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Shannon Nikki Pelkey
Monday, December 21, 2015

My name is Shannon Pelkey, but I go by Nikki. I am a freshman at KU studying Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Organismal Biology and Environmental Studies. I also am interested in becoming fluent in French! Hopefully this trip to Costa Rica will give me a chance to explore the Spanish language and gain experience in field research, biology, and conservation. I chose this study abroad trip to experience a new culture and learn the basics of being a biologist, so I can get a glimpse of my future career. I am inspired by nature and people, and I feel like we have not lived in harmony with the earth for some time. I want to educate governments and people in conservation and sustainability so that we do not drive ourselves off this planet we are destroying. Although space travel would be extremely cool, I would rather have a future more like the television series Star Trek than the movie Interstellar! This time spent in Costa Rica will hopefully give me new knowledge and experiences so I can gain skills and make a few good memories along the way.

Tracey Funk
Monday, December 21, 2015

My name is Tracey Funk and I am a freshman at KU studying Biology.  I have always been interested in ecology and enjoy spending time outdoors. Participating in the Field Biology program in Costa Rica will give me an opportunity to develop my research skills and experience true fieldwork. I am especially looking forward to seeing a cloud forest firsthand and learning more about the dynamics in the unique ecosystem. My favorite aspect of ecology is exploring the relationships between different organisms. While in Costa Rica, I hope to compare and contrast the relationships in tropical ecosystems to those in the prairie ecosystems I am familiar with in Kansas.

Xiaomin Zhou
Monday, December 21, 2015

Hello! My name is Xiaomin Zhou and I currently study Molecular Biosciences at the University of Kansas. I am participating in the Costa Rica field biology program for the unique opportunity to expand my class-based Biology background with new experiences: living in the ecosystem, observing the live plants and animals, learning about species interactions, and the classification and identification of characters. During this course, I hope to gain insight into fieldwork and field research to broaden my understanding and appreciation of biodiversity, while exploring the tropical environments of Costa Rica. I also look forward to learning more about Central American culture because I study the Spanish language.

Delaney Bates
Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hello! I am Delaney Bates, and I am an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major (junior) at the University of Kansas. I plan to pursue a career in medicine. Traveling the world has always been a dream of mine, and being in Costa Rica is surreal. I first studied abroad in France and Spain when I was 15 years old; I have been craving to travel abroad again. This Costa Rica program allows me to explore biological research, expand my knowledge of organisms in their natural environment, and develop field research skills while immersing myself in an unfamiliar culture and country. Studying abroad at the University of Kansas has been an ambition of mine, and I’m ecstatic to fulfill this goal in Costa Rica. 

Hebron Kelecha
Sunday, December 20, 2015

My name is Hebron Kelecha and I am a senior studying Biochemistry and minoring in Economics. I am originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and raised primarily in Gardner, Kansas. This trip really interested me because it was different than any other research I have conducted. Having primarily done cancer biology and other biomedical research, I wanted to get the chance to try something different, and have heard nothing but great feedback from students who went. This trip also gave me the chance to finally study abroad before I graduate. I hope this trip continues to affirm my love for research while also challenging me. I can't wait to explore the culture and all that Costa Rica has to offer.

Jake Kaufmann
Sunday, July 19, 2015

monteverde forestI am constantly astounded by the amount and diversity of nature in Costa Rica. As I vigorously attempt to record the bright colors and structure of plants, animals and insects in my sketchpad, the group scurries along to the next feature of the cloud forest and I am left to wonder at the thriving ecosystem that surrounds me. Attempting to recreate the beautiful scenery is proving more challenging than I thought due to its impressive variety.

“[He] will go mad if the wonders do not cease,” said Alexander Von Humboldt of his fellow traveller on their journey to South America in the 19th century. I can see why upon entering forests such as Zurqui and Monteverde. The abundance of vegetation is an overwhelming indicator of life. Upon closer inspection, the inner workings of a tropical climate emerge from leaf rolls, bromeliads and other popular insect hang- outs. I have chosen to capture my experience of Costa Rica primarily through photography, rather than sketches, due to its timely and accurate sensibilities. There is simply too much to render with just pencil sketches.

This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the investigative qualities of sketching the nature around me. So much is lost behind the lense of the camera if one doesn’t stop to have an intimate understanding of the plants and insects. Dr. Chaboo encourages us to fondle the plants, which may sound peculiar, yet this practice allows us to understand the texture, taste and smell of various plants that we would otherwise not fully comprehend.

