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Costa Rica Wildlife Conservation Course Credit Internship

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Costa Rica Wildlife Conservation Course Credit Internship

Embarking on an internship abroad is a fantastic opportunity to gain valuable practical skills and course credit in one’s field of study while experiencing full immersion in a novel culture.

Prices from US$2,695

A multitude of Frontier volunteers and interns are University or College students undertaking academic study. Why not make the most of your time abroad by adding volunteer experience to your resume as well as gaining academic course credit in your field of study. This internship will give you the opportunity to gain relevant work experience that will enable you to stand out to prospective employers but will also save you time and money; after all, a minimum of 4 weeks spent volunteering during your summer vacation works out a lot cheaper than another semester at College!

So how does it work? Volunteers can arrange with their academic institution to gain transferrable course credit by participating in our field programmes. Our research team both in our London Headquarters and overseas field staff will liaise with your academic course supervisors on your behalf to ensure that your participation contributes to your academic performance and confers course credits. Further to this, we are able to sign supporting documentation, verify your participation and provide mentoring and in-country support. To sum up, Frontier will be there for you every step of the way!

Set between its tropical Caribbean and Pacific coasts, Costa Rica is one of the most breath-taking countries in the world. Even though it covers just 0.03% of the world’s landmass, it is home to an incredible 500,000 species including jaguars, pumas, four species of monkeys and five species of turtle. This is the highest density of species of any country in the world.

Frontier volunteers are carrying out groundbreaking survey work, exploring Costa Rica's remote habitats and helping to combat the effects of global warming by establishing a baseline against which future protected area management can be assessed.  On this project you will live in a wilderness camp set in dense tropical forest on the shores of the Pacific Ocean next to pristine turtle beaches.

You'll live and work with other enthusiastic and energetic volunteers at a basic research camp near some of Costa Rica's most impressive protected areas. You'll carry out crucial surveys that are being used to find out how climate change is affecting endangered species and threatened habitats. Jaguars, sloths, pumas and turtles are just a fraction of the species here that are under threat; it is your job to help find out how to best protect these species and preserve their environment.

Join this incredible project to discover a world of fragile beauty and help safeguard Costa Rica's precious wildlife and exceptional habitats for future generations.


  • We will tailor your internship to fulfil university/college requirements for independent study or course credit for your field of study 
  • 24/7 supervision and mentoring 
  • Direct liaison between with your mentor and university or college tutor
  • Your mentor can also provide a College reference at the end of your internship
  • Help to monitor & conserve observe forest wildlife
  • Extend your experience of tropical conservation field work
  • There is also the opportunity to gain a qualification in habitat conservation

It is possible to gain Course Credits in the following fields of study:

  • Biological Sciences
  • Coaching 
  • Coral Reef Conservation 
  • Community Health
  • Conservation Biology
  • Construction
  • Ecology
  • Ecosystem Management
  • Healthcare
  • Health Education
  • Journalism
  • Languages
  • Marine Biology
  • Marine Mammal Conservation
  • Medical Placements
  • Teaching
  • Tropical Forest Conservation 
  • Tropical Wildlife Conservation 
  • Wildlife Management


  • Intermediate level of English
  • Introduction to your Course Supervisor



Location Costa Rica
Activities Primate observation-based studies
Turtle monitoring
Big cats monitoring using field sign surveys
Understanding the social and ecological constructs of predator conservation
River otter surveys
Bird surveys
Butterfly surveys (Dry season only)
BTEC personal research projects (Various surveys subject to candidates' interests)
Additional forest trails, river walks and beach walks 
Recreational sports
Reforestation programme
Trail creation and maintenance
Swamp visits by day and night, plus forest night walks
Community involvement activities e.g. education, recreation
Optional excursions (not included in the price and subject to availability)
Transport Pick-up from Puerto Jimenez weekly on a Monday before 12:00pm. Pick-ups available at all other times for $40
Accommodation Frontier forest research station in communal eco-cabins


