Tropical Ecology, Rain Cloud Forest, Ecosystems

This program has reached capacity and is no longer accepting applications.

Brown Pre-College Location-Based Programs are immersive and rigorous academic experiences with selected course content and learning locations designed to prepare students for the increasingly complex challenges of the 21st century.

Calling all adventurous and curious students who are passionate about science and nature. Put on your climbing harness and climb with us into the cloud canopy ecosystem 60 feet from the ground. How’s that for a classroom?

Course of Study

All students in this program take one course:
The Cloud Forest: Costa Rica CRNs: 11118 (F), 11119 (M)

Students travel to the Monteverde Zone, a tropical montane cloud forest almost continually shrouded in mist. The region's striking contrast of wet and dry ecosystems make this area an extraordinary place to study plant-animal interactions, ecology, and natural history.

Our days start early and will be packed full of activities, including field research, educational sessions, and time for team-building, recreation, and reflection. There are many field trips, hikes, and meetings with local conservationists, naturalists and entrepreneurs.

Lead instructor, Dr. Sybil Gotsch, has been conducting research in Monteverde’s ecosystem since 2012 to understand how changes in climate affect this ecosystem. Students will learn techniques in field biology by directly participating in Dr. Gotsch’s research program.

Field activities will serve to broaden students’ experience in conservation biology and field ecology, and will hone students’ ability to observe and understand the natural world.

Learning activities include:

  • Tree climbing facilitated by local experts and naturalists (weather dependent)
  • Hands-on field experiment working alongside scientists to examine the effects of climate change on the physiology of canopy plants
  • Guided interpretive hikes in seasonal rain forest and cloud forest habitats
  • Lab and field-based observations to explore the diversity of the canopy community

In addition to conducting research in the cloud forest, students will meet with local farmers and residents to learn how locals are attempting to balance economic development with environmental preservation.

Program Dates:

One Week Session July 1-7, 2018

Eligibility: For students completing grades 10-12, ages 16-18 by June 2018

Note: This is a physically active program. Students will spend significant time outdoors engaged in activities such hiking and tree climbing.

Fees: $3,166

Financial Aid Available »

Passport/Visa Requirement: A passport is required. US and EU citizens do not require a visa.

Application deadline: Friday, April 6, 2018

Course »

For Accepted Students »

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Hiking in the Cloud Forest
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Residential and Student Life


Students will reside at the 155-acre University of Georgia Costa Rica campus located in mountainous San Luis de Monteverde. Accommodations are an 8-10 minute walk along an unpaved, country road to the dining hall and classroom facilities. On-Site Director and Residential Advisors will reside with students.

The On-Site Director and Residential Advisors reside in residence hall with students, providing a safe atmosphere that supports student success by emphasizing community building and individual responsibility.


Meals are provided at the University of Georgia San Luis campus cafeteria. Students can expect three healthy meals each day consisting of local and seasonal produce.

Your program fee includes:

  • Course fee
  • All lodging as part of the course
  • All Meals
  • All transportation, field trips and site visits as described in the program description
  • Transfer from/to airport on day of arrival and departure

Not included in Program Fee:

  • Air travel to/from San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Textbooks
  • Items of a personal nature
View of the Cloud Forest
View of cloud forest from UGA campus

A Typical Day

7:00 - 8:00am Breakfast
8:00 - 12 noon Morning Session (ex. tropical forest restoration project)
12 noon -1:30pm Lunch and Free Time
2:00 - 5:30pm Afternoon Session (ex. hike in seasonal rain forest and cloud forest habitats)
5:30 - 6:00pm Dinner
6:00 - 7:00pm Community Building
7:00 - 9:00pm Evening Session (ex. night hike)
9:00 - 10:00pm Free time
10:00pm Well-Deserved Rest

Location-based programs are academically rigorous. Given the intensity of the program, there is minimal free time.

Lecture in the Cloud Forest
Lecture with Dr. Gotsch at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Program Faculty

Dr. Sybil Gotsch is a tropical plant ecophysiologist, a field concerned with the form and function of organisms in relation to their external environment. Dr. Gotsch studies the Tropical Montane Cloud Forest canopy community and is in particular interested in understanding how canopy plants (epiphytes) are affected by seasonal drought as well as changes in cloud base heights and precipitation.

Dr. Gotsch is a veteran of Brown programs and is a passionate educator, particularly excited to share what she is learning in the treetops with students. Dr. Gotsch finds mentoring young people incredibly rewarding, and is especially interested in using field-based learning activities in her teaching. For more information about Sybil’s teaching and research please see her website

Admission Criteria
UGA campus classroom

Admission Criteria

This program has reached capacity and is no longer accepting applications.

Prospective students must apply for admission. When evaluating applications, the Admissions Review Committee looks for academic excellence, intellectual curiosity, social maturity, self-motivation and a readiness for participation in an independent academic environment.

A Complete Application Consists of the Following Items:

  1. A Completed Application Form
    Parents and Students: Please be sure to create only one account per applicant.
    Your application provides basic information about you. In addition, students should be prepared to write an essay telling us:
    • what you hope to learn in the program to which you are applying;
    • why this is of interest to you;
    • what contributions you hope to make;
    • and any further information you want to convey to us.
  2. A Non-refundable Application Fee (payable securely by credit card within the Student Portal)
    One application fee per application submitted
    Before 3/2/2018: $50
    3/2/2018 to 4/29/2018: $75
    4/30/2018 and after: $100
  3. An Academic Transcript or Grade Report
    Applicants must submit grades for the 2017-2018 academic term and two previous academic years. Acceptable forms include, but are not limited to, progress reports, report cards, transcripts and unofficial transcripts. Documentation must include your full name and an explanation of the scoring system in English. Applicants will upload this material in the student portal after they have submitted their application form. Academic records do NOT need to be submitted by your school or guidance counselor.
  4. A Teacher Recommendation
    Within the application applicants must submit the name and email address of a teacher who can attest to the applicant’s capabilities in a classroom setting. An email will be sent to the recommender to provide feedback to the Admission Review Committee.

Please note:

  • In some cases, additional application materials may be requested. Additional materials may include transcripts, essays, or teacher recommendations.
  • Applications will not be reviewed by the Admission Review Committee until they are complete.
  • Program admission does not guarantee enrollment in a specific course.
  • Courses may be cancelled at any time due to unforeseen circumstance.
  • Please wait to make travel arrangements until the program is confirmed.

Notification of Admission Decision

Applicants will be notified by email to log into their Student Portal to view their admission decision once it has been made.

May 2018 Update: Our admissions team carefully reviews each application submitted. Due to the high volume of applications and selectivity of our programs, admissions decisions will be made within fifteen business days of receipt of a complete application.

Confirming Attendance with a Program Deposit

Accepted students must confirm their attendance by submitting a $300 non-refundable program deposit. Students attending more than one program must submit a $300 non-refundable deposit for each program. Students will not be able to enroll in courses until a program deposit is received.


Student and parents are encouraged to review our Policies page to learn about important payment deadlines, refunds, code of conduct, and more.

Important Information for International Students

Brown University Pre-College programs welcome applications from international students. Learn about English language proficiency requirements, Immigration Guidelines, Deadlines for Submitting Documentation, How to Apply for a Visa, and more on our International Students page.

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