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San Jose: Costa Rica Tropical Field Ecology
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Audrey Arner

Liberal Arts Major(s): Biological Anthropology
Other Major: Biology
Hometown: Stafford, Virginia
Experience Time: Spring 2020

Give us a brief summary of your experience?

I spent two weeks over winter break interacting with tropical flora and fauna in Costa Rica as we hiked around lowland, montane, and mangrove forests. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the complex interactions of organisms in each habitat zone, I conducted two group research projects and one independent project in the field with help from Costa Rican and Penn State faculty members.

I interacted with an incredible variety of animals, ranging from howler monkeys to glass frogs, learned about the plants and other organisms these animals rely on, and found out about human impacts on wildlife diversity.

How did this experience impact you academically?

Taking this class in Costa Rica allowed me to gain a more in-depth perspective about tropical ecology than simply taking a class in State College. In short, the course’s material perfectly incorporated my academic interests in anthropology and biology and enhanced my interest in the intersection between the two subjects. I interacted with an incredible variety of animals, ranging from howler monkeys to glass frogs, learned about the plants and other organisms these animals rely on, and found out about human impacts on wildlife diversity.

How will this experience impact your career goals?

Although I have previously conducted research, those experiences have all been computational. Completing small field research projects in Costa Rica helped me gain a better understanding of the diversity of research methods I could use to answer complex evolutionary questions in an anthropology graduate program. This experience also gave me a broader appreciation for how culture intersects with biology and impacts conservation.

How has the College of the Liberal Arts helped you to find and/or succeed in this experience (e.g., adviser, faculty, staff, enrichment funds, etc.)?

My diverse academic interests have always been supported by the faculty in the College of the Liberal Arts, who have assisted me in finding and taking part in unique opportunities during my time at Penn State. I have also received enrichment funds to support these experiences abroad.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows Program has encouraged me to make the most of my academic experience through study abroad programs such as the one I took in Costa Rica. Furthermore, the program has challenged me to increase my intercultural awareness, aiding me in becoming a better anthropologist.

For more information on global opportunities for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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