Before you go

Liaising directly with your academic supervisors
Pre-departure support, mentoring & documentation
Travel & medical advice from dedicated personal travel adviser
Advice on visas & equipment
Discounted medical kit
Free Frontier t-shirt
UK residential briefing weekend including food, accommodation and training (extra cost applies)

In-country Project orientation and training
24/7 supervision and mentoring from the field staff in-country
Support from the research team at London HQ  
3 meals daily (while on project)
Project orientation and training  
Airport pick-up, Mondays before 12:00pm
In-country emergency support
24-hour international HQ backup
BTEC and CoPE qualifications available





A variety of qualifications are available on many of our projects. For example, BTEC certificates and diplomas on our Group conservation projects and TEFL certificates and BTECs on most of our teaching projects. You may also be able to gain a CoPE to support your university application. For more information on these qualifications, please see the qualifications section of our website or ask your volunteer advisor.



Home to one of the largest tropical primary lowland rainforests in the world, Corcovado National Park is also home to a large range of endangered plant and animal species. Over millennia, the dense rainforests have created a dramatic and ideal habitat for hundreds of bird and mammal species and the warm waters surrounding the park are also home to several marine species.

On this project, you will help to carry out extensive and broad biodiversity surveys, which could include:

  • Walking primate transects to collect valuable data on various primate species in the park

  • Beach patrols to assess and survey turtle nesting habits and hatchling health
  • Big cat track surveying and data collection
  • Undertake surveys on the data-deficient neotropical otter
  • Participate in broader surveys and research of exotic bird populations, invertebrates and other animal groups on the peninsula

In addition to wildlife and research activities, volunteers also participate in various other conservation-related tasks. For example, typically once a week all project participants assist with the creation and maintenance of forest trails which help to facilitate the majority of the surveys we conduct. This can be difficult work, but is actually an excellent opportunity to see more of the jungle! In addition to this, there is plenty of time to experience the peninsula with regular walks to indentify and observe rare and endangered species, including nocturnal walks to discover the jungle after dark when the big cats are most active.

Things will be busy! However, there will also be sufficient down time to get stuck into a book while swinging on a hammock or taking a dip in ocean or jungle stream. There are also plenty of optional activities to take part in including horse riding, forest canopy tours, dolphin and whale watching tours and guided trips to the national park, so remember to bring along some extra funds!

The project boasts a busy schedule focusing on a broad range of high impact, groundbreaking conservation strategies and scientific research for which volunteers receive full field training in order to undertake. There will also be a wide range of regular lectures designed to complement the practical research component of the project, which cover topics such as species biology, ecology and conservation needs.

Overview of project objectives


The long term goal of this project is to determine the richness, abundance, distribution and ecological niche of a wide range of endangered, endemic and ecologically important species on the Osa Peninsula. This is also in order to assess the animal’s use of the reserve area on the peninsula in comparison to neighbouring Corcovado National Park. The national park is only a small piece of land and cannot sustain healthy wildlife populations making it critically important to understand the health of the surrounding reserve area and to increase its protections.

This is a wide-reaching project covering many different topics, but has been developed with the understanding that the different research areas we focus on fundamentally overlap with one another. In order to protect the important ecosystems on the Osa Peninsula, we have to understand various key species habitats, habits and trophic preferences amongst other things. These understandings can in turn indicate what actions need to be taken by local communities, governments and the global community more broadly so that we are able to protect the vital biodiversity of the Osa Peninsula.

Sea turtle monitoring


Volunteers patrol two beaches close to camp, which aim to not only gather valuable population data of the endangered marine turtles, but also serve to discourage poachers and predators trying to raid nests and collect eggs. The two species of turtle most frequently observed are the Olive Ridley and the Pacific Green Turtle. During peak nesting season (July-October), turtles found nesting on the beach at night are tagged and given a health check. In the mornings we also conduct nest excavations which involve checking the hatched nests to assess reproductive success after the hatchlings have emerged. 

