link First Person Account of Costa Rica

by Lisa Slade 

“Sssh! What’s that sound?” Everyone stops and is deathly silent as they gaze up into the trees straight ahead of them. A small white face gazes back at, and then soon another and another. Just to the left, there’s a loud cracking sound as twigs and branches are thrown by a large adult creature. You have just discovered a small troop of capuchin monkeys living in the rainforests of Costa Rica.

“But stop! Look down!” Beneath your feet is a line of busy leafcutter ants, carrying large leaf-bits on their backs, determinedly marching along a pathway on their way back to their nest. The breeze picks up as the sun begins to set, soon it will be dark and the nocturnal creatures will be filling the forests with life.

Frogs will leap, birds will nest, and bats will fly above your head on their mission to find mosquitoes. Perhaps a howler monkey will study you on your way as he watches over his troop or a coati will sit in a nearby tree, still as he can be so you won’t spy him. A sloth will hang upside down enjoying the cool of the evening, or a long-nosed armadillo will noisily shuffle on his way.

The morning light brings a multitude of birds into the trees, foraging for their breakfast.  You join in on a lecture by people who have devoted their lives to the preservation of the rainforests and learn what you can do to make a difference. These people will become your mentors and inspiration. You will learn more in one day than you might in an entire semester in a classroom.

 As the night approaches once more, you recline in a chair on the porch listening to the sounds of the forest and the forest creatures and realize that you are experiencing firsthand what it is to be truly alive.

Sound like fun? Mission College in Santa Clara is offering a Tropical Ecology Field Studies class designed for students of all disciplines who are interested in learning about tropical rainforest ecology first-hand by studying at the renowned University of Georgia field station in San Luis, Costa Rica. Students will participate in naturalist led hikes and carry out ecological studies.

In the words of one of the class’s instructors, Jean Replicon, “We are not an ordinary travel group.  We have an ecological conscience. We stay without luxuries, eat local food and consequently have very little ecological impact.  In fact we have a positive impact because we support the preservation of this area, participate in carbon offset programs, enhance knowledge and have bought the station a GPS receiver, brought donations and helped build a greenhouse.”

Tropical Ecology can be used to satisfy the General Education requirement for a Natural Science with a lab for transfer to any California State Universities.