ceviche, “picadillo,” “empanadas,” “Tres leches,” and so on. At the same time, the students have the chance to practice Spanish and become more acquainted with the Latin American culture. An additional fee of $125 is required for this course.

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Natural History of Mesoamerica

Fall (Biology, Geography; 200-level; 3 credits)

During many years of human history, natural sciences were not as sharp as they are today. That is, biology did not exist, except botany, zoology, entomology or bryology, ecology, geology and meteorology, even though they were areas of human knowledge that with the passage of time generated a great deal of information. All these sciences were conceived as part of the knowledge of natural history. Thus, students of nature, called by some naturalists (amateur or professional) should know about geology, climatology, biogeography, life cycles of living things and the interrelationships between them and the environment, including the effect of moon on the tides and the living. The course of Natural History in Mesoamerica is designed to introduce students to the study of nature in a holistic manner to try to explain the causes of biological diversity, both in specific term as organic, which exists in Mesoamerica. The student will reinforce and build knowledge regarding the geological history, geography, climate, land use, biodiversity and natural history aspects, and proper, related to Mesoamerican biota.

The course of Natural History in Mesoamerica is designed to introduce students to the study of nature in a holistic manner to try to explain the causes of biological diversity, both in specific term as organic, which exists in Mesoamerica. The student will reinforce and build knowledge regarding the geological history, geography, climate, land use, biodiversity and natural history aspects, and proper, related to Mesoamerican biota.

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Natural History of Mesoamerica Field Study

Fall (Biology, Geography; 200-level; 1 credit)

This course will provide field opportunities to analyze some of the most important aspects of the natural history in Mesoamerica, studying the case of Costa Rica, from its geological aspects to its bio-geographical characteristics. Special relationships between the physical environment and its biological richness will be studied, as well as the threats to resources that affect conservation efforts.

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Plant Taxonomy

Fall (Biology; 400-level; 3 credits)

The diversity of the flora of Costa Rica and neoptropics has been the result of a series of geological processes and environmental factors that have interacted over millions of years. This is reflected, for example, the large number of tree species per hectare and the wide geographical distribution in altitude and latitude of many of these plants.

This course provides an introduction to the principles and practice of biological systematics and classification (taxonomy). Emphasis is placed on acquiring the facility to use appropriate terminology in order to identify flowering plants, as well as to know the importance of plants in our daily lives as a source of economic resources in the form of wood, paper, fiber (cotton, flax, and hemp, among others), medicines, decorative and landscaping plants, and many other uses.

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Plant Taxonomy Field Study

Fall (Biology; 400-level; 1 credit)

This laboratory is designed to provide practical experience in plant identification using the tools of classification and identification, and gaining a real world experience in plant identification.

Field work will provide practice and experience in data accumulation, specimen collection and preparation, identification of major taxa, and use of identification resources.

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Society and Environment

Fall (Environmental Science, Sociology; 400-level; 3 credits)

The central aim of this course is to explore the relationship between the environment, both natural and human built, and society. We will look at historical and contemporary ways of thinking about nature. We will pay particular attention to the historical and cultural factors that have lead us to regard nature as separate from the self and society and the effects such perceptions may have had on the natural environment. We will also examine the potential influences the physical world has had in shaping civilizations, particularly here in Costa Rica and the states students come from. Furthermore we will explore the possible growth of an environmental consciousness and will assess the value of both consciousness-raising and structural change as means for addressing the human-produced ecological problems.

Environment and Society is a liberal studies course that addresses the sociological dimensions of issues and problems in contemporary human societies. The thematic foci for all sections of the course are Environmental Consciousness, Technology and Its Impact and Valuing the Diversity of Human Experience. Social issues related to technology and its impact on various facets of human social organization and experience will be highlighted in the course. The relationship between human societies and the Costa Rican environment will also be emphasized. Students should develop several of the essential skills through their work for this course, such as critical thinking, critical reading, effective writing, and/or ethical reasoning. Two essential skills will be assessed formally: critical thinking and critical reading or effective writing.

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Spanish Composition I

Fall (Spanish; 300-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Spanish; 300-level; 3 credits)

This is a third year couse for students who have completed two years of Spanish at the college level or their equivalent. Emphasis is placed in improving the students´ writing abilities with the analysis first, and the subsequent production of different types of texts. In addition, a number of grammatical topics are reviewed in order to enhance and improve learners´ grammatical competence. The extensive reading of a short novel will accompany and strengthen the formal instruction.

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Spanish Composition II

Fall (Spanish; 300-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Spanish; 300-level; 3 credits)

Composition II is designed for students with 5 semester of college level Spanish language Study. The focus of this course is to improve learners´ written abilities through the analysis first and the subsequent production of different types of texts. In addition, a number of grammatical topics will be reviewed in order to enhance and refine the learners´ grammatical competence.

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Spanish Conversation and Oral Skills

Fall (300-level; 1 - 3 credits)
Spring (300-level; 1 - 3 credits)

Optional three-credit course that complements the development of linguistic competences facilitated at the two/three-hundred level courses, focusing in the oral skills in particular.

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Spanish for Medical Professionals

Fall (Community Health Sciences, Spanish; 300-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Community Health Sciences, Spanish; 300-level; 3 credits)

This course will provide students with the knowledge of the basic structures of the Spanish language, and the specialized medical vocabulary needed to communicate effectively with Spanish-speaking patients in a variety of health care situations. Moreover, an understanding and appreciation of cultural differences in the health perceptions of Spanish-speaking patients will be developed. This course is appropriate for all health-related disciplines, and requires some previous knowledge of Spanish.