Total clutch size, number of successfully hatched eggs and the number and stage of development of un-hatched eggs are recorded. Any hatchlings that might have remained trapped in the nest chamber are freed and placed on the beach to allow them to reach the sea. The peak season for turtle monitoring begins in June and ends in February/March. Outside of this time, vital work is still carried out but at a markedly reduced level.

Primate surveys


There are four primate species found on the Osa Peninsula, including the squirrel monkey, mantled howler monkey, Geoffroy’s spider monkey and the white-faced capuchin monkey. The primary objective of this project is to estimate the density of all four primate species in the areas outside of the Corcovado National Park and to record habitat preferences. Work usually includes walking primate transects for data collection and recording observations.

These surveys are typically conducted three to four times each week and involve recording every troop encountered during slow forest treks, using binoculars. It is important to take an accurate count of the number of individuals within the troop (a good pair of binoculars will certainly prove beneficial) as well as calculating the size of the area surveyed by taking measurements of the distance between the trail and the troop of monkeys. Behavioural data is also collected to determine activity patterns in different habitats, and information regarding plant foraging preferences is also recorded to gain a better understanding of the ecosystem as a whole.

Big cats and people


Five species of big cat call the Osa Peninsula home, including the larger jaguar and puma, the smaller jaguarondi and margay, and the intermediate sized ocelot.

Our big cat research is a relatively new multi-phase project initiated in October 2015 that combines a range of field research methods to study the abundance, distribution and habitat of Costa Rican wildcat species. Conflict between landowners and wildlife is one of the most significant challenges facing wildlife conservation and wildcats are not immune. The wildcats are one of the most heavily threatened species in Costa Rica as a result of retaliatory killing and persecution as a preventative measure against livestock predation.

There is a direct correlation between the success of the prey of wildcats and the success of wildcats themselves, and recent poaching of their prey is directly linked to reduced wildcat populations. Both the wildcats and their prey are studied in an attempt to understand the health of cat populations on the peninsula. The ultimate objective is to understand how this ecosystem works, which then allows for a formulation of sustainable strategies to maintain predators and prey in this critical biological corridor neighbouring Corcovado National Park.

It is important to note that these species are elusive and sightings are rare. Even if you don’t see them whilst out on the trail or on camp, it is very likely that you will find evidence that they are around through leaving tracks and faeces. Seeing a big cat is mostly down to luck and being in the right place at the right time, though the nocturnal treks increase your chances of a sighting.

Neotropical river otters


Classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List, the neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis) found in the waterways of the Osa Peninsula urgently requires research so that authorities can gain a better understanding of the conservation status of this elusive animal. Very little is known on the distribution, abundance and habitat use of the otter which makes it very difficult to assess the population status and whether it falls under the Critically Endangered or Vulnerable.

Our study seeks to provide one of the first year-round studies of a local population of otters with regard to the spatial distribution throughout the year. It is critical to study these animals all year round as it is expected that the otters will expand, contract or shift their core areas of use as the river changes in depth, width and course within and between seasons. This information has conservation significance as it ensures that any strategies to protect this species that are recommended as a result of this work consider the habitat requirements throughout the year and not just within a specific shorter period.

We are using GPS to record where indirect evidence of otters has been found into a Geographic Information System (GIS) to assess the spatial distribution through computer analyses. We are also initiating interviews with local communities to gain anecdotal understandings of the presence and distribution of the otter. The data from local people is vital to understanding the population patterns of these elusive animals. Frontier has just published our first research paper on river otters in the area and look forward to strengthening this research.

Bird point count surveys


Bring your binoculars, put on your twitcher’s hat and get set to be up bright and early for bird surveys which occur several times a week. Surveys typically take place along the Rio Carate and at the ecologically sensitive lagoon, Pejeperrito. Many of Costa Rica’s hundreds of bird species can be sighted here, as well as several migratory species. Frequently sighted are trogons, antbirds, hummingbirds and tanagers, and if you are lucky maybe a Baird’s Trogon or Great Curassow.

