Costa Rica Trip

 

The Central Texas Science Team sponsors an annual summer field research science program for high school-aged teens (those homeschooled and those enrolled in more traditional school programs).

This is the only field research of its kind in the United States.

Summer Science Expedition is a 10-day field research program in Costa Rica for 14-18*-year-old students. It’s a joint program between SeedsforEducation, the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Curry Lab, and the biochemistry department at the University of Costa Rica.  Finca La Anita Rainforest Ranch hosts the researchers for eight days, and Horizontes Forest Station hosts the researchers during the two-day sea turtle portion.

Research Trip Overview

    • Limited to 16 students
    • Six pre-trip educational sessions developed by UCR and UW scientists and facilitated by CTST trip leaders
    • Eight days studying the leaf-cutter ants at Finca La Anita, where three rainforests converge.
    • Two days with the Leatherback Trust studying sea turtles, sea turtle conservation, and protecting sea turtle nests
    • Experimental Design workshop intensives
    • Lab research
    • Field research in tropical rainforest
    • Pre-experiment presentation presenting their proposed experiment (similar to defending a thesis)
    • The final presentation of their experiments (which they also have to do upon their return to the states).
    • Contribution to important research on the use of leaf-cutter ants in the creation of new antibiotics
    • Possibility for college credit (in Ecology Science)
    • Service project for the nearby village.
    • Adventuring (zip lining, trail riding, naturalist-guided hikes in national parks, local cooking class)

This is not a tropical vacation. It is serious science. The scientists who designed this have planned every facet of the trip with deliberation.  Because the science instruction is intense, it is conducted for specific durations and then students go on excursions to refresh their focus and energy before the next science intensive.  Careful attention is given to their housing and food and daily rhythm so as to best empower their science training. We are served healthy food, mostly organic and mostly grown on the farm.  It is set, deliberately, in one of the most nature-dense and beautiful locations in the world; science shows that exposure to nature is vital for good health.

Participants will be work as real scientists do, with the amazing benefit of being in Costa Rica with a team of scientists from the University of Costa Rica.

2019 Dates 

July 5-15 (allowing a shift of a couple of days in either direction as final flight reservations are made).

Program Cost is $3500

This includes pre-trip educational lessons, intensive science lab and field work and instruction led by world-renowned scientists, airfare, room, board, daily excursions (ziplining, trail riding, naturalist-guided half-day hike at a volcanic national park, an evening of local cooking classes), and ground transportation in Costa Rica.

Additional Information

For a first-hand account, visit this summer’s trip blog, written by the students each day of the expedition: http://ctxcostarica.blogspot.com

You can find additional detail, including trip blogs from other participating schools, at http://seedsforeducation.org

Contact us directly at ctstcostarica@gmail.com

Student Qualifications

Students need to be 14-18 during the dates of the trip and have real biology experience (through a course or equivalent real-world time) to ensure they are mature enough both socially and academically for the program. They need to be resilient enough to be away from family in a new and foreign environment for 10 days without daily calls home. They should be able to manage themselves, their work, and their belongings independently and be able to ask for help when needed.

Academically, students will be doing research that will require an understanding of basic biology vocabulary, a very solid understanding of the scientific method, and a strong sense of biology basics like food webs, symbiotic relationships, and how living beings respond to and adapt to their environment. They’ll also need to be able to use lab equipment, conduct background research, and write up and present their scientific findings.

We offer two levels of this summer field research.  This is the first year program. The second-year program is based on bioinformatics and is designed for rising juniors or seniors.

Logistics

During the spring, we will facilitate six planning and prep lessons to prepare the students for Costa Rica. The lessons cover Costa Rica itself, the leaf-cutter ant and how they produce their fungus garden and their own antibiotic, and a little bit of bioinformatics. We will be able to connect to non-Texas participants via Skype for these lessons.

Instructors

Dr. Adrian Pinto, the scientist leading the instruction, is world-renowned.  Dr. Pinto, Clinical Microbiologist, obtained a master’s degree in Microbiology with an emphasis in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and a Ph.D. in Environmental Microbiology at the University of Wisconsin Madison.  He is a professor at the UCR School of Medicine and heads a research group in symbiotic associations between microorganisms and different animal species, including insects and amphibians, seeking to apply the knowledge generated to solve Human Health problems.

https://tedxpuravida.org/expositores/adrian-pinto/

https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=n5XIueMAAAAJ&hl=en

https://www.itv.com/presscentre/ep4week38/stephen-fry-central-america (Dr. Pinto is in this documentary with Stephen Fry)

Dr. Pinto brings some of his grad students to assist.  Our students get two days of intense scientific method and experimental design instruction, lab research instruction and experience, and field research instruction and experience.

Trip Chaperones

Shannon Rizzo, head coach of Central Texas Science Team
Amanda Akers & Russell Baker, certified teachers and past coaches within Central Texas Science Team
Beth Hunt or John Doleman, Seeds for Change

Lodging

These links show our lodging during the trip.

http://www.laanitarainforestranch.com/

http://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr/biodesarrollo/programa-de-restauracion-y-silvicultura/estacion-experimiental-forestal-horizontes

Photos of Previous Years’ Programs