Campus News: Students Visit Costa Rica for Ecology and Conservation Trip

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Students Visit Costa Rica for Ecology and Conservation Trip
Eliza Souers - 10/3/2021

Students Visit Costa Rica for Ecology and Conservation Trip


This summer, 10 students spent 22 days in Costa Rica for course fieldwork, exploring different tropical forest ecosystems and studying their biodiversity, climate, and how people use them.


The group, led by Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Thaddeus McRae, partnered with a small organization there that works on sustainable development and compared the effects of changing elevation on the community of organisms present.


"I️ will remember this trip for the rest of my life," said James "Cole" Shelton, a junior pre-professional biology major. "The friendships and relationships I️ made with locals and with other Lee students and faculty will be connections I️ continue to carry with me into the future. The beauty we experienced, as well as the pain we felt learning about the good and bad of mankind's interactions with nature, specifically in tropical ecological systems, are lessons I️ will not forget. They have changed my perspective of nature and God's interactions with humanity through his creation. I️ learned to see God in a new light as I️ saw his character and intentionality in one of the most biodiverse regions of the world."


As part of the trip, the group visited six national parks, two oceans, two volcanoes, and one cave and were able to hike, climb, and swim at various places. They also looked at how humans live in the ecosystems in various ways that differ in sustainability, met with locals, and took a detailed look at various methods of growing coffee.


"One of the benefits of studying biology and ecology is discovering the importance of diversity to create stability and resilience, and then gaining both an aesthetic and a practical appreciation for that diversity," said McRae. "This trip was a chance to see how people in different cultures view their place in the ecosystem, and to observe how that affects their actions and how their actions affect the people and ecosystems around them. The things we learn prompt us to ask if we are loving our neighbors well and to seek ways to live more sustainably in our own ecosystems."


The trip was the field component of a new biology course at Lee, Tropical Ecology and Conservation, and was also offered as a Global Perspectives trip for students to earn cross-cultural credit required for graduation.


For more information about Lee's biology department, visit

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