Bird counts are a commonly used method of identifying avian species composition in an area and we aim to study the diversity of the bird community in primary and secondary forest as well as within the river course and more disturbed areas such as plantations and gardens. Not only will you be identifying birds by sight, but you will start to learn to identify birds by the calls they make. You be surprised at some of curious ways in which staff have learnt to identify the unique calls of different birds!

Butterfly diversity in the forest understorey (Seasonal)


Butterflies are a well recognised indicator of habitat quality, ecosystem function and health and can be used as an early warning system for environmental change. As a key part of the food chain a greater richness and abundance of butterflies will promote greater diversity of animals at the top trophic level (e.g., wild cats) and any changes in the environment and forest health that results in detriment to butterfly populations will have significant negative impacts on other wildlife. This work is conducted only in the dry season due to damage caused by rainfall and therefore typically runs between October/November and May/June.

Amphibian and reptile richness and abundance


Costa Rican amphibians and reptiles are a diverse group and are amongst one of the most sensitive to climate change due to their use of small microhabitats and the porous nature of their skin. Declines have already been seen amongst these two groups due to reductions in rainfall, and humidity and increased temperatures increasing bacterial growth and disease transmission. The sensitive nature of amphibians and reptiles to altered climatic variables makes them an excellent indicator group for studying the effects of changing climates. 

Our study aims to collect baseline data on the different species that live within primary and secondary forests and more degraded areas on the peninsula, whilst also collecting data on ecological variables related to the species. Environmental data such as temperature and humidity is also recorded to monitor the effects of climate change on populations between years. The idea of this project is to create an inventory of all amphibians and reptiles in the area, which will allow us to estimate the number of species there are likely to be in the area and can be used to monitor not only the richness but also the abundance and microhabitat preferences of the species.




If you arrive on a Monday before 12:00pm, you will be greeted at Puerto Jimenez airport or bus station by a Frontier staff member and escorted by local bus to the project camp. If arriving after 12:00pm on a Monday or at any time on any other day, a pick-up can be arranged for an additional US$85.




Life on camp is a unique experience! You will be staying in simple, shared, mixed-sex eco-cabins amidst the jungles near to Carate. This is a jungle research camp, so you may sometimes find yourself sleeping in a tent or in a hammock – a mosquito net is an absolute must! We have tried to keep the camp in harmony with its pristine surroundings, so conditions are simple, but environmentally friendly and comfortable.

The camp is situated about 5 minutes walk from Playa Carate, a beach which stretches for over 20 miles all the way into Corcovado National Park. There are cool, refreshing showers and environmentally friendly, composting toilets on camp too. You’ll be feeling one with the jungle before you know it!

Check out our camp tour video!

Check out our video on Frontier Gap Year TV from Costa Rica, showing you volunteer life on the Osa Peninsula.



We feel it is very important to support the local economy, so most of our supplies are sourced locally. This means we do not have access to everyone’s preferred foods and much of what we eat is seasonal and fresh. Costa Rican food is delicious, with a focus on rice, beans and good quality fruit and vegetables. 

Cooking and cleaning are carried out communally on a rotational basis, so everybody will be responsibility for meal preparation. You will have the opportunity to learn how to cook the national staple food, gallo pinto, consisting of fried rice and black beans. Another dish that is simple to prepare with local ingredients and is often eaten on camp is light and crispy tortillas stuffed with refried beans and vegetables.

There are no refrigeration facilities for meat, fish and dairy, so the team takes the environmentally friendly option of vegetarianism during their time on project. If this sounds worrying to you, not to worry, as volunteers regularly make delicious comfort foods such as pizza, falafel-style burgers, curries with homemade chapattis and ginger and cinnamon cakes to name but a few. Get creative! There is also powdered milk to satisfy you avid tea-drinkers. 

Much of the fresh water in the streams surrounding the camp and on the peninsula are safe to drink and it’s important to remember to keep hydrated. Just be sure to check with staff first.

