Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Center for Global Education


Organization for Tropical Studies

Posted on July 22, 2010


The Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) program in affiliation with Duke University is a non-profit consortium of 64 universities that was founded in 1963. OTS' mission is to provide leadership in education, research, and the responsible use of natural resources in the tropics. Students that participate in this program will gain direct exposure to issues in resource management and conservation in developing nations. During the visits to the biological stations, students will get to interact with researchers and graduate students completing doctoral research.


Students will begin the program in San Jose, a bustling city that provides opportunities for students to meet locals and gain a stronger foundation in the language. During the semester students will visit the three OTS‐operated biological stations located throughout Costa Rica. La Selva in the Caribbean rain forest, Palo Verde in the pacific dry forest, and Las Cruces in a mid‐elevation rain forest.


Fall or Spring Semester

Program Dates

Fall Semester: August – December
Spring Semester: January – May

Admission Requirements

Students with a minimum GPA of 2.85. Students must have completed two semesters of college biology and two semesters of college Spanish. Students may fulfill the Spanish prerequisite by enrolling in intensive Spanish prior to the program start date.

Housing & Board

Students live with host families in the beginning of the semester and will stay in dormitory‐ style housing during the visits to the three biological stations throughout Costa Rica. Meals are included with host families and in dormitory‐style housing at the stations.


Wheaton Comprehensive fee. Expenses covered include tuition and fees, housing and board, field station course fees, local transportation, some recreational activities, field and office equipment and some computer services.

Other Expenses

Students are responsible for $500 Administrative fee, passport and visa fees, supplemental study abroad insurance, transcript fee, and personal expenses.


Materials are available in the Center for Global Education.


Make an appointment with Dean Young in the Center for Global Education, ext. 4950. Program details are subject to change at the discretion of Wheaton Center for Global Education.

Courses of Study

Students will take the following 4 courses during a semester with OTS:

Fundamentals of Tropical Biology (BIO 134): This course integrates field and classroom instruction to introduce students to the fundamental principles of tropical ecology. Costa Rica, with its diverse array of tropical ecosystems, provides a perfect context in which to study first hand the biological complexity of the tropics. Field trips and exercises are conducted in lowland and montane forests, seasonal dry forests, and high elevation paramo. Topics covered include taxonomy and natural history of tropical biota, patterns of species diversity, and species interactions in natural ecosystems. Wheaton course designation: Biology 398

Environmental Science and Policy of the Tropics (ENV 129): Incorporating a variety of case studies from the challenges and achievements of conservation efforts in Costa Rica, this course blends global with local perspectives in order to identify and understand environmental issues in developing tropical countries. Field and classroom activities cover diverse topics, including habitat degradation and fragmentation, reserve design and management, national parks and conservation areas, agroecosystems, biological prospecting, ethnobiology, and restoration ecology. Wheaton course designation: Biology 298

Field Research in Tropical Biology (BIO 135L) gives students the opportunity to learn science by doing science. Lectures and faculty‐led projects introduce the principles of hypothesis formation, experimental design, sampling, and the application of basic statistics to the interpretation of data. As part of the course, students work closely with resident professors in the design, implementation, interpretation, and presentation of their own research project in field ecology. Students have the opportunity to engage in group learning activities as well as complete individual work. Wheaton course designation: Biology 398

Spanish Language and Latin American Culture (SP 62 or SP102) runs intensively during the initial three weeks of the program. The chief goals are to expand vocabulary and conversational skills, strengthen grammar, and introduce key social, cultural, and environmental issues in Costa Rica. The curriculum consists of dynamic classroom discussions, supplemented by listening, writing and reading exercises. Students attended formal classes up to five hours a day and live with a Costa Rican family. Wheaton course designation: Hispanic Studies 298

For more information about the OTS program, visit their website.

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