Before arriving in Costa Rica, I only had a vague understanding of what a cloud forest could be like. I did not appreciate how unique tropical areas such as Costa Rica are until I squished the damp earth below my boots, cracked open the stem of a zingiberale or collected beetle specimens. We are studying one of the most diverse areas on the planet, considered by some as the apex of creation. I may be mad with wonder, but it only motivates me to keep searching. -Jake Kaufmann

Caroline Chaboo
Monday, July 13, 2015

Well-marked trails at Monteverde
Cloud and mist define "cloud" forest
The 2015 KU class at Monteverde

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Caroline Chaboo
Monday, July 13, 2015

Anyone wanting to participate in a field expedition must have a spirit for adventure, adaptability, and curiosity. Any travel takes one out of the familiar comfort zone; but if a participant is not happy, it negatively affects the entire group.  My task in selecting participants is tough, trying to determine the above qualities and the fit with the group (both for travel and in teams collecting data).  The biggest test comes usually with the first day of hiking —are you physically fit to hike for several hours?  Or, with the first rainfall—will you complain when we get caught in the rain?  Some students daydream of doing international fieldwork, but only when we try it out can we be sure that long hours with wet clothes and a soggy lunch are trivial compared to the exhilaration of being in the field, doing field research.  Fieldwork is not for every biologist; it is okay.....and okay to learn this sooner than later.

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
Fieldwork goes on, rain or shine!
Daneil taking a break for lunch, during a shower
KU students in thermal spring pool, Costa Rica

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John Kaiser
Friday, June 26, 2015

Note: this post is one of dozens written by students participating in a 2015 field course in Costa Rica. The entire series is here

As an Army brat, the concept of home is an idea that differs drastically from the views held by many of my classmates. Since the day I was born, my family has moved around to countless different locations, stayed a few months to possibly a few years, then packed up everything and left. As such, a single location that I can call home is completely foreign to me.

Take, for example, this new place that I am living at now. It’s an army base in Wiesbaden, Germany, a place that I have never seen before in my life. My dog is here, all the stuff that I decided not to bring to college is here, and even my family whom I have not seen in over ten months is here. I’ve lived here for less time than I’ve lived in Costa Rica, yet I already consider this place to be my home. When I told this to several of my classmates, they found this to be absolutely implausible. How could a home be a place I’d never seen before? To me, I’ve always found a home to be a place that makes me comfortable, a place that I can come home to after a hard day and just relax.

This brings me to my trip in Costa Rica. 

Every single day I would undergo some new thrill, some new adventure that very few people get the opportunity to enjoy, from playing with local dogs that randomly decided to include us in their pack, to spotting a sloth on a walk down to the beach, all the way to discovering how some of the best coffee in the Western Hemisphere is prepared. Although I was given the opportunity to do this, a new discovery or adventure is nothing without people to uncover it with.

My classmates were without a doubt an important part of this voyage, from their roles in uncovering exciting new sights out in the wild to being roommates for two straight weeks. Although many wanted to get out of Costa Rica by the end of the two weeks, I was ready to stick it through for quite a while more. Costa Rica had become a place of new friends, vast stores of knowledge and countless adventures. Which brings me back to the ultimate point of this blog post; Costa Rica had become, without a doubt, my home for the past two weeks.

Vickie Grotbeck
Friday, June 26, 2015

Note: this post is one of dozens written by students participating in a 2015 field course in Costa Rica. The entire series is here

My experiences in Costa Rica were unforgettable. I have learned much about myself, the world, and about field biology. The past two weeks have been not only incredibly informative, but lots of fun as well.

Field biology is vigorous; it really makes you realize your limits. Getting muddy and hiking on rather steep trails is difficult. Going off trail to collect specimens that are behind several other plants is hard. Despite all this, it is also rewarding, getting some rare insect in your collection jar or seeing something incredibly rare on a leaf; it is all something that you will never forget. I will never forget seeing a beetle larvae eating a snail, nor the first time I aspirated my first bugs.

My cultural experiences abroad were also enlightening. It was amazing to see how other countries are, from their societal conventions to how they view Americans. I met one person from Costa Rica, he shared much insight into how young adults behave, along with views on culture, both his own and how he views Americans. I have a whole new respect for how tolerant people are, and was pleasantly surprised at how Americans were treated.

Now that I am back in the United Sates I have noticed a few changes in my behavior. I have noticed myself being more active; I take my dog on more regular walks, especially in the morning. I find that I have been craving the food we had while in Costa Rica, ranging from the delicious rice and chicken to the fried platanos. I plan to learn how to make some of the things we ate, and I also plan on keeping up my personal fitness. I hope to participate in another study abroad experience, this experience has opened my eyes to many new experiences, and now I want more.