Human Ecology and Tropical Conservation Field Course

Human Ecology and Tropical Conservation

Dates: June 27 – July 10, 2016

Application deadline: May 15, 2016

Program fee: $2300

Instructor: Dr. Janette Wallis

Location: Piro Research Station, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Course Description

This short course is designed to provide students with field experience in a great tropical setting, with an emphasis on current efforts to conserve tropical wildlife and their habitats. As part of this, we will focus on the role of our own species. Human activity can result in both a positive and negative influence on tropical conditions. The course will be held at Osa Conservation’s Piro Research Station in Costa Rica’s spectacular Osa Peninsula. As one of the largest tracts of rain forest north of the Amazon (roughly 400,000 acres in the Osa Conservation Area), it is known for its high species diversity. It is one of only a few places in Costa Rica that has jaguar, puma, sea turtles and four species of monkey (mantled howling monkey, black-handed spider monkey, white-faced capuchin, and squirrel monkey).

The learning experiences for the course fall into five main categories: field exercises, training seminars, lectures, case study discussion, and applied conservation. The field exercises and seminars provide instruction and experience in: (1) methods of measuring environmental variables, including assessment of resource availability, (2) methods of collecting and analyzing the data on biological diversity, (3) methods of interviewing humans and assessing their histories and attitudes about wildlife, and (4) techniques for assessing population health as well as ecosystem health.

Lecture topics will cover several topics of human-wildlife interactions and we will address all aspects – negative and positive – of each. For example, selected lecture topics include: (1) human use of resources – detrimental and sustainable, (2) deforestation – the ecological consequences and the economic benefits, (3) tourism – the effects on the environment and the financial gains, and (4) hunting and fishing – the effects on wildlife population numbers and the nutritional and economic benefits to humans. We will also address the impact of climate change and global politics, when relevant.

During the course participants will also have opportunity to see an active volcano and take a short hike through montane cloud forest during our visit to Volcan Poas National Park in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. In addition, we will visit a sustainable chocolate plantation, and take a boat tour of the Golfo Dulce for dolphin viewing and snorkeling. We overnight on the Boruca Indigenous Reserve where we will learn about the community and their traditional ways of interacting with their environment. All in-country travel is in cooperation with Planet Conservation, our sustainable travel partner. Every effort is made to implement eco-friendly and socially responsible practices into our day-to-day operations, field courses and overall mission.

Enrollment is limited to 15 students. The course is open to both credit and non-credit seeking students. University credit can be arranged through your home institution.



Dr. Janette Wallis received her Ph.D. in an interdisciplinary planned program, which combined zoology, psychology, and anthropology, from the University of Oklahoma. She currently teaches wildlife conservation courses for the University of Oklahoma. She is the Vice President for Conservation for the International Primatological Society and serves as co-Vice Chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group’s Africa Section. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of African Primates, a Primate Specialist Group journal. She served as the Coordinator for Chimpanzee Research at Gombe Stream Research Centre (Tanzania) from 1990-1994 and the Director of Behavioral Research at the University of Oklahoma’ El Reno Science Park from 1998-2003. She was a founding faculty member of the American University of Nigeria (2005-2009), establishing the country’s first program on natural science and conservation biology. She is the Director of the Kasokwa Forest Project, a small forest fragment in Uganda that is home to chimpanzees, baboons, and several other wildlife species. Research at the site focuses on behavioral ecology, reproduction, conservation, and human-wildlife interactions. She has taught field courses in Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea and Ecuador.

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