Course Description

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Field Courses

Each year DANTA offers a number of field courses in various aspects of tropical biology. Typically, the courses are one month long but shorter courses are also offered through our organization. The courses are intended for undergraduates or early graduate level students who have a keen interest in tropical biology and conservation, but have little or no experience of working in a tropical environment.

Methods in Primate Behavior and Conservation

This course is designed to provide students with field experience in primate behavior, ecology, and conservation. This course will be held at Osa Conservation's Piro Reseach Station in Costa Rica's spectacular Osa peninsula. As the one of the largest tracts of rain forest north of the Amazon (roughly 400,000 acres in the Osa Conservation Area), it is renowned for high species diversity. It is one of only a few places in Costa Rica that has jaguar, puma, sea turtles and four species of monkey (mantled howler monkey, black-handed spider monkey, white-faced capuchin and squirrel monkey).

The learning experiences for the course fall into four main categories: field exercises, seminars, lectures, and applied conservation. The field exercises and seminars provide instruction and experience in: (1) methods of measuring environmental variables, including assessment of resource availability, (2) methods of collecting and analyzing the behavior of free-ranging primates, (3) assessments of biodiversity and (4) techniques for estimating population size. Lecture topics will cover the behavior and ecology of Old and New World primates from an evolutionary perspective. Selected lecture topics include primate sociality, feeding ecology, taxonomy, rain forest ecosystems and conservation. Service learning is a large component of all our programs. Students will gain experience in applied primate conservation and also have opportunity to participate in Osa Conservation's sea turtle breeding and monitoring program, and the Center for Cetacean Research's spotted and bottlenose dolphin conservation program during a 2 day stay at their research station in the Golfo Dulce.

During the course you will also have opportunity to see an active volcano and hike through montane cloud forest during our visit to Volcan Poas National Park in Costa Rica's Central Valley. In addition, we will visit a sustainable chocolate plantation and spend an afternoon on the Boruca Indigenous Reserve where we will learn about their community and traditional lifeways. All within country travel is in cooperation with Planet Conservation, our sustainable travel partner. Every effort is made to implement eco-friendly and socially responsible practices into our day-to-day operations, field courses and overall mission.

Primate Behavior and Conservation

This course is designed to provide students with field experience in primate behavior, ecology, and conservation. This course will be conducted at Osa Conservation in Costa Rica's spectacular Osa peninsula. As the one of the largest tracts of rain forest north of the Amazon (roughly 400,000 acres in the Osa Conservation Area), it is renowned for high species diversity. It is one of only a few sites in Costa Rica that contain 4 species of primate (mantled howler monkey, black-handed spider monkey, white-faced capuchin and squirrel monkey). Four species of sea turtle also nest along its beaches. Please help us protect this unique region which is of international conservation concern.

The learning experiences for the course fall into four main categories: field exercises, seminars, lectures, and applied conservation. The field exercises and seminars provide instruction and experience in:(1) methods of measuring environmental variables, including assessment of resource availability, (2) methods of collecting and analyzing the behavior of free-ranging primates, (3) assessments of biodiversity and (4) techniques for estimating population size. Lecture topics will cover the behavior and ecology of Old and New World primates from an evolutionary perspective. Selected lecture topics include primate sociality, feeding ecology, taxonomy, rain forest ecosystems and conservation. Students will gain experience in applied primate conservation and also have opportunity to participate in Osa Conservation's sea turtle breeding and monitoring program.

The course includes a four day field trip to a sustainable cocao plantation and two night stay in Drake Bay including a snorkeling tour of Cano Island, one of Costa Rica's premier dive spots. Here there is a good chance we will see white-tipped reef sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins and humpback whales. On the return trip from the island, we will explore the Terraba Sierpe Mangroves, which are accessible only by boat and consists of over 100,000 acres of the largest mangrove forest in Central America. The final day of the field trip we will visit the Boruca Indigenous Reserve where we will learn about the community and their traditional lifeways. The field trip is in cooperation with Planet Conservation, our sustainable travel partner.

Enrollment is limited to 25 students. The course is open to both credit and non-credit seeking students. University credit can be arranged through your home institution.

For more information, please download the course information packet.

Tropical Rain Forest and Wildlife Conservation

The proximate and ultimate causes of declines of rain forest habitats and biodiversity will be examined through a combination of direct observations in the field, lectures, and critical reviews of the literature. Topics will include the role of hunting, logging, agriculture, disease, predation, expanding human populations and their consumption of natural resources as they affect forest and biodiversity conservation. Primate conservation will be used as a platform to explore the broader issues of conservation in the tropics. Students will be expected to give seminars and submit written summaries of scientific articles.

