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)
La Selva Research Station provide undergraduate students with unparalleled access to tropical forest ecosystems, mentoring by experienced tropical ecology researchers, training in field research methodology, and experiences with local culture. Each student will work with an on-station mentor as well as an on-campus mentor from his/her home institution to ensure the integration of the summer research experience into students’ academic careers.
Please carefully read the program descriptions below as well as the "Prerequisites" tab to the left. Find the appropriate list of mentors (under "Downloads" on the right side of this page) to see available mentor names and project topics.
NSF REU (open to students from any non-R1 accredited U.S. institution): this program will take place at La Selva Research Station. Features of this program include 1) research skills in the field, 2) enhancing communication skills through training in scientific writing, oral presentations, science blogging, and videography, and 3) integration of cultural experiences with research development. Field trips will focus on environmental topics such as biodiversity conservation and agroecology and will offer opportunities to interact with local farmers, smaller field stations, and/or environmental NGOs.
NSF LSAMP REU (open to students from LSAMP member institutions; funding pending): students will be living at La Selva Research Station for their nine-week research experience. Features of this program include 1) research skills in the field, 2) enhancing communication skills through training in scientific writing, oral presentations, science blogging, and videography, and 3) integration of cultural experiences with research development. Students will interact with indigenous and rural communities in Costa Rica to discuss the important environmental and social issues affecting their lives and communities. The La Selva program will focus on environmental topics such as biodiversity conservation and agroecology and will offer opportunities to interact with local farmers, smaller field stations, and/or 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 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 Station.
|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 Coordinator
Carissa Ganong, Ph.D.
Ph.D. University of Georgia
Dr. 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.
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.
The REU application process for Summer 2018 will start on mid-November 2017.
There are five items required to complete an REU application:
- REU Student Application Form
- A Letter of Recommendation from an On-Campus Mentor
- A Letter of Recommendation from a Faculty Member
- Official Transcript(s)
- Letter certifying your membership to an LSAMP program at your home institution, if applicable
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.
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:
REUappl(YOUR LASTNAME, YOUR FIRST INITIALS).doc
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. Letter of Recommendation from an On-Campus Mentor (Word document 248 kb) – One letter of recommendation is required from an On-Campus Mentor. You must download this form and send it to the professor who is writing your recommendation. Instructions of how he/she is to submit the form are included within the document.
3. Letter of Recommendation from a Faculty Member (Word document 97 kb) – One letter of recommendation is required from a faculty member who knows you well, is 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 the professor who is writing your recommendation. Instructions of how he/she is to submit the form are included within the document.
4. 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: email@example.com.
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 has many researchers, 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 NSF REU program (La Selva) 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 at a non-R1 accredited U.S. institution. Graduating seniors (May or August 2017) are not eligible.
The NSF LSAMP REU program (La Selva) 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 2017) 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. 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.
- Williamson and Fagan 2017
- Gunther, L. et.al. 2016
- Brusch IV et.al. 2015
- Baldwin and Whitehead 2014
- Paluh, Hantak, and Saporito 2013
- Johnson, Welch and Whitfield 2013
- Folt and Reider 2013
- Seas-Carvajal & Avalos 2013
- Vargas and Cordero 2013
- McGlynn, Alonso-Rodriguez and Weaver 2013
- DiRenzo & Stynoski 2012
- Jimenez & Bolaños 2012
- Palow, Nolting and Kitajima 2012
- Small, Torres, Schweizer, Duff and Pringle 2012
- Yanoviak, Silveri, Hamm and Solis 2012
- Califano & Chaves-Campos 2011
- Golcher & Quesada 2011
- Maccachero 2011
- Soley & Alvarado-Díaz 2011
- Vargas, Sanchez and Avalos. 2011
- Avalos & Fernández Otárola 2010
- Clay, Bauer, Solis and Yanoviak 2010
- Eaton & Giles 2010
- Strauss, von Helversen and Knornschild 2010
- Araya-Ajoy, Chaves-Campos, Kalko and DeWoody 2009
- Knornschild, Harview, Moseley and von Helversen 2009
- Lumpkin & Boyle 2009
- Boyle, Ganong, Clarak and Hast 2008
- Butler, Montagnini and Arroyo 2008
- Schlawin & Zahawi 2008
- Vidal-Riggs & Chaves-Campos 2008
- Gei 2007
- Saporito, Zuercher, Roberts, Gerow and Donnelly 2007
- Timm & Losilla 2007
- Zamora & Montagnini 2007
- Hodson & Gastreich 2006
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- Alice, Montagnini and Montero 2004
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- Hilje 2004
- Mascaro, Schnitzer and Carson 2004