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Ecology and Evolution of Coleoptera (Beetles)

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  • cology and Evolution of Coleoptera (Beetles)
  • cology and Evolution of Coleoptera (Beetles)

Program Details

When: Jun 5-Jun 24, 2017

Cost: $2,100 general tuition; $1,400 OTS member tuition

Duration:3 weeks

Accreditation: 2 credits

Deadline:Mar 1, 2017 after this date enrollment on a rolling basis

Language: English

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Ecology and Evolution of Coleoptera (Beetles)

The Ecology and Evolution of Coleoptera course is oriented towards graduate students interested in intense training in the collection, identification and inquiry-based research on the largest order of insects, Coleoptera. Single site diversity in tropical rain forests, such as those in Costa Rica, has been estimated to be as high as 14,000 species. The study of beetles (including some of the largest and most beautiful of all insects) is not only fascinating, but economically important because the order includes numerous harmful as well as beneficial species that affect agriculture, forestry and man.

Emphasis of the field component of the course will be Neotropical species diversity, as revealed by a wide array of sampling and collecting methods. Students will gain experience in light trapping, flight intercept trapping, litter extraction, and other collection techniques. They will come away with a better understanding of morphological characters necessary for identification and phylogenetic reconstruction, and new ideas for designing their own studies and research on coleopteran diversity. This fieldwork, lab identification, and hands-on research experience will be complemented by a lecture series that will cover systematics of Coleoptera on a global scale with emphasis on Neotropical groups. The organization of the lecture series will emphasize distribution of taxa among habitats in order to more directly link lecture content with the field component. The course will take place in the exceptionally diverse wet forest habitats at the La Selva Biological Station.

Course participants are eligible for pilot and research awards provided by the OTS Fellowship program. Students most complete the course successfully to be eligible. For more information click here


Victoria Bayless, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
Chris Carlton, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
Richard A. B. Leschen, Landcare Research, Auckland, New Zealand
Nathan Lord, Georgia College, Milledgeville, GA, USA


Program Description

The course will consist of both lecture and field components and group or individual research projects by the participants. Emphasis of the field component of the course will be Neotropical species diversity, as revealed by a wide array of collecting techniques. Students will gain experience in light trapping, flight intercept trapping, litter extraction and other collection techniques. The fieldwork, lab identification and hands-on research experience will be complemented by a lecture series that will cover systematics of Coleoptera globally. Most of the lecture section will occur during the first half of the course, with transition to completion of field projects and presentations during the latter half. The course will enhance participants’ abilities to work on entomological ecology and systematics.

A selection of literature in pdf and cd-rom format will be provided by the instructing faculty. A limited number of copies of the first two beetle volumes of the recently published Handbook for Zoology will also be available.


Ecology and evolution of Coleoptera is designed to make the most out of the students’ time. A students’ day during the Filed Ecology course will usually begin at 06:00 hrs. with breakfast at 06:00 or 06:30 and a start to the field by 07:00 hrs. Lunch will be at 12:00 hrs. (Lunch may be out in the field depending on the circumstances) and dinner at 18:00 hrs.

We will have a review of the next day's work after dinner, usually followed by a lecture and occasional general group discussions or data analysis. The pace can be overwhelming at first, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you get used to it, and by how much you see and learn.

Sites Visited

La Selva Biological Station. Situated in wet lowland rainforest on the Atlantic slope, La Selva is not only OTS' largest and longest-running station, but also one of the world's premiere centers of tropical forest research. Over 1500 hectares of old- and second-growth rainforest is readily accessible via an extensive trail system. Besides its impressive forest and excellent laboratory and classroom facilities, one of La Selva's great assets is the opportunity to interact with researchers from around the world. In addition to this, the station connects to Braulio Carrillo National Park via a forested altitudinal transect ranging from 30 m to 2500 m above sea level.


Ecology and Evolution of Coleoptera is characterized by having four full-time faculty and a teaching assistant from renowned universities worldwide. This edition of the course will be led by Chris Carlton.

Chris Carlton. I am a native of Arkansas. I was born and lived for eight years in Lake Village, in a cotton and soybean growing region in the lower Mississippi River Valley. The rest of my formative years were spent in the south Arkansas piney woods around El Dorado. I moved north and went to school at a little liberal arts college called Hendrix in central Arkansas. I got two graduate degrees at the University of Arkansas, where I also learned to be cynical. I then moved south of the border to Louisiana, where I now reside and have a job as a Professor of Entomology at Louisiana State University. I have become less cynical in my advancing years, but not much. I started collecting beetles when I was six, gave it up in favor of snakes and fossils, then returned to beetles after realizing there was no future in snakes and fossils and never looked back. I specialize in the staphylinid beetle subfamily Pselaphinae. I consider my most important role as a taxonomic specialist to be training graduate students to do a better job than I have of describing the vast number of undescribed pselaphines globally. I am also interested in broader questions of beetle evolution and ecology, with a particular focus on those found in decomposing substrate habitats such as forest litter and dead wood.

