Humboldt State University [link]

Next Program: May 26-June 15, 2015

Program Information

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The field of anthropology is a core scientific discipline in the study and understanding of human evolution and diversity. A central concept used by anthropologists attempting to study the world around them with an unbiased viewpoint is the ability to conduct field research while maintaining "cultural relativity." Immersion in another culture is one of the most effective ways to internalize this difficult concept.

La Selva Biological Field StationThe Costa Rica Primate Field Program provides an opportunity for students to study in a unique region of the world and to practice anthropological concepts and techniques.

The program will take place both at the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica. Students will also spend three days studying tropical ecology at Tortuguero at the Mawamba Lodge.

The focus of the program is on practical training in primate field research techniques and classes relating to primate and rainforest conservation. Primatology -- the examination of ape, monkey and lemur behavior, ecology and evolution -- is a major sub-field of biological anthropology (the study of human biology and evolution). The three primate species and intact primary lowland rainforest at La Selva provide an excellent opportunity for hands-on learning for the students. Students will make observations of wild monkeys, a tropical rainforest, and learn associated field techniques.

Students will also examine Costa Rican cultures via an anthropological viewpoint, and become well-versed in cultural sensitivity and intercultural communication.

Students will assimilate what they are experiencing through observation, data collection and analysis, writing, reflection and discussion. When students finish this program, they should be able to:

  • Conduct basic tropical rainforest primatology field work and understand which techniques work best for different environmental conditions
  • Reflect upon the pros and cons of sustainable development in light of ecotourism and rainforests
  • Appreciate the difficulties and joys of living and working in “foreign” cultures and the wisdom such experiences can produce.

This is the fourth time this program has been offered to HSU students. The instructor has taught numerous field programs and conducted research in Costa Rica.

This program is ongoing and is usually offered to students every two years.

This program has limited enrollment to only 15 students.


A fully detailed schedule, including dates and readings for each course, will be provided in the field.

On-Campus Orientation: TBA, Spring 2015

In Costa Rica: May 26-June 15, 2015

Students fly to San Jose Costa Rica and travel as a group to La Selva and then to Tortuguero. Program ends when students travel as a group from Tortuguero to Hotel Cacts in San Jose.

Class meets daily, Monday-Saturday, starting at sunrise and finishing at sunset, with a break mid-day. We will have lectures in the field as well as in a classroom dedicated for our use at La Selva. Students will be assigned to groups for field time (note that monkeys are most active at dawn and dusk).




monkey in a treeThis 6-unit program consists of three, three-unit courses.

These courses include lectures, discussions, field trips and independent research projects. In Costa Rica, many "lectures" will be held in situ rather than in a traditional classroom setting, and a few talks will be given by local Costa Ricans. Participation is obviously vital for all courses.

In addition, students will learn how to use many of the techniques anthropologists employ while conducting field research. Traditional lectures will be supplemented by hands-on learning and field observation. Informal seminar-style discussions will also occur throughout the course to monitor students’ progress, and to facilitate individual analysis of events and lectures.


There are several textbooks as required readings for the courses. These readings will be supplemented with articles. Students should develop an intense familiarity with the issues covered in the readings early on in the program so that they can better understand the lectures and ask intelligent questions. All assigned readings are required and are designed to supplement lectures and provide background information. Readings should be incorporated into exam essay questions, but should not be the sole basis for exam answers.


Students will be evaluated and grades assigned in the same manner as for standard HSU on-campus courses.


CURRICULUM (Tentative)

Each course below is linked to its detailed description.


No prerequisites are required for program courses.

All courses and field instruction will be taught in English.


ANTH 339 fulfills an upper division biological anthropology core requirement for the anthropology major, and an upper division course for the anthropology minor.





Gillian Moritz (Director) is a lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences at Humboldt State University. Gillian studied Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Dartmouth College and has extensive experience in tropical field ecology and primate behavioral ecology in Central and South America and Southeast Asia. She has participated in several field courses across sites in Costa Rica including La Selva as both a student and instructor. For the 2015 program, she will lead all aspects of this course including lectures, field exercises, travel logistics to and from Costa Rica and supervision of students while in Costa Rica.

Marissa Ramsier is a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Humboldt State University and is the Director of the Center for Evolutionary Anthropology. She holds an PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Dr. Ramsier has extensive experience in the course topics and in primate fieldwork, in Central and South America and Africa. She co-directed the first two HSU Costa Rica Primate Field Programs at La Selva. For the 2015 program, she will serve mostly an administrative role in program development and logistics.

Kate Werling (Teaching/Field Assistant) is a graduate student in Anthropology at the Ohio State University, where she is studying primatology. She completed her BA in Anthropology at HSU, during which time she also attended the Costa Rica Primate Field Program. For the 2015 program, she will assist will all aspects of the field program, including supervising students in the field and leading field exercises.


Costa Rica road and sign


Please see APPLICATION page for information about the application and selection process.


Program costs paid by students cover the cost of housing and breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Costs for the 2015 program will be posted here in fall 2014.


Once the payment in full is submitted, no refund will be considered without petitioning the Office of Extended Education. If a refund is granted, only the portion that has not been committed on behalf of the individual will be refunded. In the event that a student must cancel prior to departure for Costa Rica and after paying his or her deposit, the deposit will not be refunded.