Skip to content

Programs : Brochure

This page is the brochure for your selected program. You can view the provided information for this program on this page and click on the available buttons for additional options.
  • Locations: Alajuela, Costa Rica; San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Program Terms: Early Fall
Dates / Deadlines:

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.
Program Information:
sociology italy
 Location Costa Rica (Alajuela, Mastatal, Dominical, San Isidro, Osa Peninsula, Savegre)
Early Fall 2017
August 31 – September 22, 2017
 Estimated    Program Fee $5,410
 Credits 5 UW credits
 Prerequisites None
 Program      Directors John Marzluff, Robert Tournay
 Program  Manager Katherine Kroeger |
 Application    Deadline March 1, 2017
 Information  Session(s) Contact Program Director for more information.
  General Explore the wildlife and culture of Costa Rica with scientific experts and local guides. Hike through tropical lowland and highland forests of the Pacific coast as you learn firsthand about Costa Rica’s emphasis on ecotourism as a commercial product.
Where You Will Study
Expenses, Financial Aid, & Scholarships



Program Description

Come experience the breath-taking natural beauty and rich cultural history of Costa Rica. You will explore a range of tropical ecosystems: from the beaches of the Pacific Ocean, to the lush humid rainforests of the Osa Peninsula, and up into the mighty oak trees of the Savegre cloud forest at Cierra de la Muerte. Proud of their reputation for protecting and preserving their incredible biodiversity, our experienced Tico guides and naturalists will share their deep love for their country's natural heritage and show you places most visitors never get to venture. Feel what it’s like to be a research scientist and conservationist working in the field. Go on night hikes to collect and protect endangered turtle eggs, search the forests for troops of monkeys, and help repair and restore damaged forests through restoration activities. Immerse yourself in the local culture in rural villages at Mastatal and the highland coffee region of Santa Elena. Staying with local families, you will gain first-hand knowledge of sustainable agriculture and coffee production, make (and taste) chocolate straight from the cacao trees, hike to waterfalls for an afternoon swim, and participate in service learning activities giving back to the communities. No Spanish? No hay un problema, beginning and advanced speakers alike can build their skills with daily lessons from a Spanish teacher.

Explore the connection between modern society and the natural world through activities centered at the intersection of nature, commerce and tourism. Investigate the pros and cons of ecotourism as a tool in the conservation of nature, and the ways in which foreign visitors and corporations have influenced, for better or worse, the socioeconomic dynamics on the Pacific coast communities of Costa Rica. Deepen your own understanding of the effect of human activities in shaping nature through lessons in the identification and natural history of native flora and fauna, ecosystem structure and function, and sustaining the balance between the instrumental and intrinsic value of nature.

Detailed Itinerary

Arrival: After arriving in Costa Rica, the course will begin with an orientation in the city of Alajuela and visit to the nearby Poas Volcano National Park.

Mastatal: The next day we will leave the city and paved roads behind, traveling into the Costa Rican countryside to the small village of Mastatal, where we will stay on a local farm and learn about sustainable agriculture, visit a local cacao plantation to make chocolate, meet with a medicinal plant expert from the neighboring indigenous community, and experience the tropical rainforest for the first time. Mastatal borders La Cangreja National Park where we will spend time observing the native flora and fauna and participate in trail restoration efforts to promote tourism to this newly established park.

Pacific Coast: A short drive down to the coast will take us to the ecolodge at Hacienda Baru, where we will investigate the heart of tourism in Costa Rica. We will spend a full day at Manuel Antonio Park, the most famous of Costa Rica’s national parks, where we are sure to see abundant wildlife featuring monkeys, sloths, ands toucans and swim at one of the best beaches on the Pacific coast. At nearby Playa Palo Seco we will take a guided boat tour through the one of the largest mangrove forests in Central America, an amazing and vital ecosystem, and end the day by volunteering on the local mangrove restoration project. After additional time to explore the beaches and coastal forests you can get your adrenalin fix by venturing up into the canopy via treetop platforms and zip lines.

Santa Elena: Located in the hills of the Talamanca mountain range, the small village of Santa Elena is in the heart of coffee country. Here you will be staying with local families, immersing yourself in the Tico culture and practicing your new Spanish language skills. Here you will learn about the impact of deforestation and fragmentation on wildlife by observing an ongoing forest restoration project and a visit to an important bird conservation refuge.

Osa Peninsula: Back down to the coast and out into one of the most remote locations in Costa Rica. So remote that getting to our destination requires hiring 4x4 taxis to navigate the backcountry roads. The first-leg will take the group to a small family-run ecolodge at the edge of Corcovado National Park, where we will be hiking local forests outside and within the park. Our mission is to spot the rare horse relative, the tapir & possibly a wild felid (Puma, Ocelot, or similar). Traveling to the other side of the peninsula will take us to the Piro Biological Station where we will participate in educational modules presented by local research scientists and visiting graduate students. At Piro you will get to experience the benefits and challenges of conducting scientific research in the field. Are you interested in wildlife conservation? At Piro we will be volunteering on turtle patrols to protect these endangered creatures eggs from poachers, spy on monkey troops under observation for research studies, and place and screen camera video traps for signs of the big cats.

