Written by Michael Rouleau
Willimantic, Conn. - This past May, 14 students from Eastern Connecticut State University took a 12-day field course in Costa Rica to study tropical biology. The trip focused on the basic aspects of tropical rainforest ecology and the natural history of tropical organisms.
This course is among Eastern's most prominent global field courses, and has been offered by the Biology Department since 1968. "The trip to Costa Rica was an incredible experience," said Jackie Lagasse '14, a biochemistry major from Colchester. "I had the opportunity to conduct research in a completely new ecosystem with guidance from three outstanding professors."
Amid their research, students worked in small groups to complete projects and discussed literature relating to tropical rainforest ecosystems. Other topics observed during the trip included the peculiarities of tropical agriculture, the socioeconomic consequences of development in the tropics, and tropical ecosystem conservation. "The research completed this year was of the highest quality and reflects the academic excellence of participating students," said faculty advisor and Biology Professor Patricia Szcyzs.
The group also enjoyed a tour of Costa Rica, where they hiked on the base of an active volcano, visited a pineapple plantation, an abandon cacao (chocolate) plantation and the premier tropical biology research station in the Western Hemisphere, La Selva Biological Research Station.
"Roughly half the students were seniors, and the experience served as a capstone to their Eastern careers," said Szczys. "We had a great trip!" Lagasse concluded with, "The trip introduced me to new organisms, new research opportunities, and a new sense on what it means to study biology."