Field Course: The Osa Peninsula: Conservation in Action

Course Description: The Osa Peninsula is one of the last pristine rainforest areas in Costa Rica, and an ideal location to learn best methods in field research and conservation. Approximately 50% of the course is devoted to hands-on teaching of practical field skills, 30% to learning about local threats to biodiversity and observing conservation initiatives in action, and 20% to developing an independent project that teaches participants how to pitch a conservation program grounded in research.

Participants spend the majority of their time in the field, learning by doing, taking full advantage of the amazing diversity that surrounds them. Evenings consist of downtime, short lectures, and discussions of select articles. A primary goal of this field course is to impart skills that will benefit participants in any natural environment they choose to work. We will focus on habituated groups of squirrel monkeys, capuchins, howlers and spider monkeys on site. Students will also be able to participate in Osa Conservation’s sea turtle breeding and monitoring program, for a different conservation perspective.

As such, in theory this course could be taught anywhere, but it shouldn?t be. The Osa Peninsula covers < .0001% of the earth?s surface, and yet it contains an estimated 2.5% of the biodiversity of the world. Osa was once an island in the Pacific that eventually merged with mainland Costa Rica around 2 million years ago, which is the reason for ~323 species of plants and vertebrates that occur nowhere else in the world. At the same time, Costa Rica is an ecotourism hotspot for the entire world. Tourism is by far the countries greatest economic sector and source of capital, and there are few holdouts of undisturbed forest left. During this course students will learn how local activism takes place from start to finish and is directly responsible for protecting pristine habitat like the Osa Peninsula. You will also have a chance to contribute to the broader discussion on how to put information in the hands of the people that matter.

Course Highlights:During this course you will:

-Find and follow wild primate troupes, characterizing the extent of their home range and collecting precious biological samples that can be used for downstream DNA, hormone, dietary, parasite analyses

-Contribute to a long-term sea turtle conservation program and tropical plant reforestation effort

-Learn to enter, traverse, and exit the rainforest safely with a GPS and compass, an essential survival skill for an aspiring field biologist

-Collect and manipulate spatial data, creating your own map of the station and records of where you have been and what you have documented throughout the course

-Gain proficiency in plant and insect identification. The two most challenging taxonomic groups for field biologists

-Try your hand at using radio telemetry to track wild animals. The same technology that is used all over the world to learn where large cats, bears, wolves, tapirs, birds, snakes, etc., are spending their time.

-Craft a conservation program from scratch and learn to pitch it to different stakeholders.

Course Topics:We aspire for all participants who complete FPI field course to be prepared and able to conduct future research and/or conservation activities on their own or as part of a team. As such, there are fundamental skills and standards that we expect all participants to achieve with us. These include:

-Maintenance of an organized field notebook
-Forest navigation and orienteering whether on or off trail
-Animal tracking
-Documenting animal behavior
-Maintaining a wildlife sightings list and performing species identifications
-Instruction related to the specific focus of this course will include:

-Animal censusing and monitoring techniques
-Plant taxonomy and identification
-Insect taxonomy and identification
-Examples of animal-plant inter-dependencies
-Grassroots biodiversity conservation

Qualifications: There are a few simple requirements to determine eligibility for this course:

-You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of the course.
-You must have medical insurance, and provide proof of such insurance to us to complete your reservation.
-We have no citizenship requirements. Anyone is welcome to apply. You must obtain visas independently if necessary.
-You do not need any training in biology – our course is structured to accommodate people from a variety of backgrounds.
-Courses have a maximum capacity of 12 participants. If you are concerned that you will lose your spot, please contact us to confirm how many spots we have left.

Salary/funding: The fee for this course is $2500 and includes the following:

-Food and lodging for the entire course.
-Travel from Puerto Jiménez to Piro BioStation
-Experienced instructors and field equipment.

This course fee does NOT include:

-International travel to and from San Juan, Costa Rica.
-Domestic travel from San Juan to Puerto Jimenez
-Travel or health insurance (proof of health insurance is required for course attendance).
-Rubber boots, binoculars, flashlight and insect repellent (all of which are required to take this course).
Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging): There are two ways to obtain financial assistance for attending this field course. You may participate in both of these programs simultaneously as follows:

Scholarships: This year, we are offering two scholarships to attend this course, one targeting a Costa Rican citizen and the other open to applicants of other nationalities. For the application details please visit our scholarships page (

Fundraising: FPI can now provide a peer-to-peer crowd funding platform for all field course students. You will be able to make your own fundraising page to share with your contacts and social networks. At the end of the fundraising period, FPI will issue a discount code to you for 100% of the funds that you have raised. You would then enter this code as you make your final course payment. If you raise enough to cover all (or part) of your initial reservation fee, you would be refunded that portion as well. Please note that funds raised in excess of your program fees will be rolled into our scholarship fund. Also, if you withdraw from the course at any time, your donors cannot get a refund. In this case, all of those funds would also roll over into our scholarship fund for other students. To set up this option, please register for a course, first, and then contact us at to set up your fundraising page.