Undergraduate Opportunities - Organization for Tropical Studies

REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) for U.S. Underrepresented
Minority Students Summer Programs in Costa Rica

(African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Alaskan Natives, Pacific Islanders)

  • REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in Costa Rica
  • REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in Costa Rica
  • REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in Costa Rica
  • REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in Costa Rica
  • REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in Costa Rica
  • REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in Costa Rica
  • REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in Costa Rica

Program Details

When: Jun 7-Aug 9, 2017

Duration: 9 weeks

Language: English

Deadline:January 31


REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) for U.S. Underrepresented Minority Students Summer Program in Costa Rica
(African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Alaskan Natives, Pacific Islanders)

Las Cruces and La Selva provide LSAMP undergraduate students with research mentoring, cultural experiences, and training in research methodology. The students are coupled with on-campus mentors from their home LSAMP schools to ensure the integration of the summer research experience into the students’ academic careers. LSAMP students can choose between either Las Cruces or La Selva Research Stations for their nine-week research experience. Each station will follow similar pedagogy, program structure, schedules, and mentor training, though each will emphasize those elements unique to their locations. Features of this program include 1) research skills in the field, 2) enhancing communication skills through training in scientific writing and videography, and 3) integration of cultural experiences with research development. Students interact with indigenous and rural communities in Costa Rica to discuss the important environmental and social issues affecting their lives and communities. Because the Las Cruces Research Station is embedded in an area rich with indigenous populations (Brunca and Ngöbe), the Las Cruces Node will focus on interactions with these communities and special field trips on ethnobiology. Conversely, La Selva Research Station has long history of research on environmental topics, such as biodiversity conservation and agroecology. The La Selva Node will offer more opportunities to interact with local farmers and environmental NGOs.


Students from diverse ethnic and academic backgrounds will complete an independent research project in the field, from the project planning stage through to symposium presentation and potential publication. Undergraduates will be selected through a competitive application process for a nine-week research program at La Selva Research Station or Las Cruces Research Station in Costa Rica. Students will live immersed in a rich academic community of researchers conducting novel tropical research and will attend workshops on field skills, current research in tropical biology, international research ethics, statistics, and scientific written and oral communication. Participants will also be exposed environmental, social, and cultural issues surrounding the Stations.


March  Mentors and students matched, begin communicating about projects
March-May Students and mentors plan projects, develop brief written proposal and 12-minute proposal presentation, arrange equipment/supplies and IACUC/station/MINAET permits

Arrival and orientation (1 week)

June 7 Students arrive in San José for dinner, icebreakers, night at hotel in San José
June 8 Orientation at CRO at 8 AM, bus to the research station, evening lecture at 7:15 PM
June 9-11 Orientation days (field activities, lectures, and workshops TBA)
June 12 Student-mentor mixer at 5 PM, mentors’ meeting after dinner
June 13 REU proposal symposium at 8 AM, student proposals due at 5 PM

Data collection and fieldwork (6 weeks)

June 14 Fieldwork begins; Tuesday evening tropical biology seminars and student meetings, Friday evening mentor meetings, and ethics discussions and other workshops
June 30 Introduction and methods draft due (incorporating mentor and coordinator feedback)
June/July Field trips and weekend trip (dates TBA)

Data analysis and final papers/presentations (2 weeks)

July 26 Students finish data collection and focus on data analysis and writing
July 31 Full paper draft (including abstract) due to mentor/coordinator by 5 PM
August 1 Field trip TBA
August 2 Mentor/coordinator comments returned to student
August 6 Small-group practice presentation session 7:15 PM
August 6 Final student symposium, final papers due at 5 PM
August 8 Pack equipment boxes and rooms, return to San José at 3 PM
August 9 Official end of program: students depart from Hotel Cacts to the US or personal travel

*Exact dates, except arrival and departure, subject to change.




La Selva Node Coordinator

Carissa Ganong, Ph.D. 

Ph.D. University of Georgia

GanongDr. Ganong is an aquatic ecologist/invertebrate zoologist/tropical biologist with a strong interest in anthropogenic impacts on aquatic systems.  She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia with dissertation work examining the effects of precipitation regime on stream pH and stream macroinvertebrates at La Selva Research Station.  She taught at Northern Michigan University as a visiting professor and is currently an assistant professor of biology at Missouri Western State University.  She has coordinated the summer NSF-OTS La Selva REU program since 2014.


Las Cruces Node Coordinator

Scott Walter, Ph.D.

