Amphibian and Reptile Experts in Costa Rica

Introduction/Background: James Hanken's students in OEB 167: Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles have the opportunity to go on a one-week trip to Costa Rica to see live amphibians and reptiles in the wild. 

Goal/s: To allow students to learn about different species of amphibians and reptiles by viewing the animals alive and in their natural habitats.

First, participants in the field trip were briefed in advance in writing (handout), orally, through laboratory exercises, and by them preparing a video or powerpoint presentation describing any species of Costa Rican amphibian or reptile of their choosing. Then, the class flew to Costa Rica at the beginning of spring break.

 This kind of activity is vastly superior to exclusively classroom approaches (including lecture and laboratory) when it comes to teaching students about biological diversity and instilling excitement about the subject matter. Classes don't have to go to a foreign country to give students a rewarding and interesting field experience. Just get the students outside in small groups and looking at the biodiversity around them--in an abandoned field, in a city park, in a forest pond.

Course instructors led students on long walks into the rainforest both during the day and at night. As we encountered different species of amphibians and reptiles, we would stop and discuss their biology, environments, etc. We also did censuses of forest plots (e.g., 3 m x 3m) to compare population sizes of different species.