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Monday, July 8, 2013

Tropical Biology: The Natural History of Costa Rica


Prescott College offers a range of truly awesome summer classes, such as Aboriginal Living Skills; Maasailand: A Study in Community Activism, which takes place in Kenya; River Guides Training, which takes place in Utah; Predators & Prey, an ecology class which takes place in the Colorado Rockies; and Tropical Biology, which takes place in Costa Rica. This summer, I was lucky enough to take the Tropical Biology course and spend three weeks studying intensely in Costa Rica.

We travelled to eight different locations, ranging from the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, to Volcan Arenal (an active volcano), to Finca Luna Nueva (a biodynamic farm), to La Selva in the lowlands. We saw tons of breathtaking wildlife, including hundreds of species of plants, too many birds to count, snakes, frogs, and mammals such as sloths, three species of monkeys, and the rare margay.
 
Baby spider monkey at Arenal Volcano National Park
 
The class was academically rigorous as well, and each student walked away with a field journal full of species accounts and notes from our trips. We hiked in the morning and had class in the evening, taking the occasional night hike as well. We learned so much about biology, ecology, Costa Rican history, and political and environmental issues regarding agriculture and deforestation.

Our classroom in Monteverde

I could have simply learned about tropical biology in a classroom, but it wouldn’t even have come close to the experience I had on this trip. I wouldn’t have been able to be a mere three meters away from a margay, or feel the thick, plasticy leaves of a Faramea, or witness a pair of resplendent quetzals interact with each other. I will never forget those experiences. And that’s thanks to Prescott College’s philosophy of experiential education.
 
Male three-toed sloth at Finca Luna Nueva biodynamic farm
 
Ruby Teegarden
7.8.2013

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