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By Term

  • Summer 2014
06/11/2014 - 08/12/2014
Extended to: 04/15/2014
10 semester / 15 quarter hours
2.75 Overall GPA
See descriptions below

*Please see the detailed information available below for an important note about program dates.

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Study Abroad in Monteverde
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Program Overview

Program Overview

Spend the summer exploring Costa Rica’s diverse and imitable ecosystems and gain comprehensive insight into its conservation through theory, hands-on exposure, and direct experimentation.

Through rigorous coursework, Spanish language instruction, extensive travel throughout Costa Rica, and an independent research project, study abroad in Monteverde, acquaints you with practical biological problems associated with agricultural development, eco-tourism, and grassroots conservation efforts in developing countries.

Study abroad in Costa Rica and you will:

  • Camp and hike in some of Costa Rica’s most amazing protected areas, including a rain and dry forest, mangroves, beaches, and more
  • Live in Monteverde, an internationally recognized area of research and natural beauty, and home to a world famous c oud forest
  • Gain research experience conducting your own independent project
  • Experience rural Costa Rica through a homestay with a local family
  • Enjoy cultural activities in the town of Monteverde
The CIEE Difference

The CIEE Difference


study abroad in Costa Rica

In Monteverde, the field is your classroom. Explore issues of tropical diversity, community ecology, and human impact in the tropics from your biological research station in the cloud forest.

You’ll also spend eight days traveling with your professors throughout Costa Rica to explore a variety of the country’s ecosystems.


Explore ecosystems outside of the Monteverde region including the Santa Rosa National Park, a tropical dry forest known as a center for the study of regeneration. Other sites visited during this trip include the Corcovado National Park, a lush rain forest that serves as home to such birds as the chestnut-backed antbird and the white-crowned parrot, as well as to the two-toed sloth, coatimundi, and howler and white-faced monkeys. You’ll also visit Carara Rincon de la Vieja National Park which has an active volcano, as well as other places of biological interest.

Independent Research

Use your newly minted skills and knowledge to carry out an independent project in tropical ecology or conservation. Beginning with personal observations, you’ll formulate a hypothesis, design an appropriate test, and gather and analyze data. The project culminates in oral presentations and submitted written reports on your work.

Dates, Deadlines & Fees

Dates, Deadlines & Fees

We want to make sure you get the most out of your experience when you study abroad with CIEE, which is why we offer the most inclusions in our fees.

The program fee includes:

  • Tuition and housing
  • Pre-departure advising and optional on-site airport meet and greet
  • Full-time program leadership and support
  • Field trips and cultural activities
  • CIEE iNext travel card which provides insurance and other travel benefits
Please note, program dates are subject to change. Please contact your CIEE Study Abroad Advisor before purchasing airfare. Click the button to view more detailed information about dates and fees as well as estimated additional costs. Please talk with your University Study Abroad Advisor about additional fees that may be charged by your home institution when participating in a program abroad.
Application Due
Start Date
End Date
Summer 2014 (9 wks)
Extended to: 04/15/2014

Program Date Notes

Program Fees

In addition to the items outlined below, the CIEE program fee includes an optional on-site airport meet and greet, full-time leadership and support, orientation, cultural activities, local excursions, field trips, pre-departure advising, and a CIEE iNext travel card which provides insurance and other travel benefits.
Participation Confirmation *
Educational Costs **
Housing ***

This breakdown has been prepared from the program budget for the purpose of calculating eligibility for financial aid. During the course of program operations, actual figures may vary. It should not, therefore, be used as a basis for calculation of refunds. CIEE reserves the right to adjust fees at any time.

Students required to study on CIEE programs through a School of Record will be charged a $340 administrative fee in addition to the Program Fees listed.

* non-refundable

** direct cost of education charged uniformly to all students

*** includes all meals

Estimated Additional Costs

International Airfare *
Local Transportation
Books & Supplies
Personal expenses

The estimated additional costs indicated are intended to assist students and parents in budgeting for those additional living and discretionary expenses not included in the program fee. Actual expenses will vary according to student interests and spending habits.

* round-trip based on U.S. East Coast departure

More Information
2.75 Overall GPA


  • Overall GPA 2.75
  • 1 semester of college-level biology
  • 1 additional semester of college-level biology, ecology, or environmental science recommended
  • Some college-level Spanish recommended
Recommended Credit

Recommended Credit

Total recommended credit for the summer is 10 semester/15 quarter hours. Total contact hours for the program are 150 hours.

