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Fields of Study: Science

Receive hands-on field experience in biology and conservation in Costa Rica, one of the most biologically rich countries in the world. Independent field research is an integral part of the Monteverde program. After completing this program, you’ll understand the ecology, evolution and conservation of tropical biodiversity. It is an academically intensive and physically demanding program, unlike any experience available at UC. Classes meet as often as six days a week, but the rewards are great.

From the first minute of the term to the last, the vigor of tropical life forms is mirrored in the intensity of your academic inquiry. Even during leisure time you will begin to think like a biologist about the sights and sounds of countless insects, birds, mammals and plant species. Your instructors take every opportunity to teach and offer unwavering support as you develop your field research project, whether you happen to be working at the field station or hiking to the Continental Divide. Before the program ends, you will present your project at a biology symposium.

Unique study opportunities

  • Practice documentary and filmmaking skills in optional Nature Filmmaking course.
  • Gain field experience in nature reserves with some 3,000 species of plants and a variety of animal species including spider monkeys, quetzales, mountain lions, and tapirs.
  • Receive training in research methods and in the presentation of research papers.
  • Develop a research proposal on a particular aspect of tropical biology.
  • Attend guest lectures by some of the world’s top biologists.
  • Enhance your Spanish language skills and understanding of local culture living with a Costa Rican family for two weeks.


Language of Instruction: English

Spanish Language Study: Required

Spanish for biologists, a 2.0 UC quarter unit course is required during the homestay portion of the program.

Courses and credit

Requirements While Abroad

To successfully complete this program:

  • Take a full-time course of study:
    • During the quarter: Five courses and a minimum of 16 quarter UC units.
    • During the semester: Six courses and a minimum of 19 quarter/12.7 semester UC units.
  • You may select up to two courses for pass/no pass but the combined total units for those two courses may not exceed 4 units.
  • Courses involve swimming and snorkeling, for which you’ll need basic swimming ability and reasonable confidence in the water. You'll need to complete a swimming proficiency test during the first week of the program. Basic swimming skills include:
  1. Floating on your back for 60 seconds
  2. Swimming one length of an 8-meter pool underwater

Current Program Courses

Quarter and Semester Courses:

Additional Semester Courses:

  • Integrative Biology: 2 UC semester units, upper division

Optional Course for All Students:

While independent research is an integral component of this program, other independent study is not available.

Catalogs and resources

  • UCEAP Course Catalog: See a list of courses UC students have taken on this program.
  • Campus Credit Abroad: Learn the types of credit (major, minor, general education, elective) students from your campus received at this location.

Academic culture

The Monteverde program begins with an instructional field trip during which you explore a variety of habitats around Costa Rica. The itinerary for this trip differs from the fall to the spring programs because of seasonal rainfall variations. You will travel by bus and boat, and either camp or stay in field stations or hotels.

The program later continues at Monteverde, where you will participate in a sequence of classroom instruction, lectures, nature orientation walks and field projects. You will hike with a pack into the remote wilderness area of Peñas Blancas for several days of field study and organized projects.

Instructors for the Monteverde program assume that you are familiar with the fundamentals of ecology and evolution. Before departure, consider reviewing your ecology books and the basics of plant biology, especially reproduction.

After conducting fieldwork, you’ll analyze your results and write a report. Two instructors and a peer will review your first submission so that you can incorporate suggestions before submitting your final paper. Final exams take place during the last week of the program in Monteverde.


You will earn direct UC credit and grades for all coursework. Grades for the fall term are typically available in mid-March. Grades for the spring program are typically available in early September.