Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 18:00

Assumption Science Students Trek through Costa Rica’s Rain and Cloud Forests


Eight Assumption College students and two faculty members traveled in January to the Central American country of Costa Rica, home to one of the highest percentage of protected areas in the world, to study the country’s wildlife, learn about environmental science, and experience Latin American culture.

Participating students were Christina Lambert ’17, Cassandra Mizzioni ’17, Ethel McGinn ’15, Kara McMahon ’17, Kendra Sloan ’16, Lauran Pepi ’15, Sondra Savickas, Sonia Nunes, and Sylwia Golemo ’15. They were accompanied by Assistant Professor of Biology Aisling Dugan and Art & Music Adjunct Professor Kathryn Egnaczak.

About the size of West Virginia and known for its sustainable ecotourism industry, 28 percent of Costa Rica’s land is protected in the form of 28 national parks, making it an ideal place to study the region’s biodiversity. Assumption’s group also used the trip to practice their Spanish, meet other students and learn more about the country’s culture. For many students, Costa Rica is an ideal destination for those students embarking upon their first venture into international travel. at it would be a good place for students to go if they did not have much experience traveling abroad.

Professor Dugan, who had previously led an Assumption expedition to Belize in 2014, described the trip, the se as “a fabulous cultural and ecological experience.” She also added that, “The trip provided the opportunity to lean about the ecosystems and animals that live in Costa Rica, interact with many people from this region, and explore art and agricultural industries that are important to the Costa Rican economy.

“Many of our science students find it difficult to study abroad because of the high number of course requirements,” she went on to explain. “The Natural Science Dept hopes this trip will enrich the educational experience of students interested in traveling abroad but who might not be able to do this for a semester or year.

The experience allowed students to experience the country in a way they never would have been able to in the classroom. During their nine day voyage they toured cities across Costa Rica including San Jose, La Fortuna, Santa Elena, Monteverdi, and Playa Hermosa. Some of the highlights included traveling to volcanic mountains such as Monteverde; trekking through rain and cloud forests; swimming in the ocean off the Pacific coast; visiting nature reserves like Sarchi, Manual Antonio National Park to observe sloths, crocodiles, toucans, and monkeys in their natural environment; taking a dip in a hot spring, zip-lining through the jungles, riding horses, and attending coffee- and chocolate-making demonstrations.

“It was a great opportunity to travel and really see various parts of the country, rather than just stay at a resort and enjoy a beach,” said Nunes, an English literature major from Webster, Mass. “I also wanted to meet some more people from Assumption, because I am a transfer student, and I wanted to feel more immersed in the Assumption community. Above all, I love the Spanish culture—the energy, the language, the music, and the food.”

Savickas, a Business Management major from Paxton, Mass., thought the trip would be a great opportunity she could not pass up.

“I originally saw the e-mail invitation last summer and immediately signed up, even though I didn't know anyone going,” she said. “I figured that any Assumption students would be a blast to travel with.”

She knows her memories of the experience will last a lifetime, “My favorite part would have to be seeing all the different wildlife Costa Rica had to offer. Seeing everything from monkeys to sloths to toucans, and tarantulas in the wild will be something I will remember forever. There was such a diversity of animals and plants and trees that could only be seen in person to be believable.”

Patrick Cannon is an Assumption senior and interns for the College’s Office of Communications.

Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College @AssumptionNews