Tropical & Environmental Studies Spring Semester

Tropical & Environmental Studies at CIAPA
San José, Costa Rica
Spring Semester 2015

APPLY HERE: Office of Study Abroad

Tulane’s Tropical and Environmental Studies program in San José, Costa Rica is the newest study abroad program to take place at the CIAPA campus. This semester-long program is focused on environmental issues in the tropics., Students will have the opportunity to take Tulane classes in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EBIO), Earth and Environmental Sciences (EENS), Latin American Studies (LAST) Political Science (POLS), and Spanish (SPAN).
Building upon Tulane’s reputation as one of the top institutions to study Latin America, this program seeks to attract students with an interest and preparation in environmental studies, with a particular focus on the issues of sustainability and resilience in tropical environments using Costa Rica as the case study. Given the rising human population and its global impacts including climate change, science and social science research are increasingly focusing on sustainability issues such as food security, urban development, and the conservation of biological diversity. This new program aims to prepare students to participate in the interdisciplinary research that is increasingly in demand by funding agencies and sustainability planners.

CIAPA Campus
The program will take place at Tulane’s CIAPA campus, which is located about 20 minutes by car from the center of San José in the suburbs of Curridabat. Surrounded by green areas in a quiet neighborhood, within sight of old coffee farms, it provides a suitable environment for contemplation and studying. Yet, it is easily accessible by public transportation to most metropolitan amenities and major universities such as the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Universidad Autónoma de Centro América. All students and faculty will be housed at the CIAPA facility which can accommodate a total of 24 students in comfortable, semi-private double rooms. The faculty will also be housed on campus. There is a full-time administrative, support and security staff at the facility.

Program & Courses
The program offers 15 course credits in EBIO, EENS, POLA, LAST, and SPAN as well as courses in each of the four required core areas for majors in Environmental Studies (EVS): Distribution and Conservation of Living Things, Landscapes and Seascapes through Time, Problems and Potentialities of Built Environments, and Environmental Thought, Practice, and Policy. All courses count as electives toward the Latin American Studies major. Latin American Studies will also waive one of the three 6000 level required course for completion of the program.

Classes will be taught by Tulane faculty. There will be extensive field work to accompany the courses in the various field stations and natural reserves in Costa Rica such as INBIO, Earth U and La Selva Biological Research Station. In addition, students will visit locations such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica, various government agencies, and institutions and organizations in San José and the surrounding areas. There also will be community service opportunities available for students. This program represents a great opportunity to add a major or minor in Environmental Studies, International Development, or Latin American Studies.

EENS 4080: Geology, Geography, and the Environment in Costa Rica (3 credits)
Profs. George Flowers & Stephen Nelson. This course provides an overview of the physiography, geology, and climate of Costa Rica. Particular emphasis is given to the formation of Costa Rica as a result of plate tectonics, as well as creation of the modern Costa Rican landscape. Development of Isthmus of Panama resulted in significant environmental changes, such as the connection of North and South America, restriction of circulation between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, climate change, and migration of species between the two continents. This course systematically examines each of these phenomena and provides students with a basic understanding of the Costa Rican landscape and environment.

EBIO 4660-15: Tropical Conservation and Global Change (3 credits) NOTE: No prerequisites; serves as lecture elective for EE Biology, Environmental Biology, Environmental Studies, and Environmental Science majors.
Prof. Thomas Sherry. This course takes advantage of location in the tropics (Costa Rica) to address and explore in depth the major causes and consequences of global environmental change, with an emphasis on the stakes for high-diversity tropical countries. The course will include an introduction to the tropics (range of environments, linked to soil types, and geography), distinctiveness of tropical biological diversity, global change impacts in the tropics (particularly species extirpations, altered land cover and nutrient cycles, invasive species, overhunting, urbanization, and forest fragmentation), hydrology and aquatic/marine aspects of tropical environments, tropical agriculture, ecotourism, fire ecology, and ecological restoration. The course will emphasize, but not be restricted to tropical Latin America and the Caribbean, and will address both environmental challenges and solutions.

