NVC Students Travel to Costa Rica for Adventure Trip

June 26, 2023

NVC Faculty Scott Walker

Students in Costa Rica

Nine students enrolled in Physical Anthropology and Environmental Science wrapped up a 16-day adventure at three research stations in Costa Rica in early June.

by NVC Faculty Scott Walker

Students practiced field research techniques in bird surveying, hawksbill sea turtle capture, water sampling, mangrove forest analysis and valuation, primate observation, primate habitat analysis, ethogram development (inventory of wild monkey behaviors), and shark DNA analysis. They also practiced the development of hypotheses, analyzing, summarizing, and reporting data related to their research. Additionally, they learned permaculture techniques to design a plot of land after they toured a permaculture farm in the mountain cloud forest of Monteverde.

Northwest Vista College faculty partnered with Universidad Veritas’ International Programs Office on program logistics and gaining access to Costa Rica’s preeminent turtle biologists, wildlife refuge experts, and permaculture specialists. Some students were financially supported by a Microsoft Datacenter Community Development gift, while others were supported by Alamo Colleges’ International Scholarship Fund.

One student commented, “There’s so much research to be done out there. So much information.” Another student went on to add, “It’s really cool being able to talk to someone who is actually doing research.” Claudisa, who is currently studying for an Associates Degree in Biology said, “this was a big life-changing experience for me. I feel like I found my place.” She’s applying to the Marine Biology BS degree at TAMU-Galveston in July.

Brianna, another STEM student, noted, “I have a much more clear picture of where I want to go in my career field” after her experience in Costa Rica.

Javier noted that among all of the research techniques practiced, “we also did a mangrove [forest] analysis and that was the best hands-on schoolwork I have ever done.”

Kim Linsenbardt, NVC Anthropology faculty said this field study program in Costa Rica afforded students “hands-on learning experiences that gave them glimpses into the reality of field work. It’s hard, dirty, unpredictable, underpaid, and full of the most pure moments of joy to be found in any career.”

“As far as I know, no other community college offers international field studies programs where students don’t just learn about science—they do science” according to NVC Professor Scott Walker who served as the lead instructor. Previous NVC Adventure Science field studies programs have been held in the remote High Atlas Mountains of Morocco (Anthropology and Geography) and at other field stations in Costa Rica (Environmental Science). Eight of this year’s students were women, most of whom are studying a STEM subject and will go on to pursue four-year degrees in anthropology, archaeology, biology, environmental science, and math.

NVC faculty Jessica Heppard (Biology) and Kim Linsenbardt (Anthropology) will be leading another expedition to Costa Rica in January 2024. The focus of that trip will be nutrition and culture. Check the Alamo Colleges’ Study Abroad website at alamo.edu/studyabroad for details.

Scott L. Walker, ScEdD Professor/Coordinator, Geography & Environmental Studies

About Northwest Vista College:  

Northwest Vista College (NVC), part of the Alamo Colleges District, is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution. The college opened in 1995 with 12 students and has grown to one of the largest institutions of higher education in San Antonio and the region with current enrollment exceeding 19,000 students. Located in Westover Hills, NVC’s expanding agreements with business and higher education partnerships provide a wealth of opportunities for students and the community.