Monteverde, Costa Rica

CIEE Study Center


Costa Rica is the ideal location in which to study tropical biology and conservation. As a land bridge between North and South America, and with a complex geography and climate, Costa Rica offers a high biodiversity of both species and ecosystems. The country is the center of tropical ecology research and teaching in the Western Hemisphere and a model for the rest of the developing world in conservation; twenty percent of Costa Rica is composed of extensive national parks and biological reserves.

The CIEE Study Center in Monteverde is located in a small, friendly, bilingual community of 4,000 surrounded by a cloud forest and receives 200,000 tourists each year. Monteverde is free of biting insects and green all year. Monteverde’s Cloud Forest has been studied for over 25 years by both visiting and Costa Rican biologists. This widens research opportunities and acquaints the students with practical biological problems associated with agricultural development, eco-tourism, and grassroots conservation efforts in developing countries.

The Program

The CIEE Study Center in Monteverde began as a summer program in 1989 and added a semester program in 1996. The Tropical Ecology and Conservation Program is geared to biology and related majors who have completed an introductory biology sequence and one of the following electives: ecology, evolution, animal behavior, or conservation biology. The academic content of the program is designed to challenge participants to immerse themselves in the study of tropical ecology and conservation through rigorous classroom work such as exposure to taxonomy, reading of scientific journal articles, and academic lectures. The program also offers students unique field opportunities, including two extensive field trips in different Costa Rican ecosystems and the possibility to pursue a directed independent research project. All courses, except the Spanish language course, are taught in English.

The Tropical Ecology and Conservation program is designed to give biology and related majors a clear understanding of tropical ecology and its conservation. The goals of the program are to offer students a comprehensive view of the tropical systems through theory, empirical patterns, hands-on exposure, taxonomy of major groups, and direct experimentation. These goals are achieved through science coursework in English, Spanish language courses, and travel to various ecosystems. Conservation is stressed and combined with language and culture.


Students must have an overall 2.75 GPA and should have completed at least 2 semesters of college-level biology and 1 additional semester of college-level ecology or environmental science recommended. Some college-level Spanish is recommended.
Applicants should discuss their eligibility with and be recommended by Professor Scott Wissinger ( in order to participate in the program.

Application Process

Allegheny students must first be approved to study off-campus before applying to their chosen program. Application deadlines are February 20 for fall programs and September 20 for spring programs. Applications will be reviewed immediately following the appropriate semester deadline. For more information about the off campus study application process, please visit:

Student Life

  • Visit many of Costa Rica’s reserves and live in a biological station in the shadow of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Gain extensive research experience conducting an independent research project
  • Participate in two extensive field trips, including a trip to Panama to observe marine diversity in coral reefs off the Bocas del Toro Islands, and gain exposure to all major ecosystems in Costa Rica
  • Housing at the Biological station with other CIEE students
  • Experience a One-month homestay with Costa Rican families
  • Students will enjoy camping during excursions
  • Enjoy cultural activities in the town of Monteverde


Students pay Allegheny tuition, double room and mini meal plan, as well as a study abroad fee of $300. Allegheny financial aid, except work/study, is applied to program costs. Normally, Allegheny students do not have to pay the program deposit requested by CIEE Additional costs include airfare, personal expenses/spending money ($500-$800), visa extension ($50), break travel ($400), and appropriate immunizations (minimum of $200).