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Survey of Latin American Literature I

Fall (Spanish; 300-level; 3 credits)

Panoramic revision of Latin American literature as well as texts and authors which have influenced the cultural configuration between the 15th and 19th centuries. Study of the authors who have been outstanding in the productions developed throughout these last 400 years. Students will study the birth of the literary field relating to the continent as well as the elements that have given form to its idealologies. The contents are: letters, journals and diaries of the first conquistadors, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Andres Bello, Jose Marti, Ruben Dario, among others. Prerequisite: four semesters of college Spanish. Taught in Spanish.

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Survey of Latin American Literature II

Spring (Spanish; 300-level; 3 credits)

For the course, we will use an anthology put together by the professor that is organized to correspond to the sections that are being dealt with in the course: essays, narratives (stories and novels), poetry and dramatic works. All of the written material that is in the anthology will be dealt with in class. The text is, above all, mandatory for the students use. Each practice section and corresponding units comes accompanied by a study guide that is produced by the professor, in order to facilitate the written comprehension and interpretation. The anthology is a text prepared in such a way that the students underline, highlight or write notes in the margins.

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Sustainable Development: Women and the Environment

Fall (Environmental Science, Sociology, Women's Studies / Gender Studies; 300-level; 3 credits)

This class is designed as an introduction to the challenging issues of women and the environment. As part of a larger course on Society and Climate Change, it will address the main aspects of how women interface with crucial environmental concerns such as water, energy, land use, and biodiversity conservation. Moreover, it aims to build a broad understanding of how women and their children adapt to the world’s changing climatic conditions. Finally, it looks at women as active organizers and participants in building a more sustainable society on local and international levels.

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Tropical Conservation Biology

Spring (Biology; 400-level; 3 credits)

This course emphasizes the value of biodiversity and conservation measures that have been implemented in Costa Rica and Mesoamerica. It will begin with the definition of biodiversity: geographical concentrations, value of species diversity and a global perspective. The second part of this course concentrates on the loss of biodiversity: causes and consequences, reduction of genetically distinct populations, economics, endangered ecosystems and global implications. Preservation of biodiversity will conclude these lectures: protecting and identifying plant and animal species, alternatives to destruction of habitats, agro ecology, bio reserves and restoration ecology. Case studies are presented from Mesoamerica, with an emphasis on conservation in Costa Rica. Prerequisite: One year of general Biology with lab.

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Tropical Ecology

Fall (Biology; 300-level; 3 credits)

Tropical ecology is the relationship between plants and animals in a tropical environment (in a tropical zone). Tropical zones are distinguished because they occur in the latitudes that lay between the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn. These tropical latitudes have distinct physical, climatic, and unique biotic characteristics. As a result, tropical ecosystems are among the most diverse in the world. Tropical ecosystems are very diverse and encompass rainforests, dry deciduous forests, highland forests, paramos, coastal areas, spiny forests, deserts and other habitat types. Each one of these ecosystems has a unique species composition and ecological relationships among them. Thus, studying tropical ecology is essential to understand the modern ecology. Moreover, since 1980, 288 million hectares (21%) of tropical forest areas have been deforested, while the population in tropical countries has nearly doubled. The study of tropical ecosystems cannot be detached from conservation. The best way to ensure that these ecosystems will be conserved is to provide future generations with the proper theoretical, practical, and critical skills related to these special ecosystems and their conservation. This course will introduce students to tropical ecosystems and their general characteristics, focusing on the ecological and evolutionary relationships found in tropics. Students will also learn about some of the tropical research done in Costa Rica and other regions. This class will also explore the unique characteristics of several of the ecosystems found within the tropics and compare species found in different tropical regions. Students will also contrast between the diversity found in tropical regions with those found in temperate regions. The course will finish by studying the ecosystem services provided by tropical ecosystems. Students will explore how do tropical ecosystems impact on the temperate regions and what is needed to conserve these ecosystems. The course will also have a strong experimental component and students will learn how to develop experiments to answer ecological questions and how to employ simple statistical analyses to test hypothesis.

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Tropical Ecology Field Study

Fall (Biology; 300-level; 1 credit)

This field study course consists of three field trips to different habitats (one day field trip and two overnight field trips). The objectives of these visits will be to better understand the topics covered in the lectures such as individual, population and community level ecological processes, and adaptations to various environments. A fee of $200 is charged to help pay for transportation, entrance fees, ecology guides, lodging in biological reserves or national parks and some meals. Concurrent enrollment in Tropical Ecology required.

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Tropical Marine Biology

Spring (Biology; 300-level; 3 credits)

In this course students will learn about the main tropical marine ecosystems.

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Tropical Marine Biology Field Study

Spring (Biology; 300-level; 1 credit)

This field study course consists of three field trips to different habitats. (One day field trip and two overnight field trips). The objectives of these visits are to better understand the topics covered in the lectures such as: General Oceanography, Tropical Oceans, Coral Reefs, Mangrove Ecosystems, Grass Bed Ecosystems, Invertebrates and Tropical Marine Conservation. (Spring semester)

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Women's Health: Global Health and Human Rights

Spring (400-level; 3 credits)

Exploration of the specific health needs of women, with emphasis on understanding and prevention of problems of women’s health.

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Quick Details

2017-18 App. Cycle

Summer II (4 weeks): Open for late application

Fall: Open

Yearlong: Open

Spring: Open

2018-19 App. Cycle

Application opens 9/1:

Summer I (5 weeks)

Summer II (4 weeks)

Summer I & II (9 weeks)

Eligibility

Minimum GPA: 2.5

Program Type

Specialty

Credits

U.S. Credit

Program Capacity

65

Instruction

English | Spanish