Frequently Asked Questions

Foggy Jungle River

What are Conservation International and the Tropical Ecology Assessment & Monitoring Network?

Founded in 1987, Conservation International (CI) has an impressive record of protecting and managing critical landscapes and seascapes and helping to ensure the sustainable economic development and physical well-being of vulnerable communities. CI has a solid foundation in science and a long history pioneering innovative and effective conservation strategies while building powerful partnerships to foster collaboration at the project level and internationally. Its mission is to empower societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity. Its scientists, field staff, and policy experts are measuring the contributions of healthy ecosystems to human well-being: assessing the implications of development decisions on socioeconomic well-being and on the environment; putting cutting-edge, rigorously tested information in the hands of decision-makers and the public; and demonstrating in the field how economic opportunity and stewardship of natural resources can leverage change at an international scale.

Initially created by CI, the TEAM Network is a partnership among four institutions (CI, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Missouri Botanical Garden and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute). With over 80 implementing partners worldwide, TEAM collects standardized ecological data at 17 sites in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  By following a standard set of protocols at each site, local scientists collect data on terrestrial mammals (by camera trapping), carbon (by collecting vegetation data) and climate. With state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure, data are ingested, stored and disseminated in near-real time to be freely available to all via

What is the Northrop Grumman Foundation and why are they funding this program?

Northrop Grumman Foundation is committed to improving education through programs that support students and teachers, by awarding scholarships and partnerships, and improving Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curricula.  As a technology-based company, Northrop Grumman is passionately committed to doing all it can to reverse the trend of declining student interest in the STEM fields. Science-based expertise is the heart of its high-technology industry, society and economy.

By investing in teachers through programs such as ECO Classroom, the Northrop Grumman Foundation is helping them to bring field research experience into their classrooms, to inspire their students about ongoing environmental education and engagement, as well as the math and science knowledge they need to acquire to pursue environmental science.

The Northrop Grumman Foundation was created and is supported by Northrop Grumman as a vehicle for philanthropy to specifically support STEM education initiatives. 

What is covered in my scholarship to participate in this program?

Your airfare, ground transportation, accommodations at the field station, 2 nights at the hotel in San Jose, 3 meals a day and all fees for required activities.  You must pay for alcohol, souvenirs, any additional activities during free time (including any necessary transportation), snacks (outside of the 3 provided meals/day) and any costs associated with additional time spent in Costa Rica.

What are the accommodations at La Selva?

Participants will be sharing rooms and bathrooms.  Rooms are dormitory style and will be single sex, however bathrooms will be shared with the entire group.  La Selva has laundry facilities, a dining room serving 3 meals a day (at specified times), a small gift shop, wireless internet access and potable water throughout the station. There are vegetarian options at each meal.

Will any of the activities be physically challenging?

Yes, due to the facilities and landscape of the La Selva Biological Station and the field work associated with this program,  applicants will need to be able to physically perform the field work and have the ability to walk, hike or otherwise navigate through the Costa Rican terrain.

What should I pack?

If selected for the trip you will be sent a list of recommended items to pack.  At a minimum you should plan to bring field clothes, rubber boots, a flashlight or headlamp, personal toiletries and medications, bug spray, sunscreen, a water bottle and a laptop.

Do I need to get any vaccinations for this trip?

You should consult your physician regarding vaccinations; however there are no required vaccinations to pass through Costa Rican immigration from the U.S. ( The program will not cover elective vaccinations.

What currency is accepted in Costa Rica?

Both Costa Rican Colones and U.S. Dollars are accepted in most places in Costa Rica.

How much money should I bring?

Your scholarship covers ground transportation and room and board (3 meals per day).  You will also be issued cash upon arrival to cover taxis at home and your exit fee.  If you’d like to purchase any souvenirs, make any trips away from the station, purchase alcohol or additional snacks you should bring sufficient cash. There are ATMs and money changing stations in the airport and in most towns.

Do I have to speak Spanish to participate in the program?

No, but it is helpful!

Will I need a passport to travel to Costa Rica?

Yes, you will need a current US passport. If you do not have a current passport you need to allow at least 3 months to obtain one. The program will not cover the cost of obtaining a passport.

Do I have to make my own travel arrangements?

No. Conservation International will make your travel arrangements. 

What paperwork must I submit prior to my departure?

You must complete and sign liability, medical release, travel grant agreement and photo release forms. These will be provided to you after your acceptance into the program.

Is there anything I should read or research prior to my trip?

Yes. During the trip you will work on group projects. Prior to going to Costa Rica you’ll have to do some background research on your project and have a plan for project implementation while in Costa Rica. A traveler’s guide to Costa Rica is optional but can provide vital background information about this unique Central American country.

What is the weather like in Costa Rica in July?

La Selva Biological Station is in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica. You should be prepared for warm days, cool nights and rain.

What is Costa Rica’s time zone?

Costa Rica is in the US Central Standard Time Zone.

Will my cell phone work at the site?

Your cell phone may work, it depends on your plan and service provider. Check with your cell phone company. You will be responsible for any additional charges on your bill.

Is there any specialized equipment I should bring?

You may want to bring binoculars and a camera. 

Who will conduct the program?

The field experience will be co-lead by Peggy Lubchenco and James MacCarthy. Peggy is a veteran science teacher and researcher. She is currently a lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara and on the faculty of Sally Ride Science. James is the Technical and Communications Manager for TEAM. He has a degree in environmental science and has experience teaching college students in ecology and geographic information systems. Scientists from the Organization for Tropical Studies will assist the group in many classroom and field activities.

Are there any natural dangers I might encounter?

Yes. A slight risk of natural dangers is inherent in all fieldwork. While in Costa Rica you will be exposed to rain, heat and humidity. You may encounter venomous snakes and pesky mosquitoes in the forest. You should be aware of your surroundings when walking off trails or hiking at night. Rubber boots are required for all work in the forest. 

Can I bring family members?

No. Unfortunately space is limited at the field station during the field season.

May I stay afterwards in Costa Rica?

You may stay for vacation afterwards if you wish.  However, you are responsible for all your travel arrangements and any additional costs after the conclusion of our program.

Will I be eligible to participate in the program more than one year?

No. Participants in the program the first year are not eligible to participate in following years.

What will be my post trip commitment?

You will be required to provide content for a lesson plan from your group activity to put on the education portal of the TEAM website. You may be given a post-trip interview and/or survey. You may be asked to help us lead a workshop at a National or State Science Teachers Association meeting (if so all expenses will be paid by Conservation International).