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Specialty Field Courses are designed to give students looking to advance their career the opportunity to delve deeper into a specific topic of interest to their research.

The courses are designed to be an intense field immersion of 2 to 3 weeks. These are not fundamental or introductory courses. It is assumed that students that apply for these courses have a certain level of knowledge of the topic at hand as well as experience in the field.

All specialty courses are accredited by the University of Costa Rica. Students will be enrolled in this institution and will receive transcripts for transfer credits.

Download the Graduate Program Catalog

Current Offerings

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

This 4 week course is oriented towards law and graduate students with an interest tropical conservation and sustainable development. The course will visit OTS Research Stations and other field sites in Costa Rica. The course will focus on integrating law, development and conservation science, cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary communication, and practitioner training.

Coordinator: Tom Ankersen (University of Florida), and Bette Loiselle (University of Florida)
Course duration: 4 weeks (May 30 – June 30, 2015)
Application Deadline: March 15, 2015 for priority consideration, followed by rolling admission until fully enrolled.



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Inquiry in Rainforests: an in-service program for teachers

Inquiry in Rainforests: an in-service program for teachers This 2-week program aims to improve K-12 science teaching by helping teachers DO science – by conducting open-ended, inquiry-based research. The course begins by introducing participants to tropical natural history, and continues by guiding them in asking questions, formulating hypotheses, designing and conducting experiments, analyzing data, and presenting and discussing results. Teachers also receive training in filming and producing videos for use in teaching. Centered at La Selva Biological Station in a lowland Caribbean rainforest and the cloud forests of the highlands around Arenal Volcano, the course includes discussions of tropical ecosystems and conservation, research focused on organisms and ecological concepts, and development of teaching and assessment plans for use in home institutions. The program is open to middle school and high school teachers, as well as graduate students preparing for careers in teaching. Preference is given to teachers early in their careers. CE/PD and graduate credit are available. For the most current information available, along with regular updates, please visit the course website at inquiryinrainforests.org

Faculty: Dr. Joe Levine and Kimberly Kellet
$2795 Full scholarships are available for qualified applicants.
Course Duration:
July 8 - 21, 2015 (Arrive San José 7/7; Depart 7/22)
Application Deadline:
  April 1, 2015 for priority consideration, followed by rolling admission.

Application form ( Word document 135 kb )

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Biodiversity Conservation through the Lens of Indigenous Communities


This two week course, directed towards graduate students interested on the social aspects of Biological Conservation, explores the relationship “indigenous cultures-nature/Biodiversity Conservation Science”. Specifically, it focuses on understanding the influence that the political, economic and social contexts have on the indigenous view and understanding of their natural environment, therefore, affecting biodiversity conservation.

Coordinators: Claudine Sierra, Mariana Altrichter
Course duration:
2 weeks (July 21 – Aug 6, 2015)
Application Deadline:
March 1, 2015 for priority consideration, followed by rolling admission until fully enrolled.

Details ( PDF document 1mb )
Application form ( Word document 135 kb )

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Telling Stories About Science: Science communication in the digital age

This course will be taught at La Selva and will rely on a mixture of lectures, hands-on activities, and projects that put skills into immediate practicum. Students will learn basic reporting skills as well as tools for communicating in various media (video, podcasts, blogging, etc.), and will then go out into the field and create stories.

Coordinator: Jane Zelikova, Neil Losin, Hillary Rosner
Course duration: 2 weeks (July 21 – August 3, 2015)
Credits: 2.0
Application Deadline: March 30, 2015 for priority consideration, followed by rolling admission until fully enrolled.

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Conservacion del Paisaje Natural

El presente curso complementa la formación académica con el desempeño profesional interdisciplinario y transdisciplinario en el área de docencia, investigación, acción social, y consultoría pública y privada. Los estudiantes podrán interactuar con comunidades locales, profesionales y especialistas nacionales e internacionales de diversos campos de las ciencias naturales e ingenierías afines, interesados en la conservación de la diversidad biológica. De igual manera, estudiar, comprender, conceptualizar y contextualizar los principios biológicos y ecológicos que brindan las investigaciones científicas de un ecosistema determinado.

Coordinador: Alejandra Orozco (ENDÉMICA) y Jorge Cancela (Universidad de Lisboa)
Duración del curso: 3 semanas (Set. 21 – Oct. 13, 2015)
Fecha límite de matrícula: Mayo 15, 2015.

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Developing a new specialty course?

