NSF LSAMP 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)
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 “Mentors” 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 field station. To be ready for international travel, participants will need to have their passport, consult with a physician about travel health and vaccines, understand and comply with international restrictions because of the pandemic (including Costa Rica entry requirements), and take a COVID-19 test.
- Students arrive to Costa Rica and to the Research Station. They will receive introductory lectures and will have workshops to refresh or adjust scientific skills. They will get to know their environment and decide on study sites.
- The introductory week ends with a proposal symposium, where all the students present their ideas for their summer research projects.
- Students collect data for their projects.
- In addition, cultural activities and virtual guest lectures will occur during this period.
- Students finish their data collection and focus on analyzing their results. They produce their final papers and their presentations.
- The program ends with a research symposium where all students present the results of their projects.
- Students will then spend a last night in San José, the capital city, where they will share a Closing Dinner and then will return to their homes. Please note that before returning home, a COVID-19 test might be required before travel depending on current travel restrictions.
- March 10: Student applications open
- April 4: Student application deadline
- April 4 to April 18: Student selections announced
- April 18 to April 24: Students send their forms and paperwork
- June 6: Program starts at Las Cruces Research Station (students arrive in Costa Rica)
- June 13: Program starts at La Selva Research Station (students arrive in Costa Rica)
- August 1: Program ends at Las Cruces Research Station (students fly to the U.S)
- August 8: Program ends at La Selva Research Station (students fly to the U.S)
*Exact dates, except arrival and departure, subject to change.
Related Downloads (to be updated)
Costa Rica Map
Prerequisites (Who Can Apply)
The NSF LSAMP REU program (La Selva and Las Cruces) 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. Graduating seniors (May or August 2022) are not eligible. You can verify if your institution is an NSF LSAMP member.
Interested students need to submit an application, which consists of the following:
- Application form
- Unofficial transcript. You will upload it to your application for
- Two recommendation letters; one of which is from your selected Home mentor. This person is someone you trust from your institution that can support you to integrate the REU experience into your career track. Home Mentors are not always academic professors, but should have some institutional standing. Home Mentors do not necessarily need to guide scientific research (although this person could be a STEM professor); student research in Costa Rica will be guided by a Field mentor. The home mentor might be called upon to provide emotional support and encouragement depending on their student’s specific needs. The second letter can come from any other professional reference, but we do recommend that one of your references be familiar with your dedication to a career in STEM. More information on the recommendation letters can be found on the forms (to be downloaded from the application or below). The letters should be emailed to email@example.com by the recommenders.
REU Home Mentor Recommendation Form
REU Additional Recommendation Form
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 $550/week for their 8 weeks of work on their research. The stipend will be received in 2 payments, one at the end of the 4th week and one at the end of the program.
Carissa Ganong, Ph.D.
Ph.D. University of Georgia
La Selva Coordinato
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.
Scott T. Walter, Ph.D.
Ph.D. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Las Cruces Coordinator
Having traveled far and wide around the world, Dr. Walter 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.), forest ecology in the Appalachian Mountains (U.S. Forest Service), and seabirds along the northern Gulf coast (Ph.D.). 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 many years, 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 over five years.
Housing & Meals
June through August are normally the busiest months of the year at OTS research stations, and but we expect that because of the pandemic there will be fewer groups on station during the REU program. 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. Due to the pandemic, social bubbles on station will need to remain separate, but there will still be opportunities to learn about other researchers work at OTS.
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 on 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 follow strict COVID-19 protocols and guidelines at all times during the program, including quarantine, testing, mask-wearing, social-distancing, stringent hygiene, etc.
Students will be obligated to also follow OTS´ other 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.
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. 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. If you are accepted, we will provide any information necessary (within reason) to help with the visa application. For more information on this topic please check here.
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