In today’s society, we rarely get to unplug. Even if we are with our loved ones, we keep our phones on, just in case.
Ana Estrella, assistant professor of biology at Missouri State-West Plains, made sure that for one week, phones were off.
How did she do it? She took one West Plains and eight Missouri State Springfield students to Costa Rica.
About the trip
Red macaws, dolphins, dart frogs and monkeys were only a few of the animals students saw on this trip.
Estrella, along with Dr. Carol Miller, distinguished professor of law, took nine students to San Rafael.
“Going to Costa Rica has been one of the best experiences I have had in my life thus far,” said Taylor Alicea, a biology education major. “When I first enrolled in the course I did not know what I was getting myself into or how great the people I would meet would be.”
Students visited Tirimbina Biological Station (TBS), Earth University, Pacuare Nature Reserve (PNR) and Cahuíta National Park (CNP).
At each stop they learned something new. TBS brought them the latest bat research. They also implemented a water quality test.
Earth University gave them presentations on sustainable agriculture and other programs they offer.
The star of the trip: Leatherback sea turtles
PNR is in a remote location, only accessible by a 30-minute boat ride. After getting there, they stayed at the north station for several nights. The culture shock was high; there was no electricity.
Here they talked about climate change and its effect on tropical regions. They also learned about leatherback sea turtle ecology.
During the day, they hiked the rainforest. At night, they patrolled the beaches looking for sea turtles and hatchlings.
In the quiet of night, students were able to do hands on research with nine turtles and release 12 hatchlings. Estrella said this was the biggest group of turtles she had seen on these trips.
Alicea felt the turtle research was one of the biggest factors in her change of perspective.
“I felt that I could not make a significant impact on the environment in terms of conservation, but from this trip I learned that one person can make a huge difference,’ Aliciea said. “This trip has changed my perspective on many things — from how I view conservation to how I teach about nature and the environment.”
Their final destination was CNP, where they literally swam with the sharks. During a coral reef snorkeling trip, they saw nurse sharks, puffer fish, stingrays, octopi and many more. Always the scientists, they were able to do a fish census.
Though environmental literacy was the goal of this course, students left with a lot more.
“The most interesting part of the journey for me was to observe how these nine complete strangers developed a bond and became a family during the adventure,” Estrella said.