San Gerardo de Dota: We will end our program by travelling up into an amazing cloud forest comprised of majestic oaks and prehistoric tree ferns. Situated at 2,700m in a hidden valley below Cierra de la Muerte, the Hotel Savegre will host the final leg of our trip where we will learn the history of the Chacón family, the original settlers in the valley, and hear firsthand from Don Chacón how they transitioned the land from intensive cattle production into a world-class renowned birding destination. To reinforce this lesson, we will scour the forests for the amazing Resplendent Quetzal, and practice wildlife identification skills on the many of hummingbird species that populate this valley. On the final day, we will return to Alajuela via the rich coffee growing Dota Valley where we tour a cooperative coffee production facility, have Costa Rican churasco lunch prepared by the incomparable Doña Alba, before celebrating the conclusion of our adventure with our final dinner.


Sustainable Human Practices Component:

The sustainable human practices component of this project focuses on ecotourism and small scale agriculture. Students will be exposed (via readings and discussion) to an analytical language which allows analysis of the national parks they visit. Students will take field trips within the local area and will observe, describe, and reflect upon the interplay tourism systems (involving private sector, government sector, and NGO actors). In the course of fieldwork, students will have the opportunity to interact directly with diverse local constituencies including scientists, policymakers, the general public. Ideally, this experience will help students and local people to collaborate in the co-management and governance of natural resources.


Spanish Language Component:

Students will build language skills during daily, 30-minute language sessions with one of our trip coordinators who runs a Spanish immersion school. During our orientation in Seattle, we will meet with this instructor and develop a plan for each of you to start learning Spanish prior to our trip, but during the trip you will gain basic skills or add to those you already possess.

Service Learning Component:

Students will work with local conservation groups to install interpretive signage in one of Costa Rica’s newest national parks: La Congreja.


Costa Rica (Alajuela, Mastatal, Dominical, San Isidro, Osa Peninisula, Savegre)



Generally standard hotel accommodations (dbl, trple), some dorm style accommodations. Chosen by availability and cost.



Pre-Requisites/Language Requirements

Biology, Forestry, Fisheries, and Environmental majors with a desire for hands on learning in the field. Students in anthropology, geography, business, art, and language study are also encouraged to broaden our perspective and apply their insights to the cultural and natural history of Costa Rica.

Good sense of humor and the innate ability to adapt to sometimes challenging and unexpected situations. Spanish language is not required, and students will receive daily Spanish lessons.

Students participating in our trip should expect to participate in regular hiking excursions – although all hikes will be day hikes and do not involve overnight or camping in tents. During 3 or 4 days of the trip some of the hiking will be on primitive trails and of lengths that vary from 5-15km and involve walking along beaches and elevation gains of up to 1,000m.


5 Credits


ESRM 489 (5 credits)

Through exploration, observation, and living with local Costa Ricans you will learn about the natural and cultural history of Costa Rica. Your instructors have expertise in the local setting, the flora and fauna, the language, and the human processes that have and continue to shape Costa Rica. You will learn to sketch, identify and study native birds, mammals, and plants. You will learn how to scientifically gauge occupational diversification with specific focus on the commerce and culture of recreation and tourism on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. You will build your ability to speak and understand Spanish. Your experiences will lead you to understand how human activities interact with the natural environment and how both can be sustained.

Learning Goals: 

Our goals are to build
1) critical thought about the pros and cons of ecotourism,
2) writing competency through journaling and writing about natural experiences,
3) natural history by teaching students how to identify native flora and fauna, and
4) improved language capacity by instruction by a native speaker in conversational Spanish.

These goals will be met by our objective of full emersion of students in how scientists assess the cultural and biological diversity of tropical forests. We will assess students by

1) daily discussions about the day’s activities, speakers, readings, and observations,
2) onsite activities that include observing and mapping a waterbird colony, following a monkey social group, and quantifying the effectiveness of nation parks at meeting touristic and conservation goals,
3) the completion of a written assignments summarizing course readings, and 4) the completion of a journal of personal reflections and experiences on the trip.

group one


Program Directors & Staff

John Marzluff, Department of Environmental and Forest Sciences, Program Director

Marzluff has been a professor at the UW for 20 years and specializes in the behavior, ecology and conservation of birds. He has led 7 prior exploration seminars to Costa Rica.