Course contact hours are 30 and recommended credit is 2 semester/3 quarter hours unless otherwise indicated.

Program Requirements

Program Requirements

Study abroad participants are required to take all of the courses offered: tropical biology, independent study, humans in the tropics, and spanish conversation at their level.

About the City

About The City

Monteverde is a small community of 4,000 that accommodates up to 200,000 tourists each year. Its forest is located in the largest private reserve in Central America and reflects a long heritage of grassroots conservation. The reserve encompasses not only cloud forest but everything from dry rorest to rain forest habitats. Monteverde’s forests house over 2,500 species of plants, including more than 500 species of orchids. In addition, Monteverde has over 60 species of amphibians, 100 of mammals, and 450 of birds, including the Resplendant Quetzal.

Meet The Staff

Meet The Staff

Staff Image

Alan Masters

Dr. Alan R. Masters has an M.S. and Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Florida and a B.S. from Illinois State University. He has lived in Monteverde for over 20 years and since 1993 he has been Director of CIEE’s Tropical Ecology and Conservation summer study abroad program. While originally a lepidopterist, Alan studied over 22 species of mimetic butterflies in Monteverde: what makes them taste bad and what that means to predation risk. Since teaching with CIEE, Alan’s interests include not only plant-animal interactions but all facets of tropical diversity and conservation.

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The summer program is just enough time to experience and study tropical ecology by traveling and working throughout Costa Rica’s most stunning and diverse natural environments. Since we only have two months to explore the most species rich ecosystems on Earth, this program is packed. We will work hard but also play hard. Along with groups experiments, independent research, lectures and lots of field time we will pause for whales, sloths, bright blue Morpho butterflies, plants that grow on top of plants that grow on top of plants, beaches, waterfalls and treetops. Oh, and I hope there will be a guitar nearby so we can stargaze with music at night, . While learning Spanish, students have the chance to practice their speaking skills, and experience another culture. You will get to live with a rural Costa Rican family, as well. In all, a very rich and fantastic experience. There is no better place to spend a summer studying the environment, learning a new language, and exploring a new culture.

— Alan R Masters, Resident Director

Staff Image

Juan Carlos Calderon

Juan Carlos Calderon, known as Moncho, is a bat biologist with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Costa Rica. Moncho has been a Teaching Assistant with CIEE for four years.

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Staff Image

Branko Hilje

Branko Hilje has a Masters degree from the University of Puerto Rico, where he studied amphibian populations in lowland tropical secondary forests. He is knowledgeable about tropical reptiles, as well. Branko began working with CIEE in the Fall 2011.

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Karen Masters

Dr. Karen Masters, Resident Director, has a B.S. from the University of Michigan, an M.S. from the University of Florida, and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University. She has lived in Monteverde for over 20 years and has been teaching at the CIEE Study Center in Monteverde since 1997. She currently studies the effects of climate change on epiphytic orchids in Monteverde and has published papers on a host of conservation-related research.

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Staff Image

Maricela Pizarro

Maricela Pizarro has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Costa Rica. She has been a teaching assistant for CIEE since Fall 2011. Maricela’s interest focus on fungi and plants.

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Kathy Rockwell

Kathy Rockwell, Program Coordinator, is a lifelong Monteverde resident and daughter of Quaker settlers in the region. Prior to working with CIEE, Kathy was the Assistant Manager at the Monteverde butterfly garden.

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Where You'll Study

Where You'll Study

The CIEE Study Center in Monteverde is located at the edge of the forest in a small, friendly, bilingual community surrounded by a cloud forest. Monteverde is free of biting insects and green all year-round. Monteverde’s Cloud Forest has been studied for more than 25 years by both visiting and Costa Rican biologists. This widens the research opportunities available and acquaints students with practical biological problems associated with agricultural development, eco-tourism, and grassroots conservation efforts in developing countries.

