Programs: Field Program: Environment and Sustainable Development

« I absolutely recommend this program. Its best resources are less visible - the cultural experience and understanding of the professors, the facilitated and independently created connections to bring you this close, filling your stomach with knots of worry, excitement and responsibility.

The Spanish, Ecology and Sociology are highly dimensional but fit together perfectly, leaving you with a complete and informed knowledge of the country. Your future plans will change. You can't help but want to come back

Joanna Kyriasis, Cornell University Student
Field Program
Spring 2007.


In ICADS' semester-long Field Program, students gain research experience in both the natural sciences (forest ecology, agro-ecology, soil sciences) and social sciences (sociology, anthropology, history, economics) while learning to address environmental issues from a multidisciplinary perspective. Students are provided with the analytical tools and research expertise to make meaningful contributions to ongoing work in the area of “sustainable development,” with the recognition that workable solutions to environmental conflicts can only come from an understanding of the intersection between community needs, ecosystem dynamics, and political-economic systems.

The Field Program is divided into 3 blocks:

- Block I: 5 weeks - Spanish course and Latin American Perspectives on Justice and Sustainable Development Course
- Block II: 4 weeks - Field Projects: Ecology of Managed and Natural Ecosystems
- Block III: 5 weeks - Independent Projects (IPs): Written work, oral presentations, final evaluations and reentry presentation/discussion

2016: dates / fechas
- February 1 - May 6
- September 5 - December 9

- To apply click HERE
2015: dates / fechas
- January 26 - May 1
- August 31 - December 4

- To apply click HERE

Member - Forum on Education Abroad

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«What a whale of a course!! I strongly recommend the Field Course to everybody. It's an amazingly different eye-opening experience. You do things and learn about ecology and sociology through projects and visits that are just so beyond a classroom or anything I get from the university in the U.S. If you want to learn, travel and get field experience while having a great time and making close friends, why not? If not now, when?»

Hampshire College student
ICADS Field Program, Spring 2007

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Check out our FAQ's to find out the differences between the Internship Program and the Field Program.


Program Description

Block I (5 weeks): Spanish and Latin American Perspectives on Justice and Sustainable Development Semester Course
Study in San Jose and the Central Valley. Students live in San Jose with Costa Rican families, and study Spanish for four hours daily. In afternoon sessions, students learn about different topics in social and natural sciences through related readings, guest speakers, and field trips, as well as fieldwork on urban issues. One week in Block I is spent in Nicaragua where students are able to see first hand the current economic and political conditions in Nicaragua, and are challenged to compare and contrast its reality with neighboring Costa Rica.

Block II (4 weeks): Field Projects - Ecology of Managed and Natural Ecosystems
Students carry out brief social and ecological research projects while living and traveling together primarily in rural communities. A short stop over in San Jose is included to allow students to conduct research for their independent study projects, prepare written reports, and lead group discussions. In Block II, students visit 3 to 4 different areas within Costa Rica where they learn about a diversity of ecological zones and systems of regional development. Some of these destinations may include the wet tropics in the Atlantic Lowlands, the Cloud Forest in the Talamanca mountain ranges, the tropical dry region in the Guanacaste province, and the Northern zone. Topics and field sites vary from semester to semester in response to new study opportunities and environmental conditions.

Topics studied in the Field Program include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The roots of underdevelopment, particularly Costa Rica’s dependency on transnational companies and First World governments
  • Natural and managed ecosystem dynamics, with emphasis on the origin and maintenance of biodiversity
  • The tools for measuring health of ecosystems via floral and faunal indicator species
  • The environmental and economic implications of plantation agriculture, small-scale farming, ecotourism, bioprospecting, and national park management
  • The impact of export-oriented development on family structure, class hierarchy, and racial divisions
  • Strategies for conserving natural resources (e.g. organic agriculture, agro-forestry and sustainable extraction of timber and other products from forests), facilitating community organization (e.g. women’s groups, farmers’ cooperatives) and promoting local control over systems of production (e.g. home gardens, marketing cooperatives).

Block III (5 weeks): Independent Projects and written work
Students return to one of the previously visited field sites to conduct in-depth research on a topic of their choice. They independently develop research proposals, collect data, and analyze their results. Topics may emphasize either the social or natural sciences. Students are encouraged to develop projects that have practical value for their host communities or organizations. During the course’s final week, students prepare written reports and give oral presentations of their research findings.

More Info
To request additional information please use our contact form. To APPLY for this program click HERE.