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Volunteer and Research Assistantship Opportunities for Students Print

Application instructions

  • Letter of interest
  • CV or Resume
  • Any specific items requested in the internship to which applying
  • 2 letters of recommendation from professors or employers

Email application materials to Dr. Rebecca Cole, Director - Las Cruces Research Station: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

All internships require a minimum of 6 weeks stay with preference given to internship stays of 8 weeks or more. After review of the application material, applicants will be invited to an interview via skype or phone. Accepted interns will participate in an orientation call to go over details, questions,and assist them with planning their travel and stay at the station.

All internships are full time position s with normal hours of 8 am - 4 pm M-F. Interns will work closely with station staff and with a project mentor throughout their stay. We strongly encourage interns to plan a homestay with a local family. Homestays are a great way to improve Spanish language skills and become immersed in local Costa Rican culture. Please see the list below for the base costs of the internship and the additional options that we can help coordinate.

Base costs:

$350/ week Room and board at the station(includes 3 meals)
$350 One - time project coordination fee (for successful applicants only)
$20 / day Optional homestay with a local family. Includes meals. Minimum of 5 days and up to 10 days total.
$8 / load Laundry service at the station
Transportation to and within Costa Rica, overnights a t a hotel in San Jose or elsewhere in Costa Rica, meals during travel days and incidentals are not included in the base cost above.

Additional costs and options

These are some additional costs to take into account. We can help you coordinate all of your travel within Costa Rica or you can do this independently. Below are some of the options with average costs.
$40 Taxi to/from airport to hotel
$65 Hotel in San Jose with OTS provider hotel
$200 Transfer in OTS vehicle with driver from San Jose to Las Cruces ( 6 hrs. one way)
$16 Public bus from San Jose to San Vito ( 7 hrs. one way)
$10-$12 Taxi from bus station in San Vito to Las Cruces (one way)

About Las Cruces

Las Cruces Research Station is one of three field stations owned and operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) in Costa Rica. Along with the Wilson Botanical Garden, Las

Far from the noise and bustle of the country’s capital city San José, Las Cruces is located in the remote southeastern corner of the country between Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula, and the enormous La Amistad Interna tional Biosphere Reserve (472,000 hectares) that spans south - central Costa Rica and western Panama. In 1983, UNESCO declared Las Cruces and the Wilson Botanical Garden part of the Biosphere Reserve due to its incredible diversity and proximity to La Amist ad.

The Wilson Botanical Garden, founded in 1962 by Catherine and Robert Wilson, is arguably the most important botanical garden in Central America and a “must see” stop on the itineraries of plant lovers, birders, and other natural history groups. It is famous for its worldwide collection of tropical plants that include palms, aroids, bromeliads, gingers, marantas, heliconias, and ferns. More than 3,000 exotic species of plants can be found in the 10 - hectare (~ 25 - acre) garden, including one of the large st collections of palms in the world.

There is an incredible diversity of animals that inhabit the Las Cruces reserve, and the forest fragments in the immediate surrounding area. The bird list has registered 410 species; close to half the number of bird s found in all of Costa Rica. There are also more than 100 species of mammals, of which 60 are bats. Some of the more commonly sighted mammals include agoutis, white - faced capuchin monkeys, kinkajous, olingos, and tayras. Reptiles and amphibians also th rive in this moist, cloud - laden habitat and there is an impressive diversity of insects, and in particular moths and butterflies.

Las Cruces protects more than 200 hectares of primary forest (home to some 2,000 native plant species) and ~150 additional hec tares that are in various stages of forest recovery. The reserve is surrounded by a mosaic of mixed - use agricultural fields and forest patches, and it is this fragmented setting that makes Las Cruces an ideal place to carry out applied research and conser vation work . The landscape surrounding Las Cruces is also ideally suited for research on biological c orridors, restoration ecology , and sustainability ; key fields of research that are of ever increasing importance. Part of our mission at Las Cruces is to work towards better stewardship and conservation of this special region and to this end, we have strong environmental education and outreach programs .

At approximately 1,200 meters elevation (3,900 feet), the prevailing temperatures at Las Cruces are cooler than one might expect. Temperatures range from 21 - 26 °C (70 - 80 °F) during the day and 15 - 21 °C (low 60’s) at night. Mean annual rainfall is ~4,000 mm (157 inches)! The dry season runs from January – March, and the rainy season from May – November .

The station is well known for its visitor - friendly amenities: comfortable private sleeping quarters, excellent meals, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, and a well - maintained network of paths and trails. The nearest town is San Vito, the municipal capit al of Coto Brus county. It was founded by Italian immigrants in the 1950’s and to this day they have a strong presence in the community .


