Duke University Organization for Tropical Studies Graduate Course: Tropical Biology: An Ecological Approach
Learn the theory-use the techniques. Get hands-on research experience in plant ecophysiology, microbial ecology, molecular ecology, remote sensing, rapid biodiversity inventories, and other hot topics.
Learn remedial and advanced statistics during group and individual sessions on experimental design.
Receive networking opportunities with experts in biological corridors, payment for environmental services, national parks, carbon neutrality, organic farms, and reforestation.
The Organization for Tropical Studies is a consortium of over 60 universities and research institutions from seven countries on four continents. OTS is a non-profit institution based at Duke University and operates three private research stations in several of Costa Rica's national parks and forest reserves. Students live, research, and study on-site surrounded by Costa Rica's rich biodiversity and contrasting ecosystems.
Founded in 1963, OTS provides hands-on field-based training for students interested in gaining professional training in tropical studies, public health, and resource conservation. Locations visited on this program include the field stations of La Selva, Las Cruces, San Luis, Cuerici, and Palo Verde, as well as field trips to many other national parks and forest reserves.
Course of Study
Tropical Biology: An Ecological Approach is an intensive, eight week course in field research and tropical ecology for 22 graduate students. This classic OTS field course, also called the “Fundamentals Course,” has trained tropical biologists since the 1960s. At its heart is the highly regarded OTS “field problems” which focus on the formulation of feasible research questions, experimental design, data collection, analysis, and oral and written presentations. Nowhere else will you interact with this many top scientists, learn so many new techniques, and devise so many testable hypotheses in such a concentrated period of time.
Credits earned through Duke University's OTS summer program are transferable to UNL by departmental validation. Graduate students must have approval from Graduate Studies and their graduate committees. Please see "earning credit" page on UNL Education Abroad site for more information.
Applicants must be enrolled in, or accepted to, a graduate degree program.
Accommodations and Other Arrangements
Tropical Biology is a highly mobile course that travels by bus, boat, taxi, and occasionally on foot to field sites throughout Costa Rica. Costa Rica has an incredible diversity of ecosystems and the course field sites represent most of the major ecosystem types in the country. These range from wet forest to dry forest, low elevation to high elevation. The course visits all three OTS field stations, including La Selva Biological Station, a large and well-known research station on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. La Selva has over 1,500 hectares of lowland tropical wet forest, and connects to Braulio Carrillo National Park via a forested altitudinal transect. Las Cruces Biological Station has a world-class plant collection in the Wilson Botanical Garden and an associated 160 hectare tract of old growth mid-elevation forest. Las Cruces is surrounded by an agricultural landscapes, ideal for research on fragmentation and restoration ecology. Palo Verde Biological Station is in the heart of Palo Verde National Park, in Guanacaste province and is surrounded by semi-deciduous tropical dry forest, one of the most endangered of tropical ecosystems. A seasonal freshwater wetland, designated as a RAMSAR site in 1991, lies in front of the station and attracts abundant waterfowl. San Luis Biological Station run by the University of Georgia includes a working tropical farm at the head of the San Luis Valley. The property borders the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve and the Children's International Rainforest, and shares with them a stunning diversity of wildlife. Cuericí Biological Station, near Cerro de la Muerte, is a high elevation site containing stunning tropical oak forest. The forest itself is protected as a private reserve and the station is also a sustainable development project and trout farm.
See the Organization for Tropical Studies' website and the Financial page on the Education Abroad website.
Explanation of Costs
Please see the Cost Sheet and the program website for an explanation of program costs, withdrawal policies, and the payment process.
In addition to program costs, UNL students will pay a $150 Study Abroad Fee through MyRed.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
Please see the Education Abroad website for detailed information about financial aid and scholarships.
Below you will find links to resources for travel, health, and safety:
Organization for Tropical Studies
Costa Rica Embassy
Center for Disease Control
US Department of State
*UNL Education Abroad does not officially endorse, administer, or monitor the content of these links.
IMPORTANT: The deadline listed below is the UNL Education Abroad application deadline. Please see the Duke University Organization for Tropical Studies website for their program deadline. Remember to apply through MyWorld and directly to this program by the respective deadlines.