Robert Tournay, Department of Environmental and Forest Sciences, Program Co-Director

I am a Ph.D. student in the School of Environmental Sciences (SEFS) where I study the role of the plant microbiome in host-plant tolerance to environmental stresses. I first traveled to Costa Rica as an undergraduate student at UW Tacoma, and for the past five years I have had the opportunity to guide various university study abroad programs in Costa Rica. The programs range in length from ten days to one month, and cover topics on the natural and cultural history of Costa Rica, tropical ecology and conservation, service learning, and the intersection between conservation, tourism, and local communities. I have a strong personal interest in how land management policies, e.g. payments for ecosystem services programs, affect conservation efforts; both in the protected areas and the adjacent communities. I am also interested in ways to integrate traditional agricultural knowledge with ecological theory at both local and regional scales for sustainable food production.



Program Expenses

Cost: $5,400

Estimated Program Fee of $5,400, the UW Study Abroad Fee ($350), airfare, food (about $10/day), UW Study Abroad Insurance ($62/month), other health expenses/immunizations and personal spending money. *All meals provided with the exception of two lunches and travel meals during arrival and departure to Costa Rica; i.e. the airports.

Average Airplane Ticket Price

$750* roundtrip

*Subject to when & where you buy your ticket

Payment Schedule

Program fees will be posted to your MyUW student account and can be paid the same way that you pay tuition and other fees. Check your MyUW Account periodically for due dates.

Payment Type Payment Amount Payment Due Date
Non-Refundable Study Abroad Fee $350 October 13, 2017
Program Fee Balance $5,410 October 13, 2017


There are a variety of scholarships available to help fund your study abroad experience. Visit the Global Opportunities page for more information and application deadlines.


To be eligible to study abroad, all program participants must attend an in-person pre-departure orientation facilitated by the Study Abroad office as well as your program-specific orientations, offered by your program director.

You must register for orientation through your online study abroad account in order to attend scheduled orientations. You can visit the Orientation section of our website to view the current orientation schedule.

Orientation must be completed prior to the enrollment deadline for the quarter that you are studying abroad.



Financial Aid and Scholarships

Most forms of financial aid can be applied to study abroad. You can verify that your financial aid award will apply to your program costs by contacting the Financial Aid Office. Financial aid or scholarships awarded as tuition waivers or tuition exemptions might not apply so you will need to verify that these funds are eligible for use with study abroad by contacting the funding office.

Financial aid and most scholarships are disbursed according to the UW academic calendar (at the beginning of the quarter). If your program starts before the start of the UW quarter, your financial aid will not be available to you prior to your departure. If your program starts after the first day of the quarter, your financial aid will be disbursed at the start of the program. In either of these cases, you will have to finance any upfront costs such as airfare, health insurance and the start of your time abroad on your own. Please take this into consideration when you are making plans.

Revision Request

In some instances you may qualify for an increase in your financial aid award (typically in loan funds). Check with the Financial Aid Office about your options. To request a revision in your aid, you will need to submit the following paperwork to the Financial Aid Office:

  1. Revision Request Form
  2. Budget of student expenses for your program: The UW Study Abroad Office will upload this budget to your study abroad account after a signed contract has been submitted to the UW Study Abroad Office. You can request an unofficial copy of this budget by emailing

Visit the Finances section of our website to learn more about disbursement, revising your aid package, short-term loans and scholarships.

Application Process

The application includes a Personal Statement, three short answer questions, two recommendations from a professor or TA, and electronic signature documents related to UW policies and expectations for study abroad. Following the on-line application process students may be contacted by the Program Director for an in-person interview. Once an admission decision has been made regarding your application, you will be notified by the study abroad system via email.


UW Study Abroad is not responsible for obtaining visas for study abroad program participants. The cost and requirements for obtaining visas vary. It is your responsibility to determine visa requirements for all countries you plan to visit while abroad including countries that you plan to visit before or after your study abroad program. You can do so by calling the consular offices of those countries or checking the following website:

Note: If you are not a U.S. citizen, consult the embassy or consulate of the countries you will visit to learn their document requirements. You can check the following website to find contact information for the consulate of the country you will be visiting:

For non-U.S. citizens, the procedures that you will need to follow may be different than those for U.S. citizens. It is important to initiate this process as soon as possible in order to assemble documents and allow time for lengthy procedures.

Disability Accommodations

The University of Washington is committed to providing access and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, and education for individuals with disabilities. To request disability accommodation for this program, contact Disability Resources for Students at least 8 weeks in advance of your departure date. Contact info at


$350 of the total program fee and the $350 UW Study Abroad Fee are non-refundable and non-revocable once a contract has been submitted, even if you withdraw from the program. Students withdrawing from a program are responsible for paying a percentage of the program fee depending on the date of withdrawal. More details about the withdrawal policy are included in your payment contract. No part of the program fee is refundable once the program has begun. The date of withdrawal is considered the date (business day) a withdrawal form is received by the UW Study Abroad Office. Notice of withdrawal from the program must be made in writing by completing the following steps:

1. Provide notice in writing to the Program Director that you will no longer be participating in the program for which you have signed a contract and accepted a slot.

2. Submit a signed withdrawal form to the UW Study Abroad Office, 459 Schmitz Hall.

Visit the Withdrawals section of our website for more information.