Over the last few decades Costa Rica has come to be recognized globally as an icon of successful conservation. In the process, conservation and the tourism associated with it have made major contributions to the Costa Rican economy. However, Costa Rica now faces a number of challenges that threaten to undermine the progress it has made. In coastal areas in particular, rapid development is affecting both ecosystems and local community livelihoods.

This course will focus on the effects of coastal development on both conservation and local communities in Guanacaste Province. For the first ten days of the course we will be based at Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve and will visit a number of nearby communities to speak with local people. During the remainder of the course we will travel to a number of national parks and reserves along the coast. We will also visit sites of rapid coastal development – resorts, large housing tracts and gated communities. In the process we will meet with people representing different viewpoints on trends in coastal development. Course assignments will focus on integrating what you are learning experientially with literature on the anthropology and political ecology of conservation.