SYRACUSE, N.Y. The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has established a field station for tropical studies in Costa Rica, on property donated to the college by an alumnus.
ESF's new field station is a 30-acre site in the northwestern part of Costa Rica, near the Pacific Coast. It contains a mix of dry tropical forest and pastureland and will serve as a base of research and teaching operations.
The facility is ESF's first international field station. The college operates field stations on 25,000 acres of property across New York state and has students and researchers working on all seven continents, but has never before established a permanent field station outside the United States.
"It's a tropical environment. Our students are used to being in a northern hardwood forest," said Dr. Alexander Weir, a specialist in the field of conservation mycology, who has already begun working at the station. "This is totally different. There are families of monkeys and families of parrots on the property. And it's in a developing country in the tropics, which is an area that will present a lot of environmental issues in the new millennium."
The property was donated by Arthur Sundt, a 1959 graduate of ESF, and his wife, Mary, who live in Alaska and for many years spent winters in Costa Rica. They have lived in Eagle River Valley, Alaska, for 45 years. Arthur Sundt worked as a state forester and for private loggers before he went to work for the city of Anchorage. He retired from Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility in 1987.
The Sundts have asked that the facility be named for two ESF professors who were instrumental in Arthur Sundt's education: Wilford A. Dence and John L. Morrison.
The field station is on property that once operated as a farm, near the town of Coyolito. It is about a mile from the Gulf of Nicoya on Costa Rica's west coast. The land includes hills and dry tropical forest; a creek; and a wealth of vegetation and animal life.
Several projects are already underway at the field station:
Drew, Hall and Scott Shannon of the Department of Landscape Architecture form a faculty advisory group for the station. Shannon has a long teaching partnership with the Monteverde Institute in Costa Rica.ESF expects to partner in use of the field station with the educational Monteverde Institute and the non-profit Neotropica Foundation.