Below is Jeff’s description of his travels. Follow this link to see some of the photographs from his trip.
From 3 January to 19 January 2014 I participated in a Nicholls State University Honors Program class on location in Costa Rica. During this time we traveled extensively across the country learning the nation’s history and culture while witnessing the dramatic changes in climate and geography in Costa Rica. These extreme changes in environmental factors and resources dictate local people’s relationship with the natural world and what activities are possible and profitable. It was a great experience for me to interact with local people, see how Costa Ricans forge their livelihoods, and learn from their experiences and points of view. This trip also offered me a sensational opportunity to visit a wide variety of the distinct and diverse ecosystems of Costa Rica and their plentiful and colorful wildlife. I was able to experience tropical rainforest, cloud forest, tropical dry forest, mangrove, riverine, and oceanic ecosystems. As a bird lover, it was particularly poignant for me to see many species of Neotropical migrants (North American breeding birds that “go south” in the winter) on their wintering grounds. Seeing Prothonotary Warblers eating fruits and insects thousands of miles away from where I am used to seeing them broadened my understanding of their life histories and very effectively demonstrates the connectedness of the natural world. Personal highlights for me included exploring Tortuguero National Park by boat, seeing a Resplendent Quetzal at Monteverde and touring the La Selva Biological Research Station where so much of our understanding of rainforests has been cultivated through decades of science.
There is no substitute for the educational opportunity that travel provides, and I feel truly enriched by my experience in Costa Rica. I have a passion for the biodiversity and productivity of the tropics that was only heightened by this experience. In the future I hope to use this passion along with my knowledge and experience to further our understanding of tropical ecology and promote conservation efforts. It was a tremendous gift to be able to experience Costa Rica’s incredible wilderness, witness the Costa Rican attitude toward conservation, and see the way ecotourism can provide an incentive to protect nature for the benefit of all. Seeing the way humans relate to the natural world in Costa Rica, especially on private land, serves as a positive example of what conservation can be throughout the world. This opportunity was possible for me because of the support of the Rachel Ianni Memorial Fund. I am incredibly grateful to each and every donor who made this experience a reality for me. Thank you.