LAST 3130: Sustainable Living in Central America (3 credits)
Professor Claire Sheller. This course will examine current methods in sustainable building, agriculture and living at both the community and individual level. Students will travel to large-scale organic agricultural projects as well as family-run subsistence farms to learn hands on how to apply appropriate technology and sustainable living techniques. The geography and climate of Central America present special challenges to living sustainably as well as providing a host of advantages over other regions of the world. In both Nicaragua and Costa Rica, students will participate in small-scale sustainable building projects and agriculture. Specifically, students will learn how to construct gray-water systems, plant phytoremediation gardens, and put together mini-biodigesters for gas production and compost. Students will keep a travel journal of their experiences.

POLA 4230: Environmental Politics and Policy (3 credits)
Prof. Ludovico Feoli. This course will focus on the difficulties of arriving at societal decisions that adequately manage environmental resources. Its focus will be on the politics of the environment, how conflicting interests interact and arrive at decisions, or the lack of decisions, that bear upon the environment. It will examine the structural factors that militate against collective action, like asymmetries of information and mismatched time horizons. These factors are especially prevalent with environmental goods (and bads). To understand this, the course will focus on the theory of public goods, externalities, and common pool resources. It will also examine the different groups that contend to define environmental policy, including state regulators, industry, environmentalists and other non-governmental organizations, the scientific community, and the general public. The course will survey solutions that have been proposed to deal with environmental problems, both based on state regulation and market mechanisms, and assess their track records. It will examine what we know about institutions and their ability to manage environmental change and foster sustainable development. Finally, to capitalize on the program’s location the course will examine Costa Rica’s environmental policies since the 1970s, contrasting the country’s successes and failures. It will analyze the country’s environmental footprint and how it has evolved, highlighting the challenges of balancing a country’s energy and production needs with a sustainable use of its environmental resources. This final aspect of the course will draw on contributions from local NGOs, academics and policy-makers.

SPAN 1010, 1020, 1120, 2030, 2040, 3040 or 3140 (depending on student placement) (3 credits)
On-Site CIAPA Language Teaching Staff: While none of the program courses requires research or writing in Spanish, students at any proficiency level can benefit from the excellent intensive language instruction and constant opportunities for practice with native speakers that CIAPA offers. Students will engage in four weeks of intensive Spanish instruction designed to enrich the field experiences and facilitate a deeper engagement with Costa Rican society while earning Tulane credit.

This unique program will be conducted by six members of Tulane’s highly regarded faculty in the areas of Latin American and Environmental Studies.

Ludovico Feoli (POLA)
Ludovico Feoli is the director of the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research (CIPR) and a Research Associate Professor in the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Department of Political Science at Tulane University. His research interests include the political economy of market reforms in Latin America, institutions and institutional change, and the quality of governance. He is currently the executive director of the Centro de Investigación y Adiestramiento Político Administrativo, CIAPA, in San José, Costa Rica. He has served as country expert for the Bertelsmann Transformation Index and a researcher for the Proyecto Estado de la Nación in Costa Rica. He received his PhD in Political Science from Tulane University in 2007.

George Flowers (EENS)
George Flowers has served as the Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Tulane for 6 years. He is also the major advisor for the Environmental Science-Earth Science major at Tulane. His research focuses the fate and transport of pollutants in the environment, including urban settings and wetlands. He has extensive experience travelling and studying in Latin America, particularly investigating the weathering, development, and geochemistry of tropical soils.

