Contribution starting at $2,625
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10 days ($263 per day) Includes accommodations, food, and all related research costs
Wildlife & Ecosystems

Toucans, Parrots, and Other Wildlife in Costa Rica's Forests

Las Cruces, Coto Brus, Costa Rica Map it
Lead Scientist
Activity Level
Single Rooms possible
Couples Rooms possible
Research Station
Internet access
Staff-prepared meals
Toucan in tropical vegetation
Volunteers conducting field research
Reptile on a moss covered rock
Volunteers performing research outdoors
Small mammal in Costa Rica
Volunteers birdwatching in the forest of Costa Rica
Volunteers hiking through the forest as the sun is setting
Toucan in tropical vegetation
Volunteers conducting field research
Reptile on a moss covered rock
Volunteers performing research outdoors
Small mammal in Costa Rica
Volunteers birdwatching in the forest of Costa Rica
Volunteers hiking through the forest as the sun is setting

Over the past 70 years, more than 80 percent of the original tropical forest in Coto Brus, Costa Rica has disappeared. Help scientists explore new, sustainable methods to conserve these ecosystems.

Volunteers hiking across a fog covered field

The landscape of Coto Brus, Costa Rica was once dominated by a rich tropical forest. Today, much of these forests have disappeared, cleared to make way for agriculture or livestock. This means that for the forests to regenerate, “seed dispersers,” like toucans, parrots, and monkeys, need to travel long distances between fragmented patches of forest. However, hunting and habitat loss have impacted these seed dispersers, threatening forest recovery and biodiversity in Costa Rica.

In Coto Brus, some rural farmers and other landowners plant fruiting trees on their properties, which they intersperse among homes and agricultural fields across the landscape. Scientists hypothesize that these trees hold the secret to improving the resilience of forest ecosystems and could restore the continuity of Costa Rica’s tropical forests, which would have major benefits for both people and wildlife. By demonstrating the ecological benefits of these fruiting trees, scientists could help to inform policies that support local communities, enabling landowners to continue or possibly scale up their tree-planting practices.

Join scientists in the mountains and foothills of southern Costa Rica to monitor monkeys, toucans, parrots, other tropical birds, and reptiles. You’ll help to conserve the rich biodiversity of Costa Rica, including the 2,000 plant species, 100 mammal species, and more than 400 species of birds that occur in this region.


A Typical Itinerary

  • DAY 1   Arrival, introductions, travel to field station
  • DAY 2-5   Observe animals in fruiting trees, monitor wildlife
  • DAY 6-9   Survey for fruiting tree, collect seeds from seed traps in forest
  • DAY 10   Departure




When you arrive, the researchers will provide you with information on studying tropical forests and monitoring wildlife. Field work, including training, will begin on Day 2, where you will:


Volunteers surveying fruiting trees
Survey fruiting trees

At the edges of forests and farm fields, you'll survey the presence and distribution of fruiting trees.

Volunteers observing wildlife in fruiting trees
Observe wildlife in fruiting trees

Identify and record animal species—including tropical birds, monkeys, and reptiles—that are eating the fruits and seeds in the planted trees, as well as their behaviors.

Volunteers collecting seeds and plant in greenhouse
Collect seeds and plant in greenhouse

Gather seeds that have fallen into seed traps so they can be sorted by species; plant seeds that are deemed intact in germination flats and help to maintain them.

Field conditions and research needs can lead to changes in the itinerary and activities. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.



3 Reviews on this Expedition

If you have been on this expedition, others considering attending would love to hear about your experience.
Gabrielle Schavran | September 6, 2019
Toucans, Parrots, and Other Wildlife in Costa Rica's Forests was an excellent blend of experiencing data collection, learning about the local community and ecology, and experiencing amazing hikes/tours on the wildlife/botanical preserve the station is situated on. The team leaders helped us learn how to ID many birds that frequent the fruit trees as well as ID the fruits that the animals eat. I thought that the goal to learn how stepping stones, patches, and corridors of forest are utilized by various species can be vital in reaching out to landowners to encourage sustaining measures. The sociological work –interviewing the local landowners to understand their perspectives about the forest – is vital to helping the scientists understand and support the landowners' needs as well as encourage environmental conservation. It was exciting to be a part of the data collection team and to work in the field, on the properties, to get a true perspective of the landowner's properties/usage. Of course, the deep forest transects, experiencing the dense forest as well as the siting of toucans, parrots, sloths, and white-faced capuchins were absolutely incredible!
Julia Salinas | September 11, 2018
Between the wildlife aspect and the amazing people you meet, this was an experience of a lifetime.
Sylvia Fine | March 2, 2018
We had a wonderful time on this expedition! Las Cruces is an elegantly manicured tropical botanic garden, bounded by lush native forest, and filled with brilliantly colored birds and other nifty fauna like agouti and coatimundi. Waking every morning to such beauty was a delight. I was thrilled that all the PIs on this project are young women- informed, thoughtful, enthusiastic, and so willing to share time with volunteers. Our group was the 'first ever', both for this study and for the PIs to work with Earthwatch (I think). Pilot studies always encounter some difficulties, but the leaders were very open to suggestions and flexible about improvements to our daily tasks and schedules. The food was excellent (gorgeous view from the dining hall, too) and accommodations comfortable. My only warning to potential volunteers is that the monkeys are few and far between, so if they are a big part of your attraction to this project, you could be disappointed. Toucans and many small feathered jewels in the tanager family were fine compensation for me.

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