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 and Las Cruces Research Station provide undergraduate students with unparalleled access to tropical forest ecosystems, mentoring by experienced tropical ecology researchers, aand training in field research methodology. 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 LSAMP REU (open to students from LSAMP member institutions; funding pending): students will be living at La Selva Research Station or Las Cruces 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. The 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 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 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 4 LC/6 LS||Students arrive in San José for dinner, icebreakers, night at hotel in San José|
|June 5 LC/7 LS||Orientation at CRO at 8 AM, bus to the research station, evening lecture at 7:15 PM|
|June 6-8 LC/8-10 LS||Orientation days (field activities, lectures, and workshops TBA)|
|June 9 LC/11 LS||Student-mentor mixer at 5 PM, mentors’ meeting after dinner|
|June 10 LC/12 LS||REU proposal symposium at 8 AM, student proposals due at 5 PM|
Data collection and fieldwork (6 weeks)
|June 11 LC/13 LS||Fieldwork begins; Tuesday evening tropical biology seminars and student meetings, Friday evening mentor meetings, and ethics discussions and other workshops|
|June 28 LC/30 LS||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 23 LC/25 LS||Students finish data collection and focus on data analysis and writing|
|July 29 LC/31 LS||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 4 LC/6 LS||Small-group practice presentation session 7:15 PM|
|August 4 LC/6 LS||Final student symposium, final papers due at 5 PM|
|August 6 LC/8 LS||Pack equipment boxes and rooms, return to San José|
|August 7 LC/9 LS||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.
Las Cruces Coordinator
Scott T. Walter, Ph.D.
Ph.D. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University
Dr. 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 teach 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 2018 field program! Pura vida!
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)
1. REU Student Application Form Click on the Apply Now button on the program page and follow the online instructions to fill out the application on-line.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 upload them to your application online.
*** 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, 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
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
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- Vidal-Riggs & Chaves-Campos 2008
- Gei 2007
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- Hilje 2004
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