Stephen Nelson (EENS)
Stephen Nelson is an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Tulane University. He came to Tulane University in 1979 and served as department Chair from 1994 to 2000 and from 2003 to 2012. While at Tulane he has taught courses in physical geology, mineralogy, petrology, natural disasters, and physics of the Earth. His research has been involved with the geology and petrology of Mexican volcanoes, thermodynamics of silicate liquids, hazards associated with volcanic eruptions, and, more recently levee breaches that occurred during Hurricane Katrina. Since November of 2005, he has been leading field trips to the levee breaches in an effort to educate the New Orleans community and visitors from outside New Orleans on what happened during Hurricane Katrina from a geologic perspective. He is fluent in Spanish and is a member of the Geological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, the Geochemical Society, and the New Orleans Geological Society. In 2009, he received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies.

Claire Sheller , Resident Director (ANTH/LAST)
Claire Sheller is the Resident Director of the Tropical and Environmental Studies Spring Semester at CIAPA and instructor of LAST 3130 Sustainable Living in Central America. Ms. Sheller is an advanced PhD student and Instructor in the Anthropology department at Tulane University. She came to Tulane as a student of biological anthropology and primatology in the fall of 2007 and studies under Dr. Katharine Jack. Ms. Sheller’s research focuses on the social behavior and ecology of white-faced capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica, specifically the effects of pubertal hormones on individual behavior and the sex-biased socialization of juveniles and infants. She teaches a wide variety of courses at Tulane from GESS to EVST to ANTH. She has worked in Central and South America since 2002, doing behavioral primate research as well as projects in sustainable development agriculture and building, conservation, and tropical forest ecology. Ms. Sheller is a fluent Spanish speaker and a member of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and the American and International Societies of Primatologists

Thomas Sherry (EBIO)
Thomas Sherry studies the population ecology, evolution, and conservation of birds, particularly (1) birds that migrate long distances between tropical and temperate ecosystems (so-called Neotropical-Nearctic migrants), based on long-term studies in Jamaica, New Hampshire, and Louisiana; and (2) resident tropical birds in response to forest loss and fragmentation, especially in Central America. Some questions under investigation in the lab concern why animals migrate, what demographic factors (birth and death rates, dispersal) and related ecological factors control animal populations, why and to what extent tropical organisms are ecologically specialized, and what consequences animal traits like migration and specialization have for vulnerability to human global change phenomena.

Constantino Urcuyo, Academic Director, CIAPA
Constantino Urcuyo is the Academic Director of the Centro de Investigación y Adiestramiento Político Administrativo (CIAPA) in San José, Costa Rica and a tenured professor in the School of Political Science at the University of Costa Rica. He received his doctorate in political sociology from the University of Paris V, Sorbonne, in 1978 and also holds a law degree from the University of Costa Rica. He has served as political advisor in numerous electoral campaigns and is an active political consultant. He also appears frequently in the news media and writes a regular column for the Costa Rican weekly “El Financiero”. Most recently he served as a member of the blue ribbon panel appointed by the president of Costa Rica to recommend reforms that could improve the country’s governance. His academic interests include democracy and democratization, international relations, civil-military relations, and political theory. He is the author of many books and scholarly articles including “The Relationship between Civilians and the Military in Latin America”, “Más Democracia”, “El Papel de las Elecciones en los Procesos de Transición a la Democracia” and others.

Admission Requirements
  • A minimum 3.0 Cumulative GPA,
  • Some Spanish language ability recommended but not required
  • A completed application at Tulane’s Office of Study Abroad.

Field Trips and Extracurricular Activities
There will be extensive field work to accompany the courses in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology in the various field stations and natural reserves in Costa Rica such as INBIO, Earth U and La Selva Research Station. In addition, students will visit locations such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica, various government agencies, and institutions and organizations in San José and the surrounding areas.

Program Fee for the Tropical & Environmental Studies Semester

The program fee for the Tropical & Environmental Studies @ CIAPA semester program covers room and board at the CIAPA facility which includes a semi-private room and bathroom, wireless internet service, laundry on-site, two meals per day at the CIAPA facility and special event meals, and group transportation to and from the San José airport. The program fee is $5,600.

Office of Study Abroad
Center for Global Education
6901 Willow St
New Orleans LA 70118
(504) 865-5339