Costa Rica is a well-known conservation success story—and yet, many protected species, such as the leatherback sea turtle, jaguar, and Harpy eagle, remain on the brink of extinction.
All GVI study abroad programs have a 6 week duration, but students will only be in country conducting field work on community or conservation projects for 2 weeks.
During the travel portion of the course, you will choose a species of interest and gather as much information about it as possible using all available resources. These include direct observation of the animal in its natural habitat, interviews with scientists and other experts, interviews with local people who may or may not interact with it, as well as surveying documentation detailing the threats to its survival. In the process, you will discover that conservation is more than a science; it is a decision-making process influenced by many factors, including our motivation to take action.
Some of the questions we will address during this course include:
What concepts, theories, and methods inform our research and debates about endangered species, the sixth mass extinction, conservation, and human impacts on the natural world?
How and by whom are conservation biology and ecology research studies conducted? How are the results applied to conservation?
How do we decide what species and/or ecosystems merit conservation?
What does the term “conservation” mean in the Costa Rican context? In what ways might this definition in other countries?
What species have been successfully protected in Costa Rica and why did the effort succeed? What are the measures of conservation success; of failure?
What are some ways you can use art to help more people understand how interdependent we are on other animals and that our continued success depends on a diverse and healthy animal kingdom?
How can we use art to motivate others to find new ways to ease conflict and restore damaged habitats? To encourage people to share resources with other species? For example, we can pay farmers for their losses or build fences, hire more rangers to stop poachers, invest in parks and reserves, and educate those who live in closest proximity how to live in balance with wildlife.
How can art informed by science engage more people in conservation? What are some examples?
The final assignment is a written paper accompanied by original artwork, designed to make the need to save species more real, meaningful, accessible, and achievable. You will gain skills in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting scientific data, and in visualizing and communicating science.