Housing & Meals

Housing & Meals

study abroad in Costa Rica

Housing and all meals are included in the study abroad program fee. Students live in a biological station where all classes are taught. It is beautifully situated adjacent to the cloud forest. Students stay in four-person rooms (two bunk beds) with private baths and hot showers. Meals are provided at the biological station and served family style. Vegetarians and vegans can easily be accommodated. During the week prior to exams and presentation of the research projects, participants live and take eat meals with rural Costa Rican families. In addition, participants spend two weeks in cabins or camping during the various field trips conducted throughout the program.

A teaching assistant/student services coordinator lives with the students during the program and is available to answer questions about health issues, living conditions, and the academic program. The coordinator also plans social activities and makes the group aware of cultural and community events.



study abroad in Costa Rica

A two-day mandatory orientation session, conducted in San José at the beginning of the study abroad program, introduces you to the country, culture, and academic program, as well as provides practical information about living in Costa Rica and the Monteverde community. It also includes both structured activities and independent sightseeing. You'll attend lectures, tour museums, and have the opportunity to purchase last-minute supplies. In addition, you will take a language placement exam to determine your specific language level. Ongoing support is provided by CIEE staff on an individual and group basis throughout the program.



You may access the Internet using shared CIEE computers at the biological station where you live; however, these computers are primarily to be used for academic coursework. Internet and telephones are not always available during field trips.



Established in 1989, the CIEE summer study abroad program in Monteverde was developed to fulfill several goals. The first is to introduce students to all aspects of tropical biology and ecology, including forestry, entomology, and environmental sciences. The second is to allow students to pursue a specific interest in tropical biology and ecology through independent research. Finally, the program gives participants an opportunity to study the language and culture of Costa Rica and enhance their Spanish language skills.

Academic Culture

The small, rigorous courses with a biological focus, taught in English, are offered for CIEE students only and contain extensive experiential components. The required courses combine classroom-based academics with broad practical experience. Professors prepare the students in the classroom and accompany students on field trips.

Given the number of projects and visits required for these courses, students should expect an intense, yet rewarding summer. With its setting in the natural classroom of the forest, the program provides a unique experience that integrates classwork, field study, lab work, and observation.

Nature of Classes

Classes are held with CIEE study abroad students only, and are quite small and dynamic.

Grading System

Students are assessed based on participation, quizzes, field practicals, reports from field experiments, and mid-term and final exams. Independent study grades are based upon a proposal, two submissions of a manuscript, and a symposium presentation. Letter grades of A-F are given with pluses and minuses.

Language of Instruction



The courses are taught by the resident director and local faculty. Guest lecturers are invited to discuss their areas of expertise.

Course Description

Course Description

All Courses

Note: This course listing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a contract between CIEE and any applicant, student, institution, or other party. The courses, as described, may be subject to change as a result of ongoing curricular revisions, assignment of lecturers and teaching staff, and program development. Courses may be cancelled due to insufficient enrollment.

CIEE Study Center Syllabi

To view the most recent syllabi for courses taught by CIEE at our Study Centers, visit our syllabi site.

Required CIEE Courses


Tropical Biology
This team-taught course includes lectures, discussions, field exercises, and labs. The discussion period is devoted to assigned journal articles. There are at least 10 field study exercises conducted in a wide variety of habitats. In addition to the lectures given by the faculty, other guest lecturers talk about their research in Costa Rica. There is also an eight-day field trip to a variety of tropical ecosystems. Course-related lectures, seminars, and discussions include:

I. Diversity in Tropical Ecosystems
Bats as Pollinators and Seed Dispersers of the Tropics
Deterministic and Neutral Models of Species Diversity
Diversity Begets Diversity: How Diversity Travels through Trophic Levels
Exceptions to the Latitudinal Trends: Who Are They and Why?
How Many Species Are There?
How to Quantify Species Diversity
Introductions vs. Extinctions and Their Ecological Impacts on Tropical Ecosystems
Loss of Biodiversity
Maintenance of Tropical Biodiversity
Models of Speciation and Their Impact on Conservation
Origins of Tropical Biodiversity
Reptile and Amphibian Fauna and Diversity
Social Insects: Leaf-Cutter Ants, Army Ants, Termites, and Africanized Bees
Species Richness and Stability: How Will the Tropics Fare?
Tropical Flora of Costa Rica
Which Species Are More Extinction Prone?
Why the Tropics Have More Species: History, Stability, and Productivity

