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Next Program: Summer 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 on the HSU campus and at the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica. This intensive course will be offered to all qualified Humboldt State University students, as well as to qualifying students from other institutions.

This program will be rigorous, both physically and academically. Students will be required to learn as much as they can about New World primate behavior, ecology and conservation, primatology field techniques, Costa Rican culture, current issues affecting Costa Ricans and their flora and fauna, and cultural sensitivity, among other things.

Students will be required to attend all lectures, to spend many hours in the rainforest looking for primates, and to conduct their own primate behavioral observation research projects at the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica.

Students will assimilate what they are experiencing through observation, data collection and analysis, writing, reflection and discussion.

This program has two major interrelated themes. The first theme will be an examination of Costa Rican cultures via an anthropological viewpoint. Cultural anthropology is one of the four main areas of study within the discipline of anthropology. Students on this program will study modern Costa Rican life ways, the sociocultural history of the country, verbal traditions, music, and art, and the impact of tourism and development, among other things. On this program, students will also become well-versed in cultural sensitivity and intercultural communication.

The second theme -- primatology -- includes practical training in primate field research techniques and classes relating to primate and rainforest conservation. Primatology -- the examination of ape, monkey and prosimian 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.

When students finish this program, they should be able to:

  • understand and reflect upon many cultural practices and the history of the people of this central American nation
  • 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 third time this program has been offered to HSU students. The instructor has taught numerous field programs in Costa Rica and has worked at the La Selva Biological Station.

This program is ongoing and is offered to students on an annual, or biannual basis.

This program has limited enrollment to only 22 students.


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

On-Campus Orientation: TBA

In Costa Rica: Specific dates TBA, Summer 2015

Students fly to Costa Rica and travel as a group to La Selva. Program ends when students travel as a group from La Selva 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 9-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. ANTH 485 fulfills an anthropology breath and specialty (elective) course for the major and an upper division course for the anthropology minor. ANTH 306 is an upper division Area D GE course; it also fulfills an upper division regional requirement for anthropology majors and an upper division course for anthropology minors.





Marissa Ramsier is a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Humboldt State University and is co-director of the Humboldt Center for Evolutionary Anthropology. She holds an Ph.D. 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. She will lead all aspects of the course, including lectures, field days, travel to and from Costa Rica and supervising students while in Costa Rica.

Field assistants and other staff: More information will be posted here at a future date for the next program in Summer 2015.


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 2014 program will be posted here in late 2013.


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.