Environmental policy in collaboration with the University of FloridaEnvironmental policy in collaboration with the University of Florida

Tropical Conservation & Sustainable Development: Law, Policy & Professional Practice

  • Tropical Conservation & Sustainable Development

Program Details

Where:OTS Stations (La Selva, Las Alturas, Las Cruces), and other sites

When: May 20 - Jun 19, 2018

Duration: 4 weeks

Accreditation:5 credits (University of Florida)

Language: English

Deadline: March 1, 2018

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Tropical Conservation & Sustainable Development: Law, Policy & Professional Practice

The University of Florida Law Costa Rica Program partners with the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) and the University of Florida Center for Latin American Studies Tropical Conservation and Development Program, building interdisciplinary bridges between law, policy and the social and natural science of conservation and sustainable development. Using OTS field stations as our policy laboratory, we will explore the issues of sustainable development through the lens of the ecosystems and communities that surround the stations at La Selva, Palo Verde and Las Cruces.

A skills emphasis: Practicums lie at the heart of the Program. Law and graduate students from the U.S., Costa Rica and elsewhere develop their knowledge and skills through an integrated, suite of courses that coalesce around efforts to find practical, policy-relevant solutions to issues of immediate importance to the conservation and sustainable development community.

A field-based approach: For policymakers and those advising them, conservation and sustainable development issues are best understood where they occur. Each week the Program will embark on extended visits to OTS field stations and their neotropical context – rivers, wetlands, forests (wet, dry and cloud), beaches and mountains. We will also visit indigenous communities, meet with farmers and land owners, and encounter unique sustainable development projects – all grist for collaborative problem-solving approaches.

Testimonials: Click here to learn more about what the Program’s 2014 students thought.

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 course will consist of three courses and related field trips integrated as a single program of 5 academic credits awarded by the University of Florida:

  • A survey course on international and comparative sustainable development law, with an emphasis on Latin America and the Caribbean (2 credits).
  • An interdisciplinary course addressing the comparative law, policy and science of watersheds, wetlands and wildlife, with an emphasis in Costa Rica (2 credits).
  • A professional skills course that integrates the content from the 2 substantive courses through consultancy-based practicums that address issues of the immediate importance to the sustainable development community in Costa Rica (1 credit).

During the first 3 weeks, the Program will deliver lectures and skills exercises from M-W at OTS San Jose headquarters, as well as provide guest lectures and visit appropriate institutions. Thurs-Sat the program will visit OTS field stations and other field sites relevant to the topical theme (s) of the Program and deliver field lectures and skills exercises. During the final week the program will remain in San Jose at OTS headquarters and the Program be devoted to course integration through practicums that have been collaboratively developed over the course of the program.


  • Integrating law, development policy and conservation science
  • Cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary communication
  • Practitioner Training

All participants should be fluent in English. A working knowledge of Spanish would be useful but is not required. This course is relevant for law and graduate students interested in tropical conservation and sustainable development.




Course Instructors


Legal Skills Professor and Director, Conservation Clinic, University of Florida Levin College of Law.


Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida.


Centro de Derecho Ambiental y de los Recursos Naturales (CEDARENA), Costa Rica, Adjunct faculty, University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Fees and Expenses

The Tropical Conservation & Sustainable Development: Law, Policy, and Professional Practice course is a partner program with the University of Florida, Levine College of Law. Information regarding fees and expenses can be found in the UF Study Abroad page. To visit the Fees and Expenses information page click here.

Application Process

The application process for the Tropical Conservation & Sustainable Development: Law, Policy, and Professional Practice course is done through the University of Florida Study Abroad office.

To read more about the application process and apply to the course please click here.

Accomodations 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.

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.