With funding from the National Science Foundation’s LSAMP Program, OTS offers a research experience for students from NSF LSAMP Alliance member institutions. Students selected for the program will live at La Selva Research Station or Las Cruces Research Station for their eight-week program. From this program, you can expect to gain the following: 1) research skills in the field, 2) communication skills through training in scientific writing, oral presentations, science blogging, and videography, and 3) exposure to topics that affect the research stations and biodiversity conservation in the tropics..
La Selva Research Station and Las Cruces Research Station provide undergraduate students with unparalleled access to tropical forest ecosystems, mentoring by experienced tropical researchers, and training in field research methodology. Each student will work with an on-station (field) mentor as well as an on-campus (home) mentor from his/her home institution to ensure the integration of the summer research experience into students’ academic careers.
Please read the “Curriculum” (program description) and the “Prerequisites” (who can apply) tabs carefully. In the “Faculty” tab you can find the complete list of mentors and projects for 2022.
Note about the Program and COVID-19: Strict and obligatory COVID-19 protocols developed by OTS in accordance with international and Costa Rican guidelines will be followed as part of the on-boarding and during-program procedures; additional information will be provided to interested and confirmed participants. All REU program participants will have, COVID-19 testing, and will remain at the OTS research station for the duration of the program (exceptions apply).
Curriculum & Schedule
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 an eight-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 learn about environmental, social, and cultural issues surrounding the Station.
Prior to arriving in Costa Rica, selected students and their assigned mentors must communicate effectively via email and internet calling platforms to prepare for the program. Under the guidance of their mentor, students will write a brief research proposal and prepare an oral presentation before coming to Costa Rica. The team will also need to complete all research permit paperwork and arrange for equipment and supplies.
Pre-departure: Besides working with your mentors before the trip, participants will need to prepare for international travel and living and working at the research station. To be ready for international travel, participants will need to have their passports, consult with a physician about travel health and vaccines, and understand and comply with international restrictions because of the pandemic.
Students arrive in Costa Rica and to La Selva Research Station. They will receive introductory lectures and workshops to refresh or adjust their scientific skills. They will get to know their environment, work alongside mentors and decide on the workplan.
Field Work starts
Students finish collecting data for their projects.
Data analysis and paper writing.
March 14: Student applications open
March 26: Student application deadline
March 27 to 31: Student selections announced
April 3 to April 16: Students send their forms and paperwork
May 15: The program starts (students arrive in Costa Rica)
May 16: Students and field mentors travel to La Selva
May 27: Students and mentors comeback to San José
May 28: The program ends (students fly to the U.S)
*Exact dates, except arrival and departure, subject to change.
The NSF LSAMP REU program (La Selva) is open to adult undergraduate students who are (1) U.S. citizens or permanent residents, (2) members of underrepresented minority groups in the sciences (African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders), and (3) enrolled in a NSF LSAMP-affiliated institution. You can verify if your institution is an NSF LSAMP member. (4) Have a valid passport already issued.
Interested students need to submit an application, which consists of the following:
Application form (Apply button above)
Unofficial transcript. You will upload it to your application
One recommendation letter. This person who will refer you is someone you trust from your institution or someone you have worked with before, that can support you to integrate the REU experience into your career track. This person is not always an academic professor but should have some institutional standing. The letters should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by the recommenders.
There is no tuition for the OTS NSF LSAMP REU. The OTS NSF LSAMP REU award covers the cost of room and board as well as international travel to and from Costa Rica. Participants will receive a stipend of $600/week for their 2 weeks of work on their research. The stipend will be received in 1 payment at the end of the program.
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.
Human-altered habitats can have an effect on how animals move across the landscape. Given that the vast majority of habitats on Earth are highly modified by humans, it is important to understand what features may inhibit or encourage movement of animals, particularly vertebrates. I am interested in working with students who want to assess the use of manmade bridges by wildlife within La Selva. Students interested in working on these projects will learn how to use trail cameras and to identify animals from trail camera footage.
Mechanisms and patterns of scavenging in tropical rainforests.
The scavenging communities of tropical rainforests are understudied, and little is known about how scavengers fit into the food webs of these ecosystems. Work from previous REU students found that beetles are important members of the scavenging communities, as these beetles will locate and bury a large proportion of carrion (dead animals) very quickly. Students interested in these topics will study the ecology and behavior of the burying beetles to look at how quickly beetles find carrion, how long it takes for them to bury the carcass, and what species of beetles are involved in doing this.
Carissa Ganong (Missouri West State University)
Effects of large woody debris on aquatic insects, shrimp, and turtle abundance
Abiotic habitat characteristics can play key roles in shaping aquatic communities. This project will focus on the communities of rainforest streams and whether organismal abundance varies with stream microhabitat (open stream channel vs. large woody debris). Students will learn (1) survey techniques for various aquatic taxa including insects, shrimp, and turtles and (2) basic identification skills for these taxa. This project will involve hiking to, and wading in, streams around La Selva to set and check traps.
Pablo Muñoz, Branko Hilje and Sofía Rodríguez (Organization for Tropical Studies)
Multimodal cues used by ant-following birds to aggregate.
It is known that vocalizations of obligate ant-following bird species are eavesdropped by other bird species to locate army-ant swarms at La Selva. In the highlands of Costa Rica, there is partial evidence that birds use colors from specific areas of their body as cues for joining mixed-species flocks. Therefore, multimodal cues (visual and acoustic) may enhance the localization of army-ant swarms at La Selva. Students will (1) design a project using visual and sound playbacks to test a hypothesis based on multimodal signaling, (2) be able to identify bird species in different ways, (3) use sound analysis software.
Housing & Meals
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!
Meals at the stations consist of many Costa Rican and international favorites, with rice and beans being the basis of the local diet. Students should be prepared to eat at the station for all of their meals and to enjoy a simple yet hearty menu. Many special diets can be accommodated, but some specialty items are not available in Costa Rica.
Health & 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.
Students will be obligated to also follow OTS´ policies related to well-being and safety, including but not limited to alcohol (not permitted for students), sexual harassment, forest and water safety, and group living norms.
OTS follows a 3-strike rule, where if a student incurs any not accepted behavior related to OTS´s policies, the first call will be oral, the second one written and the third will be the communication of expulsion from the program, covered by the student’s own expenses.
Passport & Visa Information
You must have a valid passport already issued to travel to Costa Rica. It is important that the passport does not expire within 6 months of entering Costa Rica. U.S. citizens entering Costa Rica are automatically granted a 90-day tourist visa. If you are NOT a citizen of a North American or European country, you will probably need a special visa to enter 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 the REU program. 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 check here.