My Time in Costa Rica- Seth Phillips

My name is Seth and I am an Anthropology major at the University of California at Santa Cruz. As an aspiring Anthropologist, I have a keen interest in human evolution and our ancestors. More specifically, I’ve had an interest in studying primates for several years now. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find outlets to pursue primatology as an undergraduate student. So when my advisor passed along an email from DANTA advertising the Methods in Primate Behavior and Conservation course, I became ecstatic at the opportunity.


Upon acceptance, I allowed my imagination to wander with the possibilities of my upcoming adventure. I can say with full honesty that my experience with DANTA in Costa Rica exceeded my expectations. In fact, I’ve had a hard time recounting my experience to friends and family because I get so excited and overwhelmed by all the details of my trip. The Osa Peninsula (where the research station is located) represents about 2.5% of the biodiversity of the world. However, it only accounts for .00000085% of our planet’s surface area. That is the explanation I give to people when I try to explain why it is difficult to talk about specific, unique experiences. There were too many unique experiences I had with an astounding variety of plants and animals!


Some general experiences that stand out to me include cataloging the behavior of four species of new world monkeys, transferring sea turtle eggs to a hatchery, daily hikes through the rainforest, horseback riding on the beach, learning about the various species of plants and animals that we encountered, observing the milky way on a clear night sky, and being welcomed into/learning about the indigenous Boruca community of Costa Rica.

One thing I would like to highlight about my trip was the social aspect. During my stay at the Piro research station, I was surrounded by students, researchers, and employees of various backgrounds. Everyone was united by our common enthusiasm for the environment surrounding us. The individuals working on conservation at Osa Conservation’s Piro research station are some of the most inspirational people I have ever encountered. I will never forget them. Our leader, Kimberly Dingess, was of the same caliber. As a highly experienced behavioral ecologist, the information and experiences Kim imparted on us were invaluable. It is the combined impact of these people and the inspiration of seeing this extraordinary environment firsthand that has led me to consider a career in conservation.


The social bonds that I formed with my fellow classmates are especially important to me as well.  We had so much fun together and I look forward to encountering my new friends again. I’m confident that anyone who enrolls in a DANTA course will find themselves surrounded by like-minded and inspiring individuals.


It is one thing to study about primates in a book or to observe them in a zoo.  It is a very different experience to actually witness a monkey behaving in its natural habitat. I learned so much on my trip and that knowledge has led to my growth as an individual and aspiring primatologist (and now conservationist). Before my trip was halfway over, I was already plotting a way to return to the Osa Peninsula. I hope to make it back very soon!


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