This article was originally published in the fall 2014 Harker Quarterly.
In late July, 10 upper school students embarked on a summer research trip to Costa Rica, where they had the unique opportunity to perform field research with working scientists and experience the country’s lush beauty.
After spending a relaxing first day in the Costa Rican capital city of San José, the group departed for the La Cusinga Lodge in Uvita. While walking on the beach, the students also were fortunate enough to observe a sea turtle laying her eggs. “They got to observe the entire process up close and we were able to get back to the lodge by 10 p.m.,” said upper school chemistry teacher and trip chaperone Smriti Koodanjeri.
The next day was packed with thrills, as the students went river and ocean kayaking before jumping into the water with snorkeling equipment. “We did more kayaking after the swim and also learned how to find, shuck and open coconuts with only a large stick and a rock,” Koodanjeri said. That evening, the students attended a lecture about how geographic information systems (GIS) are used to keep tabs on marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.
Over the next few days, the students worked on their research projects at Cabo Blanco Natural Reserve and the Monteverde Institute. At Cabo Blanco, the students went on a guided snorkeling exhibition and took part in a field research exercises, where they collected and identified shells and used the data collected to estimate the number of snail species in the area. “The controlled collection and analysis took most of the afternoon and was an excellent introduction into drawing quantitative conclusions even with a limited data set,” Koodanjeri said.
At the Monteverde Institute, the students analyzed the data they had gathered at Cabo Blanco and used it to create research projects that they later presented at a small conference. For their hard work, the students each received a certificate from the University of Georgia, which has a campus in Monteverde.
On their final night, the students went hiking through the Tirimbina rainforest.