Victoria Moseley Bayless. I am a native of north Louisiana, raised in a rural area near the city of Shreveport, and went to school there at LSUS. I received my masters in Entomology from Washington State University. Born to a family of nature lovers, my first passion was for plants, but I quickly saw that insects were far more fascinating! My drift from all insects to beetles has been natural, with hymenoptera being one of my favorite non beetle groups. I began working at the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum (LSAM) as an assistant curator in 1990. Currently as curator of all insect orders I get to work with wasps when I want, but Coleoptera is the focus and beetles are the best! Over the years I have been drawn to different families and I have my favorites. I think being a curator is the best job ever because I have the museum work with all those beetles at my finger tips and also the opportunities for collecting in fabulous places (like Costa Rica). Lucky me!

Richard A. B. Leschen. I was born in Newport, Arkansas, raised in St. Louis, went to University in the Midwest, and graduated from University of Kansas, supervised by the late Steve Ashe (Staphylinidae). I now reside in New Zealand and work as a coleopterist at Landcare Research in the New Zealand Arthropod Collection. I have always been a naturalist and decided to specialize in beetle systematics when I began research at University of Arkansas as a Masters student supervised by Tommy Allen (Carabidae). My current research covers most groups of beetles, but mainly microcoleoptera, and while I work on various biological questions in collaboration with students and researchers globally, I am mainly a morphologist, and enjoy field and museum work about equally as I do basic taxonomy, phylogenetics, and evolutionary biology

Nathan Lord. I am a native of Michigan, but was mostly raised in Georgia. My entomological interests began when I was a child, but became "serious" during my BSES and MS degrees at the University of Georgia. I then moved west to the University of New Mexico for my PhD. I recently finished a 3-year postdoctoral fellowship at Brigham Young University in Utah. I am now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. I am an insect systematist specializing in Coleoptera. While much of my training and research reside in morphology and descriptive taxonomy within the superfamilies Buprestoidea, Cucujoidea, Coccinelloidea, and Tenebrionoidea, I am fundamentally interested in what drives diversity, from the molecular level to interactions among individuals across populations. My current research lies at the interface of systematics, evolutionary biology, and visual ecology, and employs elements of genomics, phylogenetics, bioinformatics, physiology, and biochemistry. In particular, I am interested in the systematics and evolution of color visual systems within the charismatic and economically important family Buprestidae—the Jewel Beetles. My research aims to understand a major biological process—vision—by investigating the relationships between body color, visual pigment protein structure and variability, and lineage diversity within this spectacular group.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Ecology and Evolution of Coleoptera course costs $2,100 per student. Students from OTS-member institutions are charged $1,400 (less a $700 OTS scholarship).

Cost includes: all lodging and meals, transportation during the course, and all course materials. Personal expenses such as laundry, mail, entertainment, international travel, airport tax ($29), insurance, medical expenses, etc. are not covered. Also, students planning additional time in Costa Rica before or after the course should allow $50-60 per day.

Course fees are due in full one month prior to start of course; the first $250 constitutes a nonrefundable deposit.

Additional scholarships may be available for students with demonstrated financial need. If you are interested in being considered for a partial scholarship, please make sure to include a request for a partial scholarship along with the rest of the required documents. The letter should outline your financial situation, previous scholarships/grants (if any), and the amount you are seeking from outside sources to cover the costs of the course. The letter will help us asses your situation individually and determine your eligibility for a partial scholarship if you are selected for the course.

Please note that the scholarships are awarded and applied only to the tuition/course cost. They cannot be applied in any other way, for example travel expenses. Although we may be able to award a partial scholarship, we recommend that you seek funds for the course outside through you own means, such as applying for grants from your department or organizing small fund raisers.

Application Process

Course enrollment is limited to 22 students. Selection of participants is highly competitive. Qualified students from OTS member schools will have first priority, and any number of applications will be considered from each OTS institution. Applications from non-OTS institutions are welcome. The course is taught in English; however, Spanish is useful, and participants are urged to develop basic Spanish skills.

Please keep in mind that the transcripts from the course may take up to two months to process before they are sent out to your institution. Accepted students are encouraged to consult with their advisor and department what is need to transfer the credits once the course is over.

How to apply?

The application process is simple.

Click on the Apply Now button on the program page and follow the online instructions to fill out the application on-line.

At the end of the application you will be required to upload the following documents in pdf format.

