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CIEE Monteverde Tropical Ecology & Conservation

Fast Facts

Sessions Offered:

Fall, Spring, Summer


Monteverde, Costa Rica




Overall 2.5 GPA & 2 semesters of college-level biology required, 1 additional college-level ecology or environmental science course & some college level Spanish recommended.

Application Due:

Fall and Summer: 3/1
Spring: 10/1

Program Cost:

Click the Application tab.

CIEE is offering free flights to San Jose, Costa Rica to students who participate in this program!

See the Logistics tab for more information.

Academic Program

The Monteverde Tropical Ecology and Conservation program is designed to give biology and related majors a rich understanding of tropical ecology. The program offers a combination of science courses taught in English, a Spanish language course at various levels, and independent research. It is ideal for students who are outdoorsy and who are committed to fully immersing themselves in academics, nature, and the local culture. The program is administered by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) on behalf of a consortium of which The University of Iowa is a member. Participants join a group of students from other U.S. colleges and universities. UI students earn resident credit on this program.


Students take three biological and/or physical science courses, a Spanish language course at one of nine levels, and an independent research course. Science courses are taught in English by biology professors from universities in Costa Rica, Europe, and the United States who hold degrees in ecology and have extensive tropical experience. Coursework incorporates extensive field trips to various ecosystems, including Corcovado National Park's Pacific Lowland Rainforest, Caño Island, Tortuguero National Park, and the coral reefs in Panama's Bocas del Toro.
Students earn 17 semester hours for the semester.

Program Dates

Fall semester, mid-August to late November; Spring semester, early February to late May.


This intensive eight-week program immerses students in tropical biology and ecology and allows them to conduct independent research in a specific area. Science courses are taught in English by highly qualified faculty, with guest lectures from resident and visiting biologists. Spanish classes and a three-week homestay help students build their Spanish language skills. Students take a condensed version of the semester program, including two biology courses, one Spanish language course and independent research. Students earn 10 s.h. for the summer.

Program Dates for Summer

Mid-June to mid-August.

Eligibility Requirements

Semester Program: Two semesters of college-level biology required. One semester of college-level ecology or environmental science is recommended. Some college-level Spanish is recommended as well.

Summer Program: One semester of college-level biology required. One semester of college-level ecology or environmental science is recommended. Some college-level Spanish is recommended as well.

For More Information

Before initiating an application with CIEE students are required to meet with the Study Abroad Advisor for this program, Kristine Djerf. Please contact the Study Abroad office by stopping by 1111 University Capitol Centre, or calling 319-335-0353, to schedule an appointment. More program details can be found at the CIEE portal. Summer program CIEE Summer Tropical Ecology + Conservation; semester program CIEE Tropical Ecology + Conservation.


"Monteverde" is a cluster of towns that make up the area and include; Monteverde, Santa Elena, Cerra Plano, and San Luis. Each town has its own small "downtown". Students attend their classes at the Monteverde Biological Station. It has been devoted, since its creation in 1989, to insure that researchers, students, and nature lovers, who treasure their interaction with the forest and it fauna, enjoy nature. The Monteverde Biological Station is located at the highest point of the Tilarán Mountain Range, between 4,500 feet and 6,000 feet above sea level. This elevation influences its weather, creating a microclimate with very distinctive characteristics since it is affected by the Pacific Ocean - some 50 miles away as the crow flies.
The town of Monteverde was founded by Quakers from the United States in the 1950s. The Quakers and some pacifists chose the area for it cool climate, which would facilitate dairy farming, and because of the country's nonviolent, army-free constitution, and its friendly Costa Rican inhabitants. The Quakers stewarded and farmed a large tract of land, part of which they eventually set aside for conservation, which today is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Today, tourists contribute the principal revenues to the zone, though coffee plantations and dairy farms still dot the landscape. The region, comprising numerous small towns, is home to about 5,000 people of diverse backgrounds.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous peoples before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It declared its independence from the United Provinces of Central America in 1847 and since then it has remained among the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. After it's brief civil war, Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949, becoming one of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army. Costa Rica has progressive environmental polices and is the only country to meet all five United Nations Development Program criteria established to measure environmental sustainability. A pioneer of ecotourism, Costa Rica draws many tourists to its extensive series of national parks and other protected areas.Costa Rica aspires to become carbon neutral in 2050.

US Department of State Country Information

The US Department of State provides safety and security information for every country of the world to help you assess for yourself the risks of travel. Each country information page contains a Travel Advisory, Alerts, and other important details specific to that country that could affect you.

Pay close attention to the entry and exit requirements, local laws and customs, health conditions, and other details to help decide whether traveling to any given country is right for you. Non-US citizen travelers may also wish to seek guidance from the embassy of their country of citizenship. The UI International Travel Policy for Students addresses restrictions on student travel to high-risk locations and engagement in high-risk activities abroad.

