College offers a number of off-campus opportunities for its
students. From unparalleled access to China to trips to other
parts of the world, Marietta College students have the opportunity
to travel and learn. Trips are offered in the summer and over
our extended winter break during the J-term. Some trips are
simple study trips, others offer a service component as
of Biology and Environmental Science at Marietta College offers a
number of these trips, usually 1 or 2 a year. Currently our
offerings are split between offering a continental US trip
alternating with a trip to Costa Rica every other year. Our criteria
for planning trips include answering these questions: Is the
trip to a place of biological or environmental interest? Is
the destination safe for travel? Can the trip be made
affordable? We know that many of our students are on
tight budgets and that the travel time would otherwise be used
for employment. Within these constraints, these two trips have
become our models.
The Utah trip,
building on a long-established journey to the Utah desert by the
Geology Department to a dinosaur fossil site, also allows biology
students to study the desert and the many adaptations that organisms
living there have. It's inexpensive, since we camp and travel
by college van. Biological "enhancements" to the
trips include stops at national parks, wildlife refuges, and other
places of biological interest. Future trips may include more
time spent at other sites in the American West. Dr. Steve
Spilatro has coordinated these trips and has been educating himself
(and the students) on the botany of the American west.
|The trip to
Costa Rica is the brainchild of Dr. David Brown. He previewed
the trip in 2004, and we made the first trip in 2005, with another
in 2007. Although trained in molecular and cellular
techniques, David has extensive experience in field biology and
outdoor education, and brings that experience to these trips.
David is able to put together a trip to Costa Rica that lasts 3
weeks and costs the students less than $2,000. The food is great,
the hotels decent, and we always have a great time.
In addition to his
organizational skills, David is an excellent educator in the
field. He is very knowledgeable about tropical ecology, and
particularly good with marine and seashore species, plants in
general, and orchids in particular.
||I've been along
on the trips both to Utah and Costa Rica. My background is in
ecology and entomology; I'm usually able to identify an insect down
to family, even in Costa Rica. I've also traveled a lot in the
west and am generally familiar with the landscape and fauna of the
west, and I'm trying to learn the flora. I can usually relate
what we are seeing in the field to examples the students have read
about or are familiar with already. My Spanish is rusty, but
between us David and I can usually get things done in Costa Rica. I
also try to document the trip in photographs and video, and make up
the web pages when we get back.
next? If past patterns hold we will be off to the west again
in the spring of 2008. Dr. Brown will be heading to Thailand,
Cambodia and Vietnam (he has been to Thailand and Vietnam a number
of times) to lead a McDonough Leadership Center course there in the
J-term 2008. We offered a J-term trip to the Bahamas in 2007
but didn't get enough students to make it go; we might try again in
2009, and we are on schedule to go back to Costa Rica in 2009. Dr.
Fitch has been working on an Environmental Science trip to Australia
Many of our
trips are in conjunction with our Biomes of the World web
it out here.
|Where does this website come from? Well, as you
might imagine, it's a good bit of work. On our trips to Costa
Rica I take thousands of photos - about 12,000 from the two trips,
which comes out to 2,000 a week or about 670 images a day (thank God
for digital photography). These photos are saved initially on
to memory cards; at the end of the day I save the images to the hard
drive on a laptop, and when I have about 4Gb of images I burn a
DVD. This all comes back to Ohio, and then it has to be
processed. First, I sort the images and add keywords so I know
where I was taking the photographs. Then, I go through them
site by site and identify as many of the organisms as I can.
In order to do this, I use a number of field guides and
websites. It's often frustrating, and often impossible to get
a solid ID from a photograph - or even a series of photos.
I've often been helped in my ID's by the experts (including some of
the field guide authors such as Dr. Jay Savage). If I've
messed up anywhere, let me know:
Click here to send
and Video Permissions
you are interested in using any of the images or video from this
site, please click here.
are some of the books we've found useful - I've photographed the
covers so you can see the titles and authors; normally I'd put in
links to publishers but these change and I'm lazy. You can
look them up yourselves. I try to buy as many of the books as
I can in Costa Rica (and then at places like field stations that I'd
like to support), but you can get most of them on the web or perhaps
even at your local independent bookseller.