Costa Rica is also world famous for its coffee and it represents the country’s biggest export, so coffee lovers will have plenty of opportunities to get their hands on some. Luxuries like chocolate and packet soup are available in the town nearby, but it is worth bringing some of your favourite treats out with you as well as any herbs or spices. It is recommended that you buy snacks when in town (cereal bars, biscuits etc) for mid-morning sugar dips or to give you energy on long treks.

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Costa Rica provides everything you could ever desire for an action packed and eye opening gap year or eco break. You may wish to explore some of the activities and unforgettable sights that are on offer here whether it is in your spare time, or even in a few extra days spent in this spectacular country at the beginning or end of the project. There are so many possibilities to explore – here are just a few suggestions! Try white water rafting, river kayaking, or even ocean kayaking – all activities that Costa Rica is famous for whether you are an expert or a compete novice.

If you have a head for heights see the landscape stretch out beneath you from above with a canopy tree top tour, or even an aerial tram! Other adventure activities that are on offer include biking, hiking, snorkelling and even bungee jumping! For something more sedate, there are butterfly and insect farms – fascinating for those with an interest in the natural world. The Costa Rica camp is also close to the border with Panama so you could always add another country onto your list by heading to this fascinating country too.

Alternatively you may wish to visit the Frontier house or local hostel in Puerto Jimenez ($7.50 per day, food not included). Costa Rica really does have something for everyone – you will never be short of ways to enjoy your spare time!

* Please note that you will need to cover your own costs for extra activities.



Learn more about one of the most biologically intense places on earth as you explore solitary beaches, beautiful rivers, mountains, waterfalls, farms and amazing diversity of wildlife on a guided kayak tour. You will have the unique opportunity to explore the mangroves from the water, and then paddle towards the sea where you may encounter dolphins, sea turtles, fish and ocean birds. You can kayak individually, in a group or with a guide who will teach you more about the incredible mangrove and coastal environment of Costa Rica.

Wildlife Sanctuary


Visit this remote wildlife sanctuary which is providing wildlife rescue and rehabilitation for orphaned, injured and displaced animals indigenous to south Costa Rica. The sanctuary promotes conservation through education and community involvement and work promote the maintenance of natural biodiversity. The sanctuary run a public education programme and you have the opportunity to visit the organisation for a day to see the animals, meet and chat with staff and walk around 700 acres of local forest land.

Modern conveniences



Puerto Jimenez - 1 hour collectivo from camp at own cost


  • Banks / ATMs; Banco Nacional and Banco de Costa Rica

  • Bar / cafe
  • Hotels and hostels
  • Internet cafe
  • Medical clinic
  • Souvenir shop
  • Supermarket
  • Traditional markets and cafes
  • Western style restaurants


4 weeks US$2,695

5 weeks US$3,145

6 weeks US$3,395

7 weeks US$3,695

8 weeks US$3,945

9 weeks US$4,245

10 weeks US$4,545

12 weeks US$4,895

20 weeks US$6,745

Extra weeks US$445



Every Monday


You can join this project for a minimum of 4 weeks


Before you go

  • Pre-departure support & documentation
  • Travel and medical advice and documentation
  • Advice on visas and equipment
  • Discounted medical kit
  • Free Frontier T-shirt
  • UK residential briefing weekend including food, accommodation and training (extra cost applies)


  • Accommodation
  • Food (on camp)
  • Project orientation
  • Project equipment
  • Airport pick-up (for those arriving on a Monday)
  • In-country emergency support
  • 24-hour international HQ backup


Nearest airport(s): Puerto Jimenez (PJM)


  • Flights
  • Visas
  • Insurance

For detailed information on flights, visas and insurance, click here.


Please read our legal statement regarding the running of NGO projects.

To apply for this placement, click on "Apply Now" below. Fill in the short application form and one of our advisers will then call you back to answer any questions and make sure this is the perfect placement for you. Applying doesn't cost a penny and you won't pay anything until you're completely happy and you're ready to reserve your place.

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