CIEE Latin America Flight Voucher Program

All semester participants for Spring 2020 and Fall 2020 are eligible for this program. The value of the voucher is $1000. This $1000 does not count towards scholarship/grant awarding caps. Students cannot also receive the GAIN or Open Campus travel voucher. Additional details:

  • Once the Confirmation of Participation is signed students will receive a unique voucher code to use with Student Universe
  • Must be an economy flight; any upgrades or insurance must be paid for by the student
  • It is a one time use for round-trip flights only

Living Arrangements

For two months of the program students live next to the cloud forest at the Monteverde Biological Field station. Rooms have four bunk beds, private baths and hot showers. Meals are provided, family style, and vegetarians and vegans are easily accommodated. A one-month homestay with a Spanish-speaking family in Monteverde, or another nearby town, makes it easy to immerse oneself in the local language and culture. During homestays, students are provided with three meals a day. At other times, students are traveling throughout the country to visit and study different regions; this includes camping and other rural housing. All meals are included.

Students studying for the summer semester spend the duration of the program living at the Monteverde Biological Field Station. For field lodging, students camp or stay in cabins. All meals are provided.

Travel Arrangements

Students make their own travel arrangements to arrive in Costa Rica by a designated date. Specific information will be provided in post-acceptance materials from CIEE .


Students must be in good academic and disciplinary standing. Students who have an active case with the dean of students or who are on academic or disciplinary probation will not be accepted into the program. Students must have a UI and Cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 to be considered. Additionally, students must have two semesters of college-level biology courses completed at the time the program begins for the semester program and one college-level biology course for the summer program completed. It is recommended that students on either the semester program or summer program also have one previous course in ecology or environmental science completed along with some college-level Spanish.


Students are charged a Program Fee on their Ubill. This charge covers tuition, housing, optional on-site airport pick-up, multi-day on-site orientation, cultural and/or co-curricular activities, excursions and/or study tours. In addition to the Program Fee, students are assessed a University of Iowa Study Abroad Administrative Fee . Also, on the Ubill will be the mandatory Iowa Regents International CISI insurance .
Other costs include but are not limited to, application fee, round trip airfare to the program site, passport and visa fees, meals, local transportation, books and supplies, and personal expenses.

Financial Aid & Scholarships

Most financial aid (scholarships, grants, and loans) is applicable to study abroad programs. Please check the Study Abroad website for information on financial aid and how it may be applied to studying abroad. You are also encouraged to speak with someone at the Office of Student Financial Aid to explore financial aid options. The Study Abroad office has several scholarship opportunities as well and more information can be found on UI Study Abroad Scholarship Opportunities websites and Non-UI External Awards.

CIEE has several scholarships available to University of Iowa students. Please visit the CIEE Scholarship web site to find out more about their scholarships.

How to Apply

Before starting an application, students must meet with the study abroad advisor for Costa Rica. Appointments can be set up in person at 1111 UCC or over the phone at 319-335-0353.

After meeting with your study abroad advisor, click the following application link to being the UI online application: Link to UI Study Abroad online application.

You will also need to apply on CIEE's website. Click the following application link to being the CIEE online application: Link to CIEE Study Abroad online application.

Application deadline

Fall and Summer: March 1

Spring: October 1


In order to prepare for your time abroad, you are required by the University of Iowa to complete two orientations. These may be in addition to orientations provided by your on-site provider. See below for more information.

Online Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation

You are required to complete the International Programs online “Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation” course distributed through ICON prior to departure. This orientation is mandatory for all students going abroad under the auspices of the University of Iowa. It covers many practical matters about living overseas, such as health and safety, communication, money, goals and much more. You will be enrolled in this course by International Programs and an email will be sent to you once enrolled. If you have any questions you can email

Program-Specific Orientation

This orientation will be facilitated by your study abroad advisor and will cover content specific to this program and the host country. Your study abroad advisor will send you more information about this mandatory in-person session.

Before Traveling

Students must complete certain documents and activities for the University of Iowa and CIEE before leaving for their study abroad experience and these include:

  1. Uploading a copy of the information page of their passport to their UI study abroad application.
  2. Completing and turning in a copy of their Credit Approval Form (CAF).
  3. Registering in MyUI for the appropriate study abroad course.
  4. Completing the ICON Course

CIEE Orientation

Students start their study abroad experience before leaving the United States with CIEE’s Online Pre-departure Orientation. Students and the Resident staff meet online to discuss information about the academic program and the city that students will soon be living in. Resident staff also highlight issues that program alumni have said are important and they give students time to ask questions. In addition to this orientation, students will have mandatory orientation sessions conducted in Costa Rica at the beginning of the program.