Although many Pacific students returning to campus have just completed a long winter break, winter term gives students an opportunity to continue their education off campus. Each year, a number of the courses offered during winter term combine travel with curriculum to give students a new learning experience.
This year, one of the travel courses offered took students out of the country to study the tropical rainforest. Students who enrolled in the tropical rainforest biology course traveled to Costa Rica to observe, study and conduct their own field experiments on the rainforest’s ecosystem as well as the life forms that inhabit it.
Alongside professors Ed Alkaslassy and Pamela Lopez, students will have spent a total of three weeks in Costa Rica. One of the highlights in the travel course, according to Lopez, is the large number of different species that the class will have the chance to encounter throughout varying terrains. The class will be traveling throughout the cloud forest at an elevation of 9,000 feet, lowland tropical rainforests alongside the Pacific coastline as well as through several coffee plantations and sugar mills found in the same coastline area.
As the group continues south, they will be taking a boat ride down the Rio Sierpe, “We see all sorts of amazing animals including crocodiles, potoos and shorebirds of all sorts,” said Lopez.
Although Lopez looks forward to the opportunity the students have to observe wildlife that they are unfamiliar with, there are other aspects of the trip that she feels will benefit the students. A lodge the class will be staying in for a portion of the trip is operated by a Costa Rican family and Lopez said, “We have a wonderful time with them practicing our Spanish and learning about Costa Rican culture.”
Apart from the explorations that the class will have as a class, Lopez said there will also be a time for students to work in small groups on field projects based on what they have learned and observed throughout the course. Each student will be presenting their own individual research project and present a seminar on their project upon returning to campus.
Like most travel courses, tropical rainforest biology is not offered every year during the winter term. But Lopez feels it is a great opportunity that many students would enjoy and should take advantage of because it gives them a chance to be “completely immersed in one biological subject area” with “almost three weeks of hands-on experience.”
The only negative part about the trip according to Lopez is that, “It’s always so sad to have to leave. We are extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to live and study in this tropical rainforest paradise.”