  • Curriculum Vitae (4 page max.)
  • Transcripts (official)
  • Letter of Interest
  • Letter requesting financial aid (if applicable)

You will be required to request the following:

  • Two letters of reference.
  • A graduate advisory supplement which needs to be filled out and sent to us by your graduate advisor. This form can be downloaded from the online application page.
  • OTS Delegate Endorsement (only applies to OTS member institution students). This form is downloaded from the online application page.

Please request that these documents be sent directly to graduate@tropicalstudies.org. We will not accept any reference letter, supplement or endorsement that is not sent directly from the referral person.

Prospective applicants from member institutions must consult with one of the two representatives of the OTS Assembly of Delegates at their institution.

Advice and endorsement by the local representative are a necessary part of the application process. There are two Delegates at each OTS member institution and their names can be found on the Assembly of Delegates page or by contacting OTS Costa Rica Education Program at graduate@tropiocalstudies.org. 
See list of member institutions.

Accommodations and Meals

It is important to recognize that the OTS program differs from your typical on-campus life.

You will be a guest in Costa Rica, and consequently you will need to be sensitive to and respectful of Costa Rican customs and culture. In general, Costa Ricans (“Ticos” and “Ticas”) are warm, friendly, and courteous. We encourage you to interact with many Ticos, and we hope you will develop some good friendships.

It is important to remember that certain behaviors that are acceptable among fellow classmates at an OTS site may not be acceptable when dealing with non-course participants. For example, Costa Ricans tend to be conservative in their attitudes toward nudity and sex. Thus, stages of undress that are acceptable and inevitable in field station dormitories are offensive in public. Also, nudity on beaches, no matter how apparently deserted, is inappropriate.

Costa Ricans tend to be much more tolerant of noise (say, the loud music coming from the neighbor’s house or the children shouting and running in the living room) than many of us are in the U.S. While we ask that you be respectful of Costa Rican ways and customs, we also understand that cultural norms can often be subtle, complex, and even counter-intuitive. If you would like some advance preparation regarding Ticos and their way of life, we suggest you read Biesanz, et al. The Ticos Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica (1999, ISBN 978-1555877378) before coming to Costa Rica. Other sources you should consider are Palmer and Molina´s (2004) The Costa Rica Reader History, Culture, Politics (ISBN 0-8223-3372-4), Baker´s (2015) Moon Costa Rica and Coates' (1997) Central America A Natural and Cultural History (ISBN 0-300-08065-4). Also, please feel free to ask OTS staff about any questions you have regarding cultural differences and norms at any time.

Though you may have one or two roommates on campus, in Costa Rica you will be living closely with 15-25 other students and two to five professors or field assistants. This means communication and respect will be crucial. All of us need to be as open, honest, and cooperative as possible. We also need to have sincere respect for one another, regardless of different opinions and lifestyles. This includes respect for privacy, respect for rules and regulations, and even respect for the fact that unpredictability is an inherent feature of field-based programs such as ours. Indeed, next to communication and cooperation, flexibility and a good sense of humor are the most important characteristics of a successful student in our program. By living and working with the same people for several weeks, you will undoubtedly develop a number of very close friendships. The combination of uncomfortable (being wet, muddy, and tired), wacky (a bunch of Gringos on the dance floor), wonderful situations (watching iguanas sunning on the bridge at La Selva), and truly amazing (interacting with people from all sorts of social back-grounds in very different settings) creates great images and memories. You will, for sure, share these with your fellow participants well beyond the end of the course.

As OTS students, you must not only be proactive in asking the questions (and finding the answers) that are important to you, you must also be ready to share your own knowledge and experience with the rest of the group.

Passport and Visa Information

You must have a valid Passport to travel to Costa Rica. It is important that the passport does not expire within 6 months of entering Costa Rica. If you are NOT a citizen of a North American or European country, you will probably need a special visa to get into Costa Rica. We recommend that you contact your respective consulate or embassy services to determine if you need a visa to travel to Costa Rica. It is important to take into account the requirements to get a visa approved before you apply for one of our courses. If you are accepted into one of our courses we will provide any information necessary (within reason) to help with the visa application. Please keep in mind that visa application processes can take several months depending on the country of issue. For more information on this topic please visit http://www.migracion.go.cr/extranjeros/visas.html

U.S. citizens entering Costa Rica are automatically granted a 90-day tourist Visa. Students planning to stay in Costa Rica after the program end date need to take this into account.

Please consult OTS if you have any questions about this.

Health and Safety

OTS is deeply committed to student safety and well-being and does not expose students to unnecessary danger or risk. In cooperation with the Duke University Global Education Office for Undergraduates (GEO), OTS monitors national and international events that might affect our students. Five decades of risk assessment, emergency response, and crisis resolution have enabled OTS to maximize student safety and security. All students participate in an on-site orientation program upon arrival in Costa Rica. For our most current safety information, contact the OTS Enrollment Management staff at graduate@tropicalstudies.org