Above the Canopy: Summer in Costa Rica


By Roslyn Rivas, Yale University ’17

Roslyn was a student on our Tropical Biology summer program in 2016 and currently serves as an Alumni Ambassador for OTS.

On our last day at La Selva, one of the biological station guides took a handful of us to visit one of the many research towers spread across the forested area. With our climbing harnesses and helmets in our hands, we set out to walk through the rainforest until we came across a metal frame tower that extended at least 50 meters high. Attaching our belts to the main rope, we climbed up flight after flight of stairs. Suddenly, about halfway up, we were met with a family of howler monkeys, calling out and inching closer, definitely curious about us. They weaved in and out of branches to the wires supporting the tower to get a closer look at the humans who were as high up in the trees as they were.

Soon we were above the canopy, able to see the tops of trees miles around us. It was such a surreal experience being up there, seeing the land and animals this organization is trying to protect. It reminded me of what I loved most about this trip: the sheer amount of wildlife I was able to come across. Throughout the month, I had the chance to study monkeys, birds, coatis, lizards, crocodiles, frogs, and so much more.

This trip was a dream come true not only because I got to travel and see so much wildlife, but also because it gave me a sense of what being a biologist would be like. I want to work in wildlife conservation, out on the field, and the summer OTS Costa Rica program gave me a glimpse of just that. I am so grateful to have been a part of this experience.


First Month in South Africa


By Kirstie McTear, Tuskegee University ’17

Kirstie is currently in South Africa for the Spring 2017 African Ecology and Conservation semester program.

The first few weeks as an OTS student were incredible! The day after we all arrived in Johannesburg we drove out to Nylsvley Nature Reserve where we spent the first 11 days of the program.

A typical day as an OTS student involves many components. Our day usually begins at about 7 am with a lovely breakfast prepared by talented OTS caterers. Students are welcomed to wake up earlier though, to go for a run or on a game drive/bird walk. Some students, including myself, take advantage of this opportunity and while on a run or game drive it is common to see wildlife such as giraffes and wildebeest.

gdvgame drive

After breakfast, we as students listen to lectures prepared by an amazing team of OTS staff and professors about conservation and ecology and the science behind these topics.


Around noon we all take a break for lunch and eat together. Following lunch, we may have a few more lectures or free time in the afternoon to do more nature walks or game drives.

We will then end the day with a delicious dinner around 6 pm. Many students will choose to go on an evening walk around the reserve equipped with headlamps and cameras to capture any nocturnal wildlife before going to bed. The next morning, we wake up and do it all again; excited to see what new adventure the day may bring!