Ecosystems and Ecology: Costa Rica (Reading Week)

Open to all UBC students Cost: $2400 - $2760

Program overview

Applications for this program are now closed


Open to all UBC students with an interest in environmental conservation. This project would be particularly relevant for students in Science One and the Coordinated Science Program.

Program overview

Up to 20 students have the opportunity to explore the learning theme of ecology and ecosystems by participating in an International Service-Learning (ISL) placement in Costa Rica during Reading Week in February 2017. You will also participate in pre-departure learning sessions; facilitated reflections; and post-placement activities as part of this program.

You will travel as a group to work alongside Quelonios del Caribe on projects in Costa Rica. Led by UBC facilitators and a local Costa Rican biologist, Roberto Solano Cordero, ISL participants will engage as a group in a hands-on service project which contributes to the goals of the organization, while learning about the ecological systems of the local area through daily facilitated discussions. The program will also include a day trip to a National Park with a very diverse ecosystem.

Community partner

Our community partner in Costa Rica is Quelonios del Caribe. Students will work on an ecological service project alongside Roberto Solano Cordero, a biologist and educator. He oversees projects in sea turtle conservation, ecology and biological management. Roberto has also worked for the National Maritime Patrol, the National Coast Guard Service, the Ministry of Education and non-governmental organizations dedicated to conservation.

Community placement

Project Site – Quelonios

Quelonios is on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica in a remote setting accessed by boat through local canals, resting right on the edge of the ocean.  The Protection, Conservation and Ecological Education Station at Quelonios del Caribe works with three species of marine turtles (Leatherback, Carey’s and Green) that nest on the Caribbean beaches and are in danger of extinction. Students will benefit from exposure to the site’s rich biodiversity as well as exploring Qulonios del Caribe’s efforts to redefine how the local population interacts with their native ecosystem. Students should note that it is HIGHLY unlikely to see a turtle at this point in the season, but important work is done on site to prepare the turtles to be able to safely lay eggs.

One of the goals of Quelonios del Caribe is to make the station as self-sustainable as possible, in order to reduce impacts on the local habitat and provide a model for nearby communities and international volunteers. You will contribute to this goal by assisting with the development of a hydroponic agriculture system. Quelonios is located in a coastal region with a limited supply of arable soil, making it difficult for local residents to produce food. This project will use available resources such coconut shells to produce fibers used in the development of hydroponic gardens. You can also expect to contribute to the maintenance of other elements of the ecosystem, including a grey water filtration system, agricultural technology and aquatic habitats. You should expect hands-on work, manual labour, and the need to problem-solve in the field. The service project will be guided by biologist Roberto Solano.

Pre-departure Overview

Pre-departure learning sessions take place in the weeks before you leave for your placement; it prepares you for an intensive International Service Learning experience. During pre-departure you will explore learning topics at regular meetings with your placement team. All participants are expected to attend all pre-departures.


You will stay in modest and rustic hostel-style accommodation with shared bedrooms with bunk beds. The project site will be in a remote community.

After you've returned (Post-placement)
After you’ve returned, you’ll regroup, reflect and work at unpacking the intensive experience you’ve had. The post-placement activities you will participate in include:

  • A debrief with advisors and peers
  • Presentation at a public engagement event

Program dates

January - February 2017 Orientation and pre-departure learning sessions
February 18 - 26, 2017 International placement in Costa Rica, exact dates may vary depending on flight availability
March 2017 Post-placement reflection sessions and public engagement event

Please note these dates may be adjusted but will be confirmed before you receive an offer of a placement.

Program costs

We expect the program fee to be approximately $2,400 - $2,760*.

Fees include:

  • Pre-departure learning sessions
  • Room and board
  • Return flight**
  • Local transportation
  • Professional advisors
  • Reflection materials
  • Community partner management fee
  • ISL project management fee

*Fees will be confirmed upon placement offer. The variable cost of the program is due to price fluctuations with flight bookings.

** If you are not on a Canadian or American passport, please be aware that most flights will be booked through the United States and may require you to have a transit visa.

Visas and vaccinations are not included in the program fee.

Apply to the program



Contact an International Service Learning Advisor

We would be happy to answer any enquiries about our programs. Please contact us with your questions, and/or to schedule an advising meeting.


International Service Learning

Office of Regional and International Community Engagement

Iona Building
Room B155
600 Iona Drive
Vancouver, BC V6T1L4

Drop-in advising hours

Mon10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Wed1:00 pm - 3:00 pm