La Selva rainforest in Costa Rica.
Biol 320: International Tropical Field Research (Pt. I)
Led by Assistant Professor of Biology Melinda Fowler and Associate Professor Environmental Biology Justin Compton, Biol 320: International Tropical Field Research is an upper division biology course where students travel to Costa Rica and carry out independent research. Students will be collecting data on a variety of projects they have developed from their own interests, from beetle morphology to soil characteristics to using camera traps to look at sloth abundance. Upon their return the students will be analyzing the data, writing a research paper and preparing to present at Scholars in Action in April. They will travel to two research stations, La Selva and Palo Verde to perform these projects. Melinda Fowler blogs about their time there.


It was a very long day traveling to the La Selva Research Station in Costa Rica, but we were excited to arrive. Our group is 12 biology, health science, and environmental science students, plus 2 biology faculty members. We are currently wrapping up day three of ten in Costa Rica.

We have seen some amazing things by going on a tour of the station, including peccaries, toucans, poison dart frogs, and iguanas, plus much more. After getting our bearings, we set about organizing the student projects. We have several different projects happening. Some students are looking at animal abundance in successional forest plots versus old growth forest. We set up camera traps at these sites to hopefully capture pictures and videos of the animals passing by.

Another group of students is sampling aquatic organisms in a variety of streams, fast and slow flowing, near farms and different types of forests. Yet another group is looking at soil characteristics between successional and old growth forest. And our last group is looking at insect characteristics relative to height from the ground and distance to water.

We've been hard at work starting the sampling. We hope to organize a trip to a nearby banana plantation in the next few days. On January 9, we will travel to Palo Verde Research Station. We also hope to take a trip to see the Arenal Volcano National Park along the way.

We'll update you all again after we get to Palo Verde!

Group arrives at the airport.
The group includes 12 biology, health science, and environmental students.
Students set up camera traps in La Selva.
Some students will be setting up camera traps to look for animal abundance in different forest plots.
Students stand in a stream taking samples.
Students are sampling aquatic organisms in a variety of streams.
Students set up beetle traps.
A group of students will set up beetle traps to research insect characteristics relative to height off the ground and distance to water.

About the author

Melinda Fowler

Melinda Fowler is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Springfield College whose research interests include physiological ecology; investigations of fuel metabolism in fasting marine animals; physiological costs of reproduction in songbirds; and foraging and social behavior in seals, sea lions, and songbirds. Her research has taken her far and wide, across the globe. She currently reports from her trip to Costa Rica with the Bio 230: International Tropical Field Research class. 

Melinda Fowler headshot.