Ph.D., University of Louisiana

ScottWalterDr. Walter is extremely pleased to continue coordinating the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program with OTS for a second time.  Having traveled far and wide around the world, he is most strongly drawn to the wondrous biodiversity found within the Neotropical ecosystems of Latin America.  Within the U.S., he has studied cavity-nesting birds in the Pacific Northwest (M.S. research), forest ecology in the Appalachian Mountains (U.S. Forest Service research), and seabirds along the northern Gulf coast (Ph.D. and post-doctoral research).  He has also studied rainforest frogs in Australia, worked with natural resource management in Guatemala, studied tropical biology in Costa Rica through OTS, managed a biodiversity research team in Ecuador, and taught a tropical avian ecology course in Panama.  He has taught undergraduate courses in environmental studies, wildlife ecology, and field studies for 14 semesters, and currently teaches at Texas State University.  In general, he is interested in learning about virtually all aspects of life, but he is particularly fond of spending time in nature, playing traditional music, and woodworking with hand tools.  He has lived, studied, and worked in Latin America for 5 years, and is very excited to return for the 2017 field program! Pura vida!

Financial Aid

The OTS REU NSF awards cover the cost of room and board as well as international travel to and from Costa Rica. Participants will also receive a stipend for their 9 weeks of work on their research.

Application Process

The REU application deadline is: January 31st, 2017.

There are five items required to complete an REU application:

  1. REU Student Application Form
  2. A Letter of Recommendation from an On-Campus Mentor
  3. A Letter of Recommendation from a Faculty Member
  4. Official Transcript(s)
  5. Letter certifying your membership to a LSAMP program at your home institution

1. REU Student Application Form (Word document 135 kb) (includes Statement of Purpose)

Click on the application link above and open the MS Word application file. Upon opening the document, please click in the blank areas of each field and insert the appropriate application information. For REU project preferences, please select mentors/projects from the list available under "Downloads" on the right sidebar of this website. OTS has two REU program research sites: La Selva and Las Cruces. Please make sure you select your preference (OTS will take this information into consideration when defining the REU groups).

After you complete the first two pages of the general application, you will need to write the ‘Statement of Purpose’, which is on the third page.

Please save your application using the following format:


For example, if your name is Jane Elizabeth Smith, you should label your application:


After the application has been completed and saved, please send it as an attachment to:

2. Two Letters of Recommendation

Science Faculty Member ( Word document 97 kb)  – Two letters of recommendation are required from two science faculty members who knows you well, are from your major department, and with whom you have taken at least one class within the past two years. You must download this form and send it to each professor who is writing your recommendation. Instructions of how he/she is to submit the form are included within the document.

3. Official Transcript(s)

Official transcripts from all universities attended must be sent to OTS for review. Please send them via US Regular Postal Mail to:

OTS REU – Undergraduate Program

Organization for Tropical Studies


7801 NW 37th Street

Doral, FL 33195-6503

These forms will be automatically forwarded to the OTS Costa Rican Office (CRO) in San Jose, Costa Rica and should arrive within 5-7 days.

*** Should you have any questions about the program or how to apply, please contact Kattia Mendez, Undergraduate Program Assistant at the OTS Costa Rican Office, at: .

Accommodations & Meals

June through August is the busiest period of the year at our research stations, and they are likely to be near capacity during much of the time you are there. La Selva and Las Cruces have many researchers and graduate and undergraduate students coming from all over the world who stay for all or part of the summer to work or study. This means you will have the opportunity to get to know the many researchers and learn about their work; it also means that living conditions will be somewhat crowded. It is very likely that you will be sharing a room with one or more other students in the REU program. You will be part of a diverse group of students and researchers, representing many different opinions and lifestyles. For this reason, it is important to be tolerant, respectful, honest, cooperative, and, above all, have a good sense of humor!

Passport & 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


U.S. citizens entering Costa Rica are automatically granted a 90-day tourist Visa. Students will receive a second 90-day tourist visa when the course enters Costa Rica again following a visit to Panama, and that second visa will last until the end of the program. Remember that according to current immigration laws in Costa Rica, you MUST leave the country for at least 72 hours when your visa expires. 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


The REU program is open to undergraduates who are (1) U.S. citizens or permanent residents (2) members of underrepresented minority groups (African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders) and (3) enrolled in an LSAMP program. Graduating seniors (May or August 2016) are not eligible. To determine if your institution is an LSAMP member, check this website:  


Health and Safety

OTS is deeply committed to student safety and well-being and does not expose students to unnecessary danger or risk. OTS monitors national and international events that might affect our students. Nearly 5 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.