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Fundamental Courses Print

“These are the courses that have trained leading tropical biologists since the 1960s.”

Graduate Field Courses immerse students in tropical biology and conservation, tropical plant systematics, and related themes.
These field courses use the “field problems” approach focusing on the formulation of research questions, experimental design, sampling, and data analysis in an intense fieldwork experience. Students participate in faculty lead field projects at each site and independent field projects.

Independent field projects require students to design their own hypothesis, test them and present the results in written and oral form to their peers and mentors for review. Many independent field projects have later lead to publications in peer reviewed journals and in some instances to the discovery of new species. All results are published in our Course Books.

All fundamental courses take place at OTS Biological research stations and other affiliated stations, ensuring that students will be exposed to several different forest types and habitats throughout Costa Rica.

All courses are accredited by the University of Costa Rica. Students will be enrolled in this institution and will receive transcripts for transfer credits. Courses may be offered in English or Spanish.

The courses are annual or bi-annual, lasting from 4 to 7 weeks.

Download the Graduate Program Catalog


Current Offerings

Field Ecology: Skills for Science and Beyond – Winter opportunity!!

Field Ecology: Skills for Science and Beyond is an intensive, four-week course in tropical ecology for 22 graduate students that will challenge you in every way. This fundamental OTS field course has trained tropical biologists since the 1960s. At its heart lie the highly regarded OTS “field problems”, which engage students in the fast-paced formulation of research questions, experimental design, data collection, analysis, oral presentations, and written papers. Students will take away advanced skills in research design, data analysis, writing, science communication, modeling, and collaborative research – all in the breath-taking tropical setting that is Costa Rica. Long days and late nights, filled with science.

Coordinator: Jane Zelikova (lab website)
Course duration: 4 weeks (December 29, 2014 – January 24, 2015)
Credits: 4 credits awarded by the University of Costa Rica
Application Deadline: Open enrollment until full. Limited space available

Details ( PDF document 1.39mb )
Application form ( Word document 295 kb )



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Ecología Tropical y Conservación

Este curso, dictado en español, ofrece un riguroso entrenamiento en métodos de investigación de la ecología tropical e incluye una unidad de campo en biología de la conservación. Está dirigido principalmente a estudiantes y profesionales latinoamericanos, independientemente de su afiliación institucional; también se aceptan solicitudes de estudiantes con dominio del español de cualquier nacionalidad e institución. Becas parciales disponibles.

Coordinator: Federico Chinchilla, Fernando Soley
Course duration: 12 de enero - 21 de febrero
Credits: 7 créditos otorgados por la Universidad de Costa Rica
Application Deadline: 21 de junio del 2014

Details ( PDF document 10 mb )
Application form ( Word document 295 kb )

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Tropical Biology: An Ecological Approach - Summer opportunity!!

This OTS “fundamentals course” is an intensive, field-based experience in tropical biology for graduate students. Since the 1960s, this classic OTS course has trained ecologists and evolutionary biologists using an active learning approach, which engages students in a fun and fast-paced research environment. With guidance from expert scientists, students will gain experience in critical thinking, research design, data analysis, analytical tools, science communication, ecological modeling, and collaborative research—all in the beautiful tropical setting of Costa Rica. We guarantee you will come away from the course a better scientist with new skills and ideas to carry into your future research.

Coordinator: Mary Jamieson y Hollis Woodard
Course duration:
6 weeks (June 8 – July 19, 2015)
Credits: 6 credits awarded by the University of Costa Rica
Application deadline: March 1, 2015; followed by rolling admission until course is full.

Details ( PDF document 1.47 Mb )
Application form ( Word document 295 Kb )

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Tropical Plant Systematics

Offered in even–numbered years, this course emphasizes a strong conceptual foundation in phylogenetic systematics in an intensive field setting. The course travels to diverse habitats around Costa Rica, from cloud forest and paramo to tropical dry forest and Atlantic lowland rain forest.

Coordinator: Mauricio Bonifacino & Amanda Grusz
Course duration: 5 weeks (June 11 – July 13,2014)
Credits: 6 credits awarded by the University of Costa Rica
Early Application Deadline: November 8, 2013
Final Application Deadline: February 7, 2014; followed by rolling admission until course is full.

Details ( PDF document 1.2 mb )
Application form ( Word document 295 kb )

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Sistematica de Plantas Tropicales

Este curso, es una réplica en español del curso Tropical Plant Systematics. El curso hace énfasis en la sistemática filogenética conceptual en un entorno intensivo a través de trabajo en el campo. El curso viaja a diversos sitios en Costa Rica con el objetivo de visitar diferentes hábitats, del bosque nuboso, al paramo, al bosque seco estacional, hasta el bosque tropical húmedo bajo del Atlántico. El curso brinda la oportunidad a estudiantes de posgrado latinoamericanos de participar en un curso intensivo en sistemática de plantas sin importar la institución de la cual provengan. Sin embargo estudiantes estadounidenses de provenientes de institución miembro que deseen participar lo pueden hacer. Becas parciales disponibles.

Coordinador: Mario Blanco
Duración del curso: 5 semanas (30 de junio a 3 de agosto, 2015)
Créditos: 6 créditos otorgados por la Universidad de Costa Rica
Fecha límite de matrícula: 6 de febrero del 2015
Coordinadores: Mario Blanco, Universidad de Costa Rica.  Lucas Majure, Desert Botanical Garden, Arizona. USA
Application form ( Word document 295 kb )

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Last Updated ( 02/05/15 )
Organization for Tropical Studies
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