Tropical Rainforests, Winter Quarter, 2008


John T. Longino
Lab I rm 1065, 867-6511,

Paul Butler
Lab II rm 3267, 867-6722,

David Phillips (Spanish Instructor)
Sem2, B-3123, ext. 6508,



7 January 2008: new version of syllabus posted.

17 December 2007: the field trip end date has been corrected; it ends 15 March, not 17 March. See COSTA RICA FIELD TRIP SCHEDULE.

4 December 2007: For those of you accepted into the program, signature overrides have been entered and you can register now.

This Syllabus is a flexible document subject to change.


First class meeting is Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 9am, LH2.

Wednesday, 9am-noon, Lecture, LH2.
Wednesday, 2pm-4pm, Spanish, Sem2, B-3109.
Thursday, 10am-noon, Spanish, Sem2, D-2109.
Thursday, 1-4pm, Lecture, LH4.
Friday, 10-noon, Seminar (2 sections), Lab1, rm2033, rm3033.
Friday, 1-4pm, Workshop/Lab, Lab1, rm1040.

Friday of week 2 will be an all-day field lab, meeting in Lab1 at 8:30am.

Friday of week 6 will be an all-day field trip to Woodland Park Zoo.

Friday of week 7 will be a final exam in the morning, 9am-noon, and the Rainforest Bazaar in the afternoon, 1-4pm (set-up starts at noon), Sem2, B3105.


Each student accepted into the program must pay a total of $1553 into their student account at the cashiers office. By registering in the program, this amount will be automatically charged to your student account. Deadline for payment of fees is Friday, 11 January 2008. Those not paying fees on time will be dropped from the program.

Make payments to cashier's office in Sem 2, E2105, to budget 29037-52504.

$150 of this is an administration fee that Evergreen charges to all study abroad students. The rest goes to Costa Rica and covers all essential room, board, and transportation expenses in Costa Rica. It is an amount agreed upon in a contract between The Evergreen State College and The Monteverde Institute, a Costa Rican private non-profit organization that provides logistical support for our program. Plan on bringing additional funds for incidental expenses (personal supplies, gifts, snacks, etc.). Airfare is not included and you will be responsible for your own transportation to and from Costa Rica.


Week 1: Intro to tropics. LLAMA project.
Week 2: Tropical plants. Litter field project.
Week 3: Tropical animals.
Week 4: Biotic interactions: flowers and fruits.
Week 5: Diversity analysis. Why so many species?
Week 6: Biotic interactions: ant plants, mimicry, army ants.
Week 7: Exam review, Fieldtrip preparation.


Week 1: Kšppen classification, plate tectonics/world geology, geologic time.
Week 2: Weather and climate.
Week 3: Weather and climate, continued; global climate change in the tropics.
Week 4: Geology and soils.
Week 5: Hydrologic cycle.
Week 6: Geology and hydrology of Costa Rica.
Week 7: Exam review, Fieldtrip preparation.


Friday afternoon workshops will emphasize quantitative methods through a combination of statistics workshops and a major field lab. We will carry out a field lab investigating the response of leaf litter invertebrates to disturbance. The lab will be carried out here on the Evergreen campus and then again at a field site in Costa Rica.
Week 1: statistics workshop.
Week 2: full day field lab, taking samples and hanging the sample extraction bags at the Organic Farm. 1:00: tour Evergreen Collections.
Week 3: sort samples in microscopy lab, enter data.
Week 4: statistics workshop, analysis of data from field lab.
Week 5: statistics workshop.


Formal seminars will occur in weeks 1, 3, 4, and 5. The book for the first three seminars will be Forsyth and Miyata, and you should have read the book in time for the first seminar. On week 1 we will discuss the book in general and assign each person a chapter. Your job is to (1) find a published scientific study that is related to the topic of the chapter, (2) have it be from the primary scientific literature, (3) have it be published after 1995, (4) write a 2-page summary of the paper, and (5) give a 10-minute oral presentation on the paper. The 2-page paper should contain (1) your name and date, (2) the full bibliographic citation of the article, following the reference format of the journal Biotropica, (3) a paragraph on the general questions the study addresses, (4) a paragraph on the specific question(s) the study addresses, (5) a paragraph on the key findings, and (6) a paragraph on how the study could be improved and/or expanded. The 10-minute oral presentations should have similar content to your 2-page paper and be done with some form of visual aid (e.g., chalkboard, Powerpoint, newsprint). The oral presentations will be scheduled during week 3 and 4 seminar periods. There will be time after 10-minute presentations for discussion. The week 5 seminar will be based on a set of articles on tropical forest conservation and response to global warming. The articles will be available on the program fileshare.


On Friday of week 7 we will have a Rainforest Bazaar. Each student will prepare a visual or audiovisual display that is related to their species or geography account.

Above: the classic Rainforest Bazaar presentation.

Above: Rainforest Bazaar theatrical production.


Full credit will be awarded if the following assignments and tasks are completed in a satisfactory way. Our written evaluations usually have an overall statement of performance in the program, followed by a short descriptive statement for each of the elements of the program listed below. For example, an evaluation of a species account might be "Elizabeth's species account was on Anacardium occidentale, the cashew tree, and overall she did an excellent job. Her first draft was a fine product, with excellent English composition and general structure, and only small details of scientific format needed improvement. She produced a final paper with four pages of text and 13 references, including many excellent sources from the primary literature. She did an outstanding job of synthesizing these papers, and produced a very readable and informative account. She clearly demonstrated an ability to follow conventions of technical scientific writing. She also did an excellent job of reviewing other students' drafts." An evaluation of an exam result might be "On the final exam, she demonstrated a very good knowledge of the conceptual material, as revealed by the short answer and definition portion. She did a very good job on the diversity calculations, but was weak on descriptive statistics."

