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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Costa Rica Maymester 2015

Costa Rica Maymester 2015


Program Description:
With more than 25% of its land under protection, Costa Rica is known worldwide for its amazing biodiversity and national policy of conservation. Millions of tourists visit Costa Rica every year, straining the park systems, neighboring indigenous communities, and the nation’s energy resources. Agricultural practices are changing as Costa Ricans on small farms and multi-nationals work to achieve economic growth and sustainable practices. The overall socio-political issue is to find tenable land use plans that maintain the goals of conservation and sustainability. 

Maymester students gain a real-world and applied understanding of ecological research, sustainable agriculture, ecotourism's impact, and the complexity of conservation issues in a field setting. Students learn about land management practices, conduct hands-on research in different tropical forest habitats, and talk with Costa Ricans about their livelihood and community. The class visits several national parks, private reserves and research institutes within Costa Rica. Students enjoy a few leisure days as the group travels together to field stations, sharing bus rides and most meals. Accomodations are field stations or hostels.  Each student keeps a journal, gives oral presentations on natural history and tropical ecology, and prepares written briefs as the group explores different points of view. Student teams focus on specific issues and document, analyze and communicate their results in a final presentation. Group-minded students with broad academic interests who are willing to walk on muddy trails with mosquitoes and high humidity are welcome to apply.

Requirements: In Costa Rica the components of the grade are: 20% active participation in course activities; 20% field exercises, including question-generating activities and gathering data; 40% group research project and presentation; and 20% individual write-up, summary of field notes, ideas about priorities and recommendations, and a final individual reflection.

Reseach in Costa Rica
Dr. Buskirk and students conducting research at a field station

Academic Credit:
Plan II students will earn four credit hours for a Plan II Junior Seminar (TC 357) and a preparatory seminar (LA 119).  All students participating in the Costa Rica Maymester Program are requred to take LA 119 (Maymester Seminar: Costa Rica), which meets weekly for the first half of the spring 2015 semester (Wednesdays 3-5pm).  Non-Plan II students will earn four hours of academic credit for BIO 337 and LA 119.  Maymester courses are part of UT spring registration; courses must be taken for a letter grade and are factored into the official UT GPA.  All courses are taught in English.

Prerequisites/Eligibility: All Majors welcome to apply, but students must have completed either Plan II Biology (BIO 301E) or Introductory Biology II (BIO 311D) or Honors Genetics (BIO 325H) prior to departure.  Minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 required.  Students need not speak Spanish but those with knowledge of the language will gain more from the experience.

Corcovado Hike
Hiking at Corcovado

Faculty: Dr. Ruth Buskirk, a distinguished senior lecturer in Biology, has been the faculty director of this Maymester since 2010. Dr. Buskirk has visited Costa Rica many times for both teaching and research, and is particularly enthusiastic about the holistic student involvement and interdisciplinary nature of this course.

Dr. Buskirk has taught biology courses at UT for over 25 years, including Introductory Biology, Plan II Biology and Honors Genetics. She has helped develop and lead student programs across campus and has been honored with teaching excellence awards from the University Regents, the President’s Associates, the Texas Exes, and the College of Natural Sciences. In addition, Dr. Buskirk is the 2012 recipient of the Plan II Chad Oliver Teaching award.

Costa Rica Maymester 2015 Program Dates:  May 27, 2015 through June 26, 2015

Santa Elena
Dr. Buskirk and students at Santa Elena

Costs: 2015 program fees TBA.  For 2013: $4100; the fee includes the deposit, program activities, housing, most meals, and local transportation.  In addition students should budget for airfare (approx. $500-$700), required insurance ($100), and some meals/spending money ($250).  The total estimated cost for the program is $5100. 

Scholarships: All Plan II students who apply to the Costa Rica Maymester program should also apply for the Plan II Travel Grant during the Fall 2014 application period (deadline Oct. 31, 2014).  Additional funding sources for this study abroad program include the International Office Maymester Scholarship (deadline Nov. 1, 2014), the 25th Year Anniversary Scholarship (Maymester - deadline Nov. 1, 2014), the International Education Fee Scholarship (deadline Oct. 1, 2014) to name a few.  Visit the Funding Study Abroad section on the Study Abroad Office website for more fundraising ideas and detailed scholarship information.  In addition, students should check in with the Academic Advisor in  their Major to inquire about additional scholarships.  We encourage students to apply for all scholarships/grants that they are eligible for.  Since many of these scholarships have early deadlines, you may apply for scholarships even if you are not yet sure you have been accepted into the program.

History: This highly successful and widely-recognized Maymester ran in 2010, 2011 and 2013. 

For more pictures visit: Photo Gallery.

Strangler Fig Costa Rica Jungle

Strangler Fig, Costa Rica Jungle

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