For Natural Resources and Environmental Science (NRES) students, summer camp is a requirement. At camp, students are immersed in learning hands-on skills related to wildlife ecology, aquatic ecology, watershed science, botany and forest measurements, natural resource policy, ecotourism, and more. NRES students have two options for their summer camp experience—either two weeks at Robinson Forest in beautiful eastern Kentucky, or a 15-day study-abroad course in Costa Rica.
NRES students joining instructors Rob Paratley and Steve Price in Costa Rica explore ecological and environmental concepts and issues in the humid tropics, including tropical ecology, biodiversity, and the natural history of important animals and plants. We use Costa Rica as a field laboratory to study a wide range of ecosystems—very wet coastal areas, rare lowland primary rainforest, cool mountain cloud forests, and dry forest.
This small Central American country is a recognized world leader in conservation biology through investment in biological inventory and the creation of national parks and bioreserves. Documenting and preserving biodiversity is therefore an important course theme. Nevertheless, Costa Rica is a mostly agricultural country, with many pressures for increasingly intensifying land use for commodity export, timber, and energy production. We experience the diversity of land uses as a function of elevation and seasonality of precipitation, and discuss the drivers of land-use patterns and changes from globalized commodity markets to climate change.