OTS graduate courses are designed to give students the opportunity to do research in the tropics and build a set of skills essential to doing field research, writing, and science communication. Students spend two to six weeks in Biological Research Stations (OTS and Non-OTS) immersed in an intense learning and research environment throughout Costa Rica.
The courses are designed to challenge the students with fast-paced formulation of research questions, experimental design, data collection, analysis, oral presentations, and written papers. Consequently, students will take away advanced skills in research design, data analysis, writing, science communication, modeling, and collaborative research.
All the skills are taught through a “field problems” approach where students are presented with hands-on research design. Our courses will train the student in such topics as plant eco-physiology, microbial ecology, molecular ecology, remote sensing, rapid biodiversity inventories, and other topics.
Overall our courses are meant for graduate students that are interested in spending long days and late nights filled with science.
In 1962 nine Universities in the USA and the University of Costa Rica (UCR), the foremost research university in Costa Rica since 1940, recognized an urgent need for mobilization of forces to address the problems the tropics faced. The expanding populations were rapidly destroying the tropical biotas and ecosystems. Thus, the universities joined together to set up the Organizations for Tropical Studies with two objectives, the advancement of science and second, to provide a basis for the intelligent used and conservation of the resources of the tropics.
As time has progressed the Organization for Tropical Studies has grown to include more than 50 universities worldwide. The University of Costa Rica has continued its support of OTS since it participated in the foundation of an organization that now strives to provide leadership in education, research, and the responsible use of natural resources in the tropics.
One of the many ways UCR invests in OTS’ long standing mission is through course accreditation. The University of Costa Rica has recognized the value of OTS graduate courses and the impact they have on students’ academic and professional careers. In 1989 the UCR and OTS accreditation of courses began. To this day students that are chosen to participate in OTS courses earn graduate level semester credits awarded by the University of Costa Rica. The semester credits awarded by UCR are recognized worldwide and are transferable to all OTS member institutions as well as most other institutions.
The Graduate Field courses are characterized by having two full-time coordinators and a teaching assistant from renowned universities worldwide. In addition to the coordinators OTS courses include invited faculty from major universities and research institutions from the U.S. and Latin America. Guest faculty join the course for periods as short as a single lecture or up to two weeks.
Guest faculty plays a key role in the students learning and research experience during the course. Guest faculty guide students on faculty lead research projects. They are also involved in leading lectures and workshops on topics such as integrated population modelling, phylogenetic analysis, molecular ecology, microbial ecology, and Science Communication and podcast production, among other topics.
Faculty has also participated in creating short videos depicting the faculty lead projects students have participated in, like the Bats and Piper video shoot at La Selva Research Station.
Graduate courses have been visited by many Faculty from very diverse areas of expertise and research through the years. The following is short list of faculty that have participated in our courses in the past:
OTS strives to provide students with courses that allow for great learning experiences. Consequently, students from the graduate courses at the end of the course have mentioned how much they enjoyed their participation in the course. A few of their comments are below.
“I enjoyed getting to know La Selva-- I'm so impressed that it exists! I mean a place where researchers can go, not worry about food or bed sheets, and just focus on their work. I also enjoyed being immersed in a community of arachnologists (beginners and experts alike) for a full two weeks!”- Ecology and Evolution of Arachnids 2014.
“Interacting with a diverse group of scientists and students and discovering new diversity.” – Ecology and Evolution of Arachnids 2014.
“Interacting with the other students, interacting with the researchers, being pushed to limits I didn't know I had, learning more about those boundaries, getting to know everyone and their research. Ah, it was fantastic!” – An Introduction to Tropical Ecology
“The group as a whole was wonderful. I feel that I forged lasting friendships and opened doors for future collaboration. I also really enjoyed having the flexibility to work on a number of questions that are outside my field of expertise. Broadening horizons, yeah.”- Tropical Biology: an Ecological Approach
“Experiencing cloud forests and rainforests. Interacting with so many other ecologists/students and surrounded by professionals in ecology.”
“I enjoyed learning about tropical ecology. I already have a great base, but it was nice to be playing in a new system. I also really liked the science communication aspect. I learned that writing a blog isn't so scary, and making a podcast and video can be fun! I really enjoyed the communication aspect.” – Tropical Biology: an Ecological Approach
“I enjoyed the combination of scientific process, nature, learning new topics, and science outreach. The outreach is something I was not expecting, and I wouldn't get that kind of experience anywhere else.” – Tropical Biology: an Ecological Approach