Protecting Natural Capital and Biodiversity – Building Sustainable Livelihoods

Our natural capital in general and biodiversity particularly,are at risk globally. Pathways to sustainable development depend on wise use and innovative conservation of natural resources. Properly managed and protected natural capital can generate economic opportunities and be the catalyst for the growth of sustainable communities and businesses.

Program duration – 

8 days


16 – 23 March, 2019                23 – 30 March, 2019                 27 April – 04 May, 2019

Target group –

Undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals.We seek to create diverse interdisciplinary groups.

Course Video

Pre-requisites – 

Coursework in a related discipline; such as conservation, biology, ecology, forestry, natural resources, wildlife, sustainability, environmental design, environmental management, tourism development, policy, community development, anthropology, communications, business, etc. If you feel your experiences will allow you to fully benefit from the course, but you do not neatly fit in the preceding description of pre-requisites, please contact us and we will discuss your interest further.

Don't Just Stand There! Take Action.

Course fees – 

$2,200 US dollars. Includes all accommodations, meals, ground transport, airport transfers, course materials, and several recreational activities to help you enjoy and experience Costa Rica. Transportation to and from Costa Rica is not included.

Introduction –

Billions of people live in rural and semi-rural communities in the developing nations of the world – many of them in poverty and lacking the essentials needed for human health, development and even simple dignity. Pressures mount to use natural resources in unsustainable ways, further jeopardizing biodiversity and creating a dangerous downward spiral of environmental degradation.

Biodiversity based natural capital can be identified, protected, and utilized for development at the local, regional, and national levels to achieve the goals of sustainable development. Benefits derived thereof can be further leveraged to implement restorative endeavors, grow empowered communities, and implement educational/behavior change campaigns to further spread and magnify positive impacts. This course will show students real life examples of this and help them to propagate these “seeds” of sustainable development.

Rationale – 

Costa Rica has had a great deal of success in using its natural resources for economic development.

We will visit sites where natural resources are being utilized in entrepreneurial ways, developing revenue, employment, and innovative opportunities for continued sustainable development and ecosystem restoration.

Sustainable community development is a central theme for many of the organizations we will be working with, which includes the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (National Institute of Biodiversity – INBIO). We also emphasize innovation – many more valuable assets derived from biodiversity remain undiscovered and bio-prospecting is an important part of a sustainable future. Visiting INBIO we will see bio-prospecting in action.

Goals and Objectives –

The primary goals of the course are to stimulate the student’s ability to design and implement sustainable development solutions based on stewardship and restoration of natural resources, while giving them real skills, a new way of seeing the world’s resources, and the confidence to create inspired solutions when they encounter the crucial challenges of sustainable development. Scalability and profitability remain challenges to propagating the solutions we will see and conceptualize. This is a core topic of the course – how do we make sustainable development “go viral,” particularly for at-risk communities in the developing world?

Venues visited include examples of sustainable development in the following sectors:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Medicinal
  • Tourism
  • Conservation biology
  • Agricultural
  • Forestry
  • Agro-forestry
  • Watershed management
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Community development and resilience
Sustainable Agriculture in Action

Required materials – 

Laptop or tablet – project(s) and topic information from home on one or more solutions or themes the student wishes to craft and develop.

Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the course will come away with a stronger understanding of the opportunities for sustainable development in concert with natural resource conservation and restoration. They will analyze the obstacles to success – policy gaps, the need for frameworks for payment for ecosystem services, inadequate finance and access to markets, poor infrastructure, challenges for creating value added commodities, weak marketing, education and communications, and more.

Our real-life, case study based approach, with a mix of site visits, lectures, discussions, and presentations, gives the students opportunities to share and develop their ideas and solutions in a constructive and analytical group setting, with critiques by the group, course leader and guest experts – a crucially important experience for real life success. Each student will demonstrate their command of the course materials by creating, either individually or in groups, a capstone project based on solutions to real world problems.

Assessment and Evaluation –

Students will be evaluated by their peers, the course leader, and themselves on the basis of their participation, professionalism, commitment, and their capstone project. Students who successfully complete the course will be issued a certificate of completion and a written evaluation.

Sample itinerary – Making Sustainability Real 


 Arrival Day. Welcome to Costa Rica! – airport pickup – Liberia International Airport (LIR) Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport

  1. Welcome and team introductions
  2. Travel to Lake Arenal
  3. Lodge check-in
  4. Dinner
  5. Orientation
  6. Capstone project launch 


  1. Breakfast
  2. Student introductions and interest discussion
  3. Team building games
  4. Tour of sustainable farming initiatives
  5. Lunch
  6. The 8 Keys
  7. Classroom lecture
  8. Cookout dinner
  9. Capstone workshop 
Blue Green fish 960x720

Day 3: 

  1. Breakfast
  2. Hydroplant visit
  3. Wind Farm visit
  4. Lunch
  5. Carbon sequestration forestry project site visit
  6. Waterfall swim
  7. Dinner 

Day 4: 

  1. Breakfast
  2. Tour of large scale sustainable farming initiatives
  3. Lunch
  4. Hot springs
  5. Arenal dam visit
  6. Dinner 

Day 5: 

  1. Breakfast
  2. National Institute of Biodiversity (INBIO), special facility tour and bio-prospecting presentations
  3. Lunch
  4. National Institute of Biodiversity (INBIO)
  5. Urban Sustainability in San Jose
  6. Dinner

 Day 6:

  1. Breakfast
  2. Rancho Margot sustainable ecolodge and farm tour
  3. Lunch
  4. Zip-lining/canopy tour
  5. Dinner 

Day 7:

  1. Breakfast
  2. INVENIO University visit – Green technology
  3. Tree planting
  4. Lunch
  5. Tour of wildlife rescue facility
  6. Capstone presentations
  7. Dinner
  8. Capstone presentations
  9. Celebration of learning 

Day 8: Departure 

  1. Breakfast
  2. Travel to airport
  3. Departure
Fishing at Sunset 960x720