Mount Union Students Travel to Costa Rica

July 02, 2013

ALLIANCE, Ohio — Students in Dr. Charles McClaugherty’s tropical biology course traveled to Costa Rica for a three-week trip following the conclusion of the spring semester to earn firsthand experience conducting research projects in various ecosystems.

McClaugherty, professor of biology, has been making the trip since 1994, giving students the opportunity to not only earn the experience, but also course credit.

The group stayed at a sustainable farm in the highlands that created its own electricity and grew most of its own food. Spending time with Carlos Solano and his family at their farmstead provided a cultural experience for the students. Solano shared his philosophy on sustainability, his work ethic and his hope for the future. The students enjoyed authentic Costa Rican cuisine, which almost always consisted of rice and beans, one of their staple meal components, as well as a trout dinner with the fish raised by the family in the mountain ponds.

“The trip was very much a biology field trip. We spent most of our time at research stations in fields, forests and on rivers away from popular tourist areas,” said McClaugherty.

Students were exposed to a large variety of organisms in dry forests and rain forests on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. A few of the most memorable organisms included a moth with a 10-inch wing span, poisonous snakes and three species of monkeys.

Crawling through limestone caves and rafting down tropical rivers were just a few of the unforgettable events students experienced. Students found the trip to be very beneficial from an educational standpoint, as well as an opportunity to grow as individuals.

“It’s really a wonderful thing when you go to a new place and your whole way of living and thinking changes,” said junior environmental science major Hayley Buzulencia of Warren, OH.

McClaugherty enjoys seeing the students excited about the diversity and complexity of life in the tropics. He said each year is a new adventure. He always feels like it is his first time visiting because of the little surprises that occur and the different interests of each group of students.

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