Semester Re-Cap: Tropical Diseases Program in Costa Rica

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By Sarah Sampson, Colgate University ’19

Sarah just completed our Fall 2017 Tropical Diseases, Environmental Change, and Human Health program in Costa Rica.

This past semester in Costa Rica was an unforgettable experience. From being in a new environment and being immersed in a different culture, to learning about the diseases that afflict tropical places such as Costa Rica, there was something interesting around every corner. I thought that this program did an especially wonderful job showing us all of the different aspects of Costa Rica while giving us experiences that directly related to our academics.

The field trips that we took were all engaging and hands-on–some for example, allowed us to learn more about how the health systems of Central American countries work and what types of illnesses face the people that live there. We got to see the strategies that have been developed for prevention and treatment of common diseases, and learned about how they spread and why those strategies would be helpful. We also were able to experience the more traditional and cultural side of Costa Rica through our visits to local indigenous communities and our homestay in San Jose. Through these visits I was able to learn about a culture that was different from my own and how these people have been able to use the environment around them to create things like crafts, food production, and medicines.

In addition, I was really grateful for the ability to formulate and conduct our own research. I learned some invaluable skills through this program. Not only did I gain valid studying and research techniques, but I also learned a great deal about independence, cultural sensitivity, teamwork, traditional medicine, and the different environments and situations that can affect the spread of disease.

This mosquito larva is from our faculty led research project. We were investigating the effects of different environmental conditions on the composition of mosquito larvae in bromeliad phytotelmata.

Visiting the neighborhood of La Quinta in Managua, Nicaragua. The brigadistas there taught us how they searched for mosquito larvae in standing water as a preventative measure against diseases like Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya.

 

The final poster presentation for our student led research project. We studied the antimicrobial properties of cane toad (Rhinella marina) parotid and skin secretions. The entire presentation and poster itself was in Spanish to make our research assessable to community members, students, and the faculty and staff of La Selva Biological Station.