The majority of the course will be conducted at the Piro Research Station on Costa Rica's spectacular Osa Peninsula. As one of the largest tracts of rain forest north of the Amazon (roughly 400,000 acres in the Osa Conservation Area), it is renowned for high species diversity. It is one of only a few sites in Costa Rica that contain 4 species of primate (mantled howler monkey, black-handed spider monkey, white-faced capuchin and the Central American squirrel monkey). Four species of sea turtle also nest along its beaches. Here we will spend time learning about the rain forest and the problems involved with evaluating the status of wildlife populations in the tropics. Emphasis will be on the primates, birds, and sea turtles.

In addition, problems of various land-use activities will be evaluated with side trips to an oil palm plantation, a coffee plantation, and small-scale agricultural plots. The impact of tourism on biodiversity conservation will be demonstrated with visits to local tourist lodges on the Osa Peninsula and to the Manuel Antonio National Park, the most heavily visited national park in Costa Rica.

Sea Turtle Conservation and Tropical Herpetology

Climate change is a matter of international conservation concern. This course will examine this increasingly important issue and also provide students with the fundamentals of amphibian and reptile taxonomy, ecology, and tropical conservation more generally. Our instructor, Dr. Steffen Reichle has over 10 years of experience in applied conservation through their work at The Nature Conservancy and Fundacion Amigos de Naturaleza. This intensive 28 day course will be conducted at Amigos de Osa in Costa Rica's spectacular Osa peninsula. As the one of the largest tracts of rain forest north of the Amazon (roughly 400,000 acres in the Osa Conservation Area), this area contains more distinct tropical ecosystems than any other place on Earth its size and is renowned for high species diversity. Of particular conservation interest are the 4 species of sea turtles that nest along its beaches.

The learning experiences for the course fall into four main categories: field exercises, seminars, lectures, and applied conservation. The field exercises and seminars provide instruction and experience in: (1) methods of measuring environmental variables, (2) methods of sampling and monitoring amphibians and reptiles in the field, (3) mapping a field site, (4) techniques for estimating population size (5) species distribution modeling of amphibians and reptiles and (6) how to present data at workshops or conferences Lecture topics will cover the taxonomy and ecology of New World amphibians and reptiles from an evolutionary perspective, and how climate change is impacting them. Selected lecture topics include the latest changes in taxonomy of amphibians and reptiles, reproductive modes of amphibians, worldwide amphibian and reptile decline, and conservation. Students will gain experience designing and implementing field projects and will finish the course with a plenary presentation of their findings. Some of the projects will be embedded in Amigos de Osa's sea turtle breeding and monitoring program, others will focus on amphibians and terrestrial reptiles.

The course includes a four day field trip to the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary and two night stay in Drake Bay including a snorkeling tour of Cano Island, one of Costa Rica's premier dive spots. Here there is a good chance we will see white-tipped reef sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins and humpback whales. On the return trip from the island, we will explore the Terraba Sierpe Mangroves, which are accessible only by boat and consists of over 100,000 acres of the largest mangrove forest in Central America. The final day of the field trip we will visit the Boruca Indigenous Reserve where we will learn about the community and their traditional lifeways. The field trip is in cooperation with Planet Conservation.

Enrollment is limited to 25 students. The course is open to both credit and non-credit seeking students. Credit seeking students can receive 3 credit hours via independent study from their home institutions.

Tropical Ornithology

Take part in an intensive and exciting learning experience based at La Gamba Biological Field Station in Costa Rica’s spectacular Osa peninsula. As well as learning about the local birds (and about many other organisms too!), you will also visit other Costa Rican ecosystems, where you will encounter yet more of the amazingly diverse avifauna found in this wonderful country. You will become familiar with species ranging from the remarkable understory antbirds through to gaudy parrots and toucans. Daily activities include rain forest hikes, evening lectures, and group field projects (for learning key field techniques). For anyone interested in ornithology the course will be an exciting experience, but it will also be academically rigorous. It will be taught by Dr. Nigel Mann and Professor Peter Slater, and will cover the ecology, behavior, conservation and natural history of tropical birds. Although we welcome students with all manner of career goals, we will be focusing particularly on providing relevant insight, knowledge and practical experience for students considering a career in the study of birds. Attending students must be physically fit, will be enthusiastic about wildlife and will have completed at least two years of university studies in biology. Dr. Mann has many years of experience of working in the New World Tropics, both for his research and also as a teacher of tropical ecology and ornithology. Professor Slater is one of the world's leading experts on birdsong and animal behavior, and has written several important books, including "Essentials of Animal Behaviour" and Bird Song: Biological Themes and Variations with Clive Catchpole.

Enrollment is limited to 25 students. The course is open to both credit and non-credit seeking students. Credit seeking students can receive 3 credit hours via independent study from their home institutions.

For more information, please download the course packet.

 

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