The Organization for Tropical Studies values and encourages the development of short courses initiated by faculty and we will provide support throughout the process of course development, logistics and implementation. To properly assess each proposed specialty course and begin the dialogue with interested faculty, we require the submission of a short proposal that addresses the following questions.

Please use the application form and send it to Pia Paaby, pia.paaby @ tropicalstudies.org

We recommend to plan these courses with a minimum of 18 months in advance to be able to get reservations in place in our Biological Stations.

Our specialty courses should preferably be envisioned to be designed in one or several of our Biological Stations: La Selva, Las Cruces and Palo Verde.

  1. Title of proposed course
  2. Course description. This description should describe how the course will fulfill OTS’s strategic plan to provide cutting edge training of a cadre of leaders in understanding and/or wisely using tropical resources, include new approaches in either field methods or conceptual advances that will be emphasized and employ the inquiry-based, hypothesis-testing, hands-on field approaches that have been the traditional earmark of OTS courses. Please highlight the targeted audience of the proposed short course.
  3. Course objectives and goals. This section highlights the learning objectives, core competencies that will be developed and potential outcomes of the short course.
  4. Preliminary itinerary. Provide the anticipated dates and the field stations and field sites where this course will take place. Wherever possible and educationally appropriate, use of OTS field stations is encouraged. Please note that the typical course. Please note that courses are typically proposed at least 1.5 years before they would be offered to allow time for adequate review, publicity, funding, recruiting, and logistics.
  5. List of potential professors and invited staff. Please note whether the professors, invited staff and TAs will need to receive an honorarium or some other sort of remuneration. This information will be important when determining course tuition and budget.
  6. Essential material and equipment. Provide a list of materials or equipment that will be needed for the course and note whether there will be a need to purchase these for the course. An estimate of these anticipated costs is appreciated.
  7. Potential for external funding. Faculty are encouraged to determine potential sources of funding for the course to offset course costs (station fees, course tuition, travel and equipment costs). Upon evaluation of the proposed short course, we will work with the faculty to identify relevant internal and external funding sources.

The above information will allow us to evaluate the proposed course, its appropriateness for further development and inclusion into the schedule of specialty courses. If the course proposal is approved, we will work with the instructors to develop a course budget, a detailed time-line from course initiation to implementation, advertising for the course, course scheduling and logistics and defining a strategy for assessing the course’s objective and learning goals. Currently, we are evaluating, developing and scheduling courses for 2014 and 2015. Please direct questions about the development of short courses to Pia Paaby (Director of Education) at pia.paaby @ tropicalstudies.org .

For more information about the planning of future specialty courses please contact:

Pia Paaby Hansen, Director of Education, pia.paaby @ tropicalstudies.org

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Table 1. List of specialty courses 2007- 2015.

Year offered Course Name

Tropical Ferns and Lycophytes


Conservation Genetics
Ecology and Evolution of Arachnids
Tropical Conservation & Sustainable Development: Law, Policy & Professional Practice
The Ecology of Climate Change in the Tropics and Subtropics – China


Microbial Ecology of Amphibian Decline
Ecology and Conservation of Neotropical Rivers
Tropical Ferns and Lycophytes
Biodiversity Conservation through the Lens of Indigenous Peoples


Tropical Fungi and Fungal-likes
Diversity and systematics of Coleoptera
Neotropical Social Insects
Tropical Lichens / Tropical lichens and forest health: A multidisciplinary approach


Ecology and Conservation of NeoTropical Rivers
Conservation and biodiversity genetics / Conservation and restoration genetics


Biodiversity of true bugs (Heteroptera) Costa Rica
Expanding the Frontier in Tropical Ecology Through Embedded Sensors-PASI
Tropical Butterfly Ecology
Ecology of plant-animal interactions in the tropics


Ecology and conservation of Neotropical birds
Global change and tropical ecosystems
Biology of Neotropical social insects / Behavior, ecology and diversity of social insects
Adaptive management for conservation projects
Research design for socio-ecological studies


Conservatio and biodiversity genetics
Neotropical Herpethology

Estuarios tropicales y su cuenca: Aspectos físicos, químicos, biológicos y su manejo
Tropical Ferns and Lycophytes
Tropical Agroecology / Agroecología Tropical


Entrenamiento en la Vigilancia y Monitoreo de la Influenza Aviaria (H5N1) en Aves Silvestres
Tropical Agroecology
Tropical Lichens and Forest Health: A multidisciplinary approach
Bats and Echolocation

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Last Updated ( 03/24/15 )
Organization for Tropical Studies
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