Tropical Fungi and Fungi-like Organisms
The Tropical fungi and fungal-like organisms is an intensive course that will focus on the ecology, diversity and basic classification of tropical macro- and micro-fungi, and fungal-like organisms, including slime molds "myxomycetes." You will learn how fungi are associated with other living and dead organisms (symbionts and saprotrophs), other microorganisms (hyperparasites), insects (entomopathogens), plants (pathogens, endophytes, mycorrhizae), and animals (symbionts). The course will cover collecting fungi from high elevation to mid-elevation forested areas, as well as short field and laboratory research projects. In addition, we will discuss how fungi affect conservation, our lives and society.
The first half of the trip will be at a high elevation forest (Cuericí, Cerro de la Muerte) dominated by oak trees and the second half will take place in mixed forests at mid- to low-elevation forests (Las Cruces Biological Stations and Las Tablas, Amistad-Pacífico Conservation Area). This contrast will give you the opportunity to study ecological and taxonomical differences among the fungi and locations.
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
The Tropical fungi and fungal-like organisms is an intensive course that will focus on the ecology, diversity and basic classification of tropical macro- and micro-fungi, and fungal-like organisms, including slime molds "myxomycetous." You will learn how fungi are associated with other living and dead organisms (symbionts and saprotrophs), other microorganisms (hyperparasites), insects (entomopathogens), plants (pathogens, endophytes, mycorrhizae), and animals (symbionts).
Objectives of the Course
- Provide training on the systematics and taxonomy of tropical fungi and fungal-like organisms (slime molds, water molds, and others). Students will learn how to recognize the major groups of fungi, as well as identify some common species.
- Provide training on the ecology of tropical fungi, including habitats where they can be found, roles they play in tropical forests, associations they maintain with other living or dead organisms, and diversity assessments in different habitats and disturbance levels.
- Provide training in laboratory identification techniques and collection of fruiting bodies (sexual and asexual), endophytes, soil fungi, dung-fungi, insect-associated fungi, mycorrhizae, plant pathogens, and isolation of spores from fruiting bodies.
Tropical fungi and fungi-like organisms is designed to make the most out of the students’ time. A students’ day during the Tropical Fungi course will usually begin at 06:00 hrs. with breakfast and a start to the field by 07:30 hrs. Lunch will be at 11:30 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 lab work. 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.
|May 20||Students arrive in SJO|
|May 21|| ||San José-Cuericí|
|May 22||Main Topics: Basidiomycota, edible and poisonous mushrooms, mycorrhizal associations. (We will also collect other groups of fungi) ||Cuercí|
|May 23||Main Topics: Ascomycota, saprobes (We will also collect other groups of fungi) ||Cuericí|
|May 24||Main topics: Techniques for finding, collecting and culturing hyperparasites, endophytes, soil fungi, entomopathogens, etc. (We will also collect Ascomycota and Basidiomycota) ||Cuericí|
|May 25||Main topics: Fungi in paramo ||Drive to paramo near Cuericí|
|May 26|| ||Las Cruces|
|May 27||Rest day||Las Cruces|
|May 28||Main topics: Fungi as indicators of forest health, fungi sampling ||Las Cruces|
|May 29||Main topics: Fungi as indicators of forest health, fungi sampling, continued… ||Las Cruces|
|May 30||Main topics: Slime molds and other fungi-like organisms. (We will also collect other fungi) ||Las Cruces|
|May 31||Main Topic: Fungi as indicators of forest health, fungi sampling, continued… ||Las Cruces|
|June 1||Main Topic: More collecting for student projects ||Las Cruces|
|June 2||Finish processing samples, analyzing data for student projects||Las Cruces|
|June 3||Finish processing samples, analyzing data, final project presentations (short and class projects)||Las Cruces|
|June 4||Clean-up and return to SJO |
Farewell dinner in SJO
Tropical Fungi and fungi-like organisms is a mobile course that travels to two field sites throughout Costa Rica. The course visits OTS field station Las Cruces, as well as Cuerici Biological Station.
Las Cruces Biological Station. Situated in premontane rainforest on the Pacific slope, Las Cruces has a world-class plant collection in the Wilson Botanical Garden and an associated 160 hectare tract of old growth mid-elevation forest. Las Cruces is surrounded by agricultural landscapes, ideal for research on fragmentation and restoration ecology.
Cuericí Biological Station. Situated near Cerro de la Muerte, Cuerici Biological Station is a high elevation site containing stunning tropical oak forest and access to the paramó. The forest itself is protected as a private reserve and the station is also a sustainable development project and trout farm.
Tropical fungi and fungi-like organisms is characterized by having two full-time coordinators and a teaching assistant. This edition of the course will be led by Dr. Priscila Chaverri.
Priscila Chaverri is interested in biodiversity, systematics, molecular phylogenetics and evolution of fungi important in agroecosystems and tropical forests. Specific research interests include systematics and biodiversity of ascomycetous fungi, with special emphasis on the order Hypocreales. She also uses systematics as a tool to identify potential agents of biological control. She uses a synergy of traditional taxonomic techniques as well as molecular tools to test various evolutionary hypotheses. Priscila obtained a B.Sc. in Forestry from Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, a Ph.D. in Plant Patholoy from the Pennsylvania State University, and a postdoc at Cornell University. Currently, Priscila is a tenured faculty with a split appointment between the Univeristy of Costa Rica (School of Biology) and the University of Maryland (Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture).
Greg Mueller focuses on the evolution, ecology, and conservation of fungi, especially mushrooms. He has carried out fieldwork throughout the world, with a focus on The Americas, China, and Australasia. Greg served as the International Coordinator of Fungal programs at the Costa Rican National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) from 1999-2005. He is author of six books/book length volumes and over 100 journal articles. He is Chair of International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Species Survival Commission´s "Mushroom, Brackets, and Puffball" Specialist Group and is recent Past President of the Mycological Society of America.
Invited Faculty List
Students will have the opportunity to interact, be taught by and participate in group field projects with faculty from different universities and research interests. A list of potential invited faculty is provided.
- Dr. Julieta Carranza – Biology Department, University of Costa Rica. Taxonomy and ecology of Wood decomposing fungi, especially Polyporales, Ganodermatales and Hymenochaetales (basidiomycetes). Fungi infection of plants and its effects.
- Dr. Carlos Rojas - Engineering Research Institute, Forestry Laboratory. Fungi in the tropical forest dynamic, soil biota and the use of microorganisms in ecosystem restoration. Ecology of myxomycetous and mycorrhizae.
Please make sure to review this page frequently as invited faculty members may be changed or added to the list as the course draws near to the start date.
Tuition and Financial Aid
Tropical Fungi and fungi-like organisms course costs $3,100 per student. Students from OTS-member institutions are charged $2,300 (less an $800 OTS discount).
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.
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.
Course enrollment is limited to 15 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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. See list of member institutions.Apply Now
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). 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, 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.