Field Studies in Biology
Winter Break 2021
Spend Winter Break 2020 conducting scientific research in a tropical rain forest at the World’s most famous tropical biology field station.
This course will be based at The Organization for Tropical Studies’ La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica
. La Selva, situated at the confluence of two major rivers in the Caribbean lowlands of northern Costa Rica (10° 26' N, 83° 59' W), comprises 1,600 hectares (3,900 acres) of tropical wet forests and disturbed lands. It averages 4 meters (over 13 feet) of rainfall that is spread rather evenly throughout the year. The Station is bordered on the south by Braulio Carrillo National Park, which contains more than 46,000 hectares of forest land and is the core conservation unit of the 91,000-hectare Cordillera Volcánica Central Biosphere Reserve.
Braulio Carrillo National Park extends down to La Selva through a forest corridor that descends in elevation from 2,906 meters at Volcán Barva to 35 meters above sea level at La Selva. This reserve, consisting of both La Selva's protected environs and the Park, has four major tropical life zones and includes more than 5,000 species of vascular plants, of which more than 700 species are trees.
The fauna is similarly diverse. Large predators include jaguars, pumas, and bushmasters. Thousands of arthropod species are being currently recorded at La Selva, and more than 400 species of resident and migratory birds have been sighted in the reserve, representing almost half of Costa Rica's bird species.
Building on a strong base of systematic biology and evolutionary biology, research at La Selva has diversified to include ecosystem-level projects, physiological ecology, soil science, and forestry trials of native tree species. These studies have resulted in the publication of more than 1,600 scientific articles, theses, and books and perhaps another 1,000 write-ups of course projects.
La Selva's juxtaposition of protected ecosystems and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities is unique in the world's wet tropics. An extensive trail system of more than 50 kilometers 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 3,000 permanent posts mark the 50 x 100-meter grids.
Two well-equipped laboratories, including a large analytical lab, offer air-conditioned workspace, and house common-use equipment. Spatially referenced data are managed on the Geographic Information System (GIS) and the same work stations service the e-mail and Internet connections.
Class meetings in Cleveland will cover biodiversity and current ecological, environmental, and social issues surrounding tropical ecosystems and will include field trips to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. This course is open to undergraduate students that have taken BIOL 216 and to all graduate students. Students will design a field-based research experiment, perform the experiment in the tropics, and then report their results in the form of a term paper and oral presentation. This course satisfies a laboratory requirement of the B.A. and B.S. in Biology.
Note: Course requires students to be physically fit and in good health. Activities will include hiking and long periods spent outdoors. Students will be exposed to hot weather and biting/stinging insects.
Prof. Ronald Oldfield
La Selva Biological Field Station and hotel with shared occupancy
The program fee includes Instruction, lodging, in-country transportation, admission and excursion fees to locations included in the itinerary, and field fee.
International flights are not
included in the program fee.