II. How Tropical Ecosystems Function
Avian Social Behavior and Foraging Strategies
Avoiding Predators: Camouflage, Warning Coloration, and Mimicry
Climate and Biogeography of Central America
Co-evolutionary Systems
Ecological Relationships of Plants and Animals
Evolutionary Patterns: Adaptation and Natural Selection
Nutrient Cycling and Tropical Soils
Patterns in the Ecology of Rainforest Vegetation
The Poisoned Platter: Herbivory and Chemical Defenses in Plants
Pollination Ecology
Seed Dispersal and Frugivory

III. Conservation Issues
20 Questions: Developing Research Ideas
Arboreal and Terrestrial Mammals
Bat Mistnetting
Conservation and Goals of Braulio Carillo National Park
Conservation of Songbirds Migrating Across Political Boundaries
Costs and Benefits of Ecotourism
Hummingbird Behavior
The Importance of Keystone Species
The Importance of Women for Sustainable Development in Central America (Vivienne Solis)
Issues in Human Overpopulation
Land Use, Politics, and Liberation Theology
Leaf-Cutter Ant Behavior
Monteverde Canopy Bridges
National Museum
Neotropical Economic Botany
Optimal Sizes and Shapes of Refuges
Orchid Bee Scent Attraction
Pollination in a Flowering Tree
Regeneration of Forest in Abandoned Pastures
Reptiles and Amphibians of Costa Rica
Reserve Plant Identification (Willow Zuchowski)
Seed Predation
Tour of Monteverde Cloud Forest

Textbook: Janzen, D.H. Costa Rica Natural History. University of Chicago Press, 1983. Contact hours: 60. Recommended credit: 4 semester/6 quarter hours. Instructors: Dr. Karen Masters and Tania Chavarria


Independent Research in Biology and Ecology
With the guidance of the research faculty, each student conducts an independent field research project of his or her own design. Students spend a minimum of two mornings a week and part of each weekend working on their projects, meeting with advisors throughout the program. At the end of the program, they give oral presentations and submit written reports on their work.


Humans in the Tropics
This course provides a general overview of how people live and impact their environment in a tropical country, using Costa Rica (Central Valley, Caribbean slope, and Monteverde area) as an example. The focus is on the major human impacts on the natural environment that have resulted in the creation of agricultural and urban ecosystems. It includes discussion of the influence of human actions on natural processes by the different social groups that constitute the Costa Rican society; the scale and effect of this impact; and the progress achieved by the private and public sectors to eliminate or mitigate the human impact on ecosystems.


Beginner Spanish Conversation
This course includes an introduction to the Spanish language with an emphasis on speaking, listening comprehension, and understanding of basic grammar. Students master basic communication skills in Spanish; learn to employ simple verb tenses correctly; acquire vocabulary; and learn and use language skills in their daily life. To reinforce class lessons, homework assignments are given on a routine basis and reviewed in class. Assignments are modified and adapted to the needs of individual students. Evaluation for the course is based on attendance, participation, quizzes, exams, and a final performance. The latter is a creative production (songs, poetry, theater) that students prepare throughout the semester and perform on the final day.


Intermediate Spanish Conversation
This course is intended for students with previous Spanish language instruction. Students attain a communication level equivalent to 80% of that of a native speaker. Students master a wide range of verbs and vocabulary, enabling them to have a normal conversation with any native speaker, read different kinds of documents with good comprehension, and pose questions and answers in Spanish. To achieve these goals, written homework assignments are given on a routine basis and reviewed in class. Speaking and listening skills are also emphasized in the classroom. Evaluation for the course is based on attendance, participation, quizzes, exams, and a final performance. The latter is a creative production (songs, poetry, theater) that students prepare throughout the semester and perform on the final day.


Advanced Spanish Conversation
This course is for students with considerable previous language instruction. Students master complex sentence structure. At the end of the course, students should be able to communicate orally and in writing at a skill level equivalent to 90% of that of native speakers. Specifically, they are able to employ simple and compound verb forms, be able to react verbally to unexpected situations, know how to explain rules of grammar to other students, and understand specific and general vocabulary. At this advanced level, the emphasis is on enabling students to conduct conversations of increasingly complex themes and vocabulary. Evaluation for the course is based on attendance, participation, quizzes, exams, and a final performance. The latter is a creative production (songs, poetry, theater) that students prepare throughout the semester and perform on the final day.



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