carry these two books with me in Costa Rica. Both are from
Lonely Planet and both are particularly useful The guidebook
(left) has information on the whole country, from exchange rates to
how to use the public transportation down to what restaurants are
best in each town. It also has info on wildlife, culture and
history. It has maps, but a good map of Costa Rica is hard to
find, and you won't find it here. Very useful for planning a
The phrasebook is tiny and
easily slipped into a pocket. It has a small but useful
two-way dictionary, and a set of phrases organized by situation
(travel, restaurant, hotel, meeting people, etc. If you
know a little Spanish already, this book will get you through -
fortunately enough Ticans speak enough English to make this
work. It doesn't include the very useful phrase
"Necessito una toldas" - "I need a mosquito
didn't carry this book, but I use it all the time. This is not
a synoptic guidebook to the flora and fauna, but rather a useful
introduction to the geology, topography, climate and ecology of
Costa Rica, with a series of articles on an eclectic assortment of
wildlife and plants. If your organism is included in the book,
there is a wealth of information here.
book focuses more on the wildlife, although there is a decent
introduction to the country and the habitats up front. Using
decent pictures, it covers a good number of animal species from
insects to mammals, primarily the ones you are most likely to
encounter (or would like to encounter!). There are also
distribution maps and text-based accounts for each of the species
covered. A bit too large to pack along.
used this text for the class in 2007. It examines the
phenomenon of rainforest destruction and uses Costa Rica in many of
the examples. It's a good book in that it would have you
unlearn a lot of what is "known" and taught about
rainforest destruction, and it helps remove a lot of the
simplifications that obscure a good understanding of the
subject. I found something substantial to disagree with the
authors on in just about every chapter, but that just made for good
book is a lot of fun and easy to read. One comes away with a
much better understanding of the rainforest after having read it.
is the gold standard for faunal guides in Costa Rica. It has
them all, illustrated with color photos and line drawings, plus
expert taxonomic descriptions, keys, life history accounts, and
distribution maps. It doesn't have much in the way of common
names, but that's not really very important, is it. Way too big
and beautiful to lug around, this one stays at home. Note that
the keys won't work unless you have the specimens in hand.
I had to carry a field guide to Costa Rica for the reptiles and
amphibians, this would be the one. It covers both coasts, but
a number of species are not included (unlike Jay Savage's book) -
that's the price of portability. If you have a specimen that
for some reason doesn't match up with any of the excellent pictures
you are left wondering if it is morph of something in the book or a
species not included there. A lack of distribution maps also
limits its use.
main gripe with this book is the limited coverage; it doesn't cover
the Pacific Slope and we spend a lot of time there. On the
other hand, if you go to La Selva, this is the book for you.
Most of the pictures are good (there are a few stinkers) and there
are distribution maps. The keys are written to be used in
conjunction with good notes and/or photographs. It's also the
smallest of the herp field guides.
not a bird guy (I have people that do that stuff for me) but I find
both of these books useful for when I think a bird is just too damn
obvious and that mailing it off to one of my friends for an ID would
just be embarrassing ("now your third picture, we call that a
The book to the left is a
large, stay-at-home but comprehensive book with similar bird species
grouped together on plates of color illustrations. The species
accounts are good; there are no maps.
The field guide is smaller,
with the modern layout of color illustrations of related birds on
the right and short species accounts and maps on the left. The
accounts are brief, but you could carry this book along.
really tough to ID insects in the tropics - there are so many
of them. For most of the groups, I just have to ID them by
sight to family and then do a Google image search on the web
for that family with the qualifier "Costa Rica" and
hope for the best. Sometimes it works.
Fortunately, many of the butterflies are represented in these
two volumes (most of the ones I've encountered are actually in
the first). There are color plates with lots of pinned
specimens arrayed on each page and species descriptions in the
text. Ton's of information, and in many groups if you
have some good photos you will be able to make an ID.
||I just bought
this book in Costa Rica on our 2007 trip and didn't open it until I
got home. What a beauty! I know nothing about plants but
this book has many of the plants I saw and photographed in Costa
Rica, and has been invaluable in helping me explain the animal-plant
interactions that make up so much of the interesting side of
biology. It will certainly be a staple reference. It has
an unusual organization - partly by taxa, partly by habitat, but all
I can say is that it works - if what I am looking for is in the
book, I can always find it easily. It even explains what chan
Rainforest publications series of laminated field guides is
great. Easy to carry and tough in the field, they are just the
thing to cue your memory or even help you identify something
new. The illustrations are well-done (if a bit small), but
most of the common species for each group are there. More
recently, they've taken to putting these products into a folded
format, which is easier to carry and still toughly laminated.
The wildlife guide has a little of everything (birds, mammals,
herps); the medicinal plants and tropical fruits guides are both
very useful as well. In the flat format the bird guides are
split up by habitat; while there are a number of repeats across that
series the cards really do work well in identifying the most common
or obvious birds in each habitat. These guides are available
throughout Costa Rica and on the web from the publishers as well.