About Costa Rica REU

ECOHYDROLOGY OF TROPICAL MONTANE FORESTS – DIVERSITY IN SCIENCE, INTERDISCIPLINARY BREADTH, AND GLOBAL AWARENESS

The goal of this Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) is to: 

1)     Provide a firsthand international research experience for undergraduate students within the montane forests at the TAMU Soltis Center and other locations within Costa Rica in collaboration with Costa Rican students.

2)     Foster a learning community to improve skills in critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration through participation in basic and applied field-based research.

3)     Increase awareness of the interconnection between forests, water, and people and the impacts of forest and water management on water supply and local communities.

4)     Provide students with a cultural experience that compliments and further develops their research by allowing students to “Enter the Community”.

5)     Demonstrate the importance of diversity in science that encourages students to openness of thought and empirical breadth.

Eight students per program participate in a hands-on 10-week research experience to characterize the gradient of water, climate, and biodiversity in the watershed of a tropical montane forest in central Costa Rica. The students will be under the guidance of twelve Texas A&M University faculty from the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Civil Engineering, and Geosciences, alongside faculty and students at institutions in Costa Rica. Students will spend a total of 5 weeks at the Texas A&M Soltis Center for Research and Education near San Isidro in central Costa Rica and the remaining time on campus at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

The REU site provides a unique international opportunity for students to be immersed in the practice of active inquiry and research! Students utilize natural climate gradients from lowland rainforests to high-elevation cloud forests to characterize land-atmosphere interactions that impact the forest, water, and people. Recent evidence suggests that projected temperature increases over land and sea will lead to decreased cloud cover and altered precipitation regimes in Central America. Deforestation of lowland rainforest can further reduce cloud and fog, which amplifies drought, alters forest structure, and reduces stream flows crucial for dry-season water supplies to downstream users.

The program is designed to provide crosscutting understanding of the interactions among biophysical processes, water management, and human impacts in a regional-to-global context. REU students will observe how water from the mountains affect agriculture and society in the valley below via cultural exchanges and service learning projects. These experiences will provide them with global competences, which include the ability to live and work effectively in a diverse and global society, and articulate the value of a diverse and global perspective.

Applicants must be US citizens or permanent residents, have a demonstrated interest in at least one of the areas of research of the REU, and have an expected baccalaureate-level graduation date of no earlier than December of the REU year. Students are generally expected to have completed either (a) an introductory level earth science course (e.g., Physical Geography, Geology, Biology, Ecology, Hydrology) and at least one upper-division course in earth science, ecology, or water resources (generally geosciences students), or (b) an introductory-level physical science course (e.g., Chemistry or Physics) and one semester of calculus (generally pre-engineering students).

Under new leadership, this REU will build upon the success of a previous REU at the same location. In the programs that occurred in 2011, 2012 and 2013, 30 students had the opportunity to conduct original field research with faculty mentors at the TAMU Soltis Center.