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 tropical biodiversity, direct field experimentation and practical 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 cloud forest
- Gain research experience conducting your own independent project
- Experience rural Costa Rica through a homestay with a local family
Scholarships & Grants
Scholarships & Grants
We want as many students as possible to benefit from studying abroad. That’s why CIEE awards more than $5 million every year – more than any other international educational organization – to make study abroad affordable.
Applicants to this program are eligible for the following scholarships and grants:
To be considered, simply check the “Scholarships and Grants” box on your program application.
The CIEE Difference
The CIEE Difference
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 eighteed days traveling with your professors throughout Costa Rica to explore a variety of the country’s ecosystems.
Explore a wide range of tropical ecosystems throughout Costa Rica, 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 National Park, Arenal volcano, as well as other places of biological interest.
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.
Summer 2017 (8 wks)
Program Date Notes
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 **
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 $500 administrative fee in addition to the Program Fees listed.
** direct cost of education charged uniformly to all students
*** includes all meals
Estimated Additional Costs
International Airfare *
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
- Overall GPA 2.5
- 1 semester of college-level biology
- 1 additional semester of college-level biology, ecology, or environmental science recommended
- Some college-level Spanish recommended
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.
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
Alan R. Masters, Ph.D, 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. 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.
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
Jose Carlos Calderon
Jose 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 seven years.
Gisella Fenandez is a biologist and farmer with a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Costa Rica. Gisella studied how large cats threaten livestock on farms near biological reserves. Gisella teaches Humans in the Tropics and will take you to farms and conservation projects to explore human impact on the environment.
Dr. Richard LaVal, Field Instructor. B.S. from Carnegie Mellon University, M.S., Vertebrate Zoology from Louisiana State University, and Ph.D., Wildlife Sciences from Texas A&M. Dr. LaVal is currently studying the ecological significance of echolocation in bats. He has been assisting the CIEE program in Monteverde since it began in 1989.
Kathy Rockwell 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.
Adam C. Stein earned his PhD from Syracuse University. Hi is a tropical conservation biologist whose research interests focus on bird behavior and ecology in avian communities found in rain forests of Costa Rica and Panama. He is an instructor for the Sustainability and Environment Semester Program as well as for the Tropical Ecology and Conservation Summer Program. In his role as instructor, Adam teaches Tropical Conservation Biology and Policy, Tropical Diversity, and he advises independent research and internships.
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 50 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
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. For three weeks, participants live and take eat meals with rural Costa Rican families while doing independent research. In addition, participants spend two weeks in cabins or camping during the various field trips conducted throughout the program.
Two teaching assistants/student services coordinators live 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.
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. Ongoing support is provided by CIEE staff on an individual and group basis throughout the program.
Wireless internet is available at the Monteverde Biological Station. 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.
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.
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
English (science courses) and a Spanish language course
The courses are taught by the resident director and local faculty. Guest lecturers are invited to discuss their areas of expertise.
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 canceled 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
BIOL 3001 MVSU
This team-taught course includes lectures, discussions, field exercises, and labs. In addition to the lectures given by the faculty, guest lecturers talk about their research in Costa Rica. There is also an eighteen-day field trip with staff to a variety of tropical ecosystems. Course-related lectures, seminars, and discussions include:
I. Diversity in Tropical Ecosystems
II. How Tropical Ecosystems Function
III. Conservation Issues
Textbook: Janzen, D.H. Costa Rica Natural History. University of Chicago Press, 1983. Contact hours: 60. Recommended credit: 4 semester/6 quarter hours. Instructors: Alan R. Masters and Dr. Adam Stein
BIOL 3003 MVSU/ECOL 3004 MVSU
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 meet with advisors throughout the program and have three weeks of concentrated data collection. At the end of the program, they give oral presentations and submit written reports on their work. Contact hours: 60. Recommended credit: 2 semester/3 quarter hours. Instructors: Dr. Alan R. Masters and Dr. Adam Stein.
ECOL 3003 MVSU
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 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. Contact hours: 30. Recommended credit: 2 semester/3 quarter hours. Instructor: Gisella Fernandez Estrada, MSc University of Costa Rica. No text but many recent and relevant readings.
SPAN 1004 MVSU
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.
SPAN 2004 MVSU
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.
SPAN 3004 MVSU
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.