Species Account

On week 1, you will be assigned a genus or species of tropical organism. Your job is to find a recent technical scientific article about the taxon. The article should be published in a peer-reviewed journal and should be about the ecology, evolutionary biology, or taxonomy of the taxon. You will write a paper that contains the following elements: (1) the biology of wild populations (not the domesticated version) of your organism, (2) a summary of its interaction with and importance to humans, (3) a summary and critique of the focal article, and (4) specific suggestions for further research. The report should contain at least ten references from the primary scientific literature and follow the conventions of technical scientific writing.

Geography Account

In week 1, each student will be assigned a location in the tropics (usually a country or region of a country). The assignment is to investigate the geography of your place. Topics to cover include: bedrock geology, weather and climate, soils, and native flora and fauna. You will produce a written report (4-5 pages), plus 2-3 pages of supporting figures and tables.

Peer Review

There will be a review process for the Species and Geography Accounts. We will establish "reviewer clubs" of three students each. Manuscripts will be due on fridays at the beginning of class, according to the following schedule: Week 3. First draft submitted to two student reviewers. Student reviewers make comments directly on manuscript copies and return to author as soon as possible, but with deadline of class wednesday morning of week 4. Reviewers must write their name clearly on reviewed copy, and authors must retain reviewed copies for later submission. Week 4. Second draft and two reviewer copies of first draft due to faculty. Week 5. Faculty return edited second draft. Week 6. Third and final draft submitted to faculty for evaluation.

Tips on writing proposals, writing technical scientific reports, and giving symposium talks are in report-tips.pdf.

Newspaper Article

Imagine that your taxon is being attacked by a disease that threatens to extinguish them from the planet. Write a fictional newspaper article that reports this and the consequences to humanity. Feel free to be humorous or serious, but try to convey scientific information to a general, non-science audience.

The article will be due Friday of week 6.

Participation in Field Lab, Statistics

There will be a write-up due for the field lab. Evaluation will be based on participation, quality of work (field sampling, sample processing, data entry), and the write-up. Statistical concepts will be evaluated by material on the final exam.

The field lab write-up is due Friday of week 5.

Final Exam

There will be an in-class written exam on friday morning of week 7. The exam will be based on all program material up to that point.


Evaluation will be based on content, aesthetics, and creativity.

Costa Rica Field Journal

Students will maintain a field journal during the Costa Rica field trip. The journal will be spot-checked by faculty during the field trip, and reviewed at the end of the fieldtrip.

Written evaluations

Prior to departure for Costa Rica students will submit a written evaluation of David Phillips. In Costa Rica at the end of the field trip, students will submit a written self evaluation and separate evaluations for John Longino and Paul Butler.

Due Date Synopsis

Week 3, Fri seminar: 1st draft species and geography accounts.
Week 4, Fri seminar: 2nd draft species and geography accounts, with reviewer copies.
Week 5, Fri seminar: Field lab write-up.
Week 6, Fri morning: Final draft species and geography accounts, with faculty edited copy; Newspaper article.
Week 7, Fri morning: Final Exam.
Week 7, Fri afternoon: Rainforest Bazaar.


Our last scheduled on-campus class activity will be the Rainforest Bazaar on Friday afternoon, 22 Feb. All students should be in Costa Rica by Monday night, 25 Feb. Longino will fly to Costa Rica on that day and will announce his flight details for those wishing to book on the same flight. The program officially ends on the morning of Saturday, 15 March, so your departing flight can be any time from Saturday morning on. Evaluation conferences will be held in Costa Rica at the end of the field trip, so there is no need to return to Olympia for evaluations.

This is a packing list that the Monteverde Institute recommends for field courses (click here). It is a good guide to what you will need for our field trip. One thing on the list that is hard to get and probably not essential is the mosquito net. We will be in tents at one of our field trip sites, but in the Monteverde Institute has tents and mosquito nets for students.


Forsyth, A., and K. Miyata. 1984. Tropical Nature. Touchstone, New York, New York.

Kricher, J. 1997. A Neotropical Companion, Second Edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.


Gentry, A. H. 1993. A Field Guide to the Families and Genera of Woody Plants of Northwest South America : With Supplementary Notes on Herbaceous Taxa. University of Chicago Press.

Heywood, V. H. 1978. Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press. (there are various later reprintings and later editions.)

Hubbell, S. P. 2001. The unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

Janzen, D. H., editor. 1983. Costa Rican Natural History. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Judd, W. S., C. S. Campbell, E. A. Kellogg, and P. F. Stevens. 1999. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach. Sinauer.

Magurran, A. E. 2003. Measuring Biological Diversity. Blackwell.

Nadkarni, N. M. and N. T. Wheelwright 2000. Monteverde: ecology and conservation of a tropical cloud forest. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.


4* Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of Tropical Ecosystems
4* Physical Environments of Tropical Ecosystems
4* Quantitative Methods for Field Biology
4 Introductory or Intermediate Spanish
* upper division science credit

John T. Longino, The Evergreen State College, Olympia WA 98505 USA.

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Last modified: 23 January 2008.