This is a listing of the currently available internships at Las Cruces. Some of the job descriptions are fairly s pecific, however, if you don’t exactly fit one of them but are excited to work with us, you can apply under #8 (Open Application Opportunity).

1. Job Description - Sustainability Intern

The Sustainability Intern will have the opportunity to learn about sustainability programs at the level of the biological station and botanical garden, participate in school and community - level sustainability efforts including recycling programs, and be tasked with the creation of a sustainability demonstration center as part of the station’s environmental education program.

Duties & Responsibilities

The Sustainability Intern will research, design and build an exhibit demonstrating locally practical uses of recycled materials and design an accompanying set of written material and signage for the sustainability demonstration center. The Intern will work in close coordination with the station’s Environmental Education and Sustainability leader, the maintenance and garden department s to create the center and more generally with the entire staff (including kitchen, housekeeping, research departments) to assist the implementation of sustainability practices.

Education and Experience
Applicant should currently be pursuing, or have gradu ated from, an undergraduate program in architecture, engineering, environmental design, landscape architecture, environmental studies or closely related fields. Applicants should have strong communications skills and work responsibly and safely with tools. Must be able to speak and read Spanish and English at an intermediate level or better.

2. Job Description - Nursery Intern

The Nursery Intern will have the opportunity to learn tropical plant propagation techniques, potting, labeling, record - keeping, seed saving, and transplanting techniques through involvement with the day - to - day operation of the nursery and greenhouses. In addition, the intern will assist with the collect ion of seeds of primary forest trees from the forest reserve and surrounding forest remnant, help establish and manage a tree nursery, and assist in ecological restoration of degraded and deforested lands as needed. The Nursery Intern will improve the dive rsity of the plant collections by seeking out and helping to propagate new plant introductions for the Garden.

Duties & Responsibilities
The intern will assist the Garden ́s nurseryman to evaluate woody and herbaceous plant material to determine which plants need to be propagated through either collecting seeds, taking cuttings or division. The intern will make potting mixes, plant and transplant and conduct general maintenance in the nursery and greenhouses. The intern will also assist with accessionin g, record - keeping and labeling plants.

Education and Experience
Applicant should currently be pursuing, or have graduated from, an undergraduate program in horticulture, biology, plant science, botany, forestry, or closely related field. Applicants should be able to work independently and responsibly, and be prepared to work in adverse field conditions (rainy, warm/cool weather), hike over slippery and rough terrain and work responsibly and safely with garden tools. Must be able to speak and read Spanish a nd English at an intermediate level or better.

3. Job Description - Visitor Services Intern

The Visitor Services Intern gains exposu re to booking events , guest stays , tours and meals at the Gardens. The Intern will le arn how the registration desk operates thro ugh hands - on involvement in daily operation s. T he intern will also focus on publicity and marketing efforts, website promotion , social media and temporary exhibits in the Visitors Center .

Duties & Responsibilities
The intern is responsible f or creating and posting social media content in close coordination with the OTS social media team , f or managing images in the archives, and logging re servations and gift shop sales , and assisting in the development and maintenance of exhibits in the Visito r Center and in the Botanical Garden . The Visitors Services Intern will interact and assist the Garden guests on a daily basis.

Education and Experience
Applicants must be able to multi - task and work independently in a busy office environment. Strong compu ter skills are required as well as a working knowledge of social media platforms. Must be able to speak Spanish and English at an advanced level .

4. Job Description – Interpretive Specialist and Science Communication

This Interpretive Specialist internship offers a wonderful opportunity to participate in developing and supporting o ur Garden ́s interpretive signage, public programs , and create outreach materials for the active research programs being carried out at the station . The intern will learn about tropical ecology, natural history and horticulture via interaction with the station scientific staff and visiting researchers.

Duties & Responsibilities
Responsibilities include assisting in the development and writing of interpretive materials, visual interpretive disp lays and program evaluation . Responsible for assisting visiting researchers to create outreach materials and events to communicate scientific research to a general public.

Education and Experience
Successful candidates must be self - motivated and possess good communication and interpersonal skills. A background in natural sciences, geograph y, or environmental studies is preferred . Working knowledge of GIS, word processing , and graphics programs are a plus . Must be able to speak and read Spanish and English at an intermediate level or better. Applicant should currently be pursuing, or have graduated from, an undergraduate program in one of the natural sciences .

5. Job Description – Environmental Education Intern

The Education Intern will collaborate with the station’s Environmental Education and Sustainability leader to create dynamic and innovative educational programming for le arners of all ages, especially schoolchildren . In this unique opportunity, the intern will gain a comple te perspective of public garden education and outreach in Costa Rica by being immersed in educational programming.

Duties & Responsibilities
The intern wil l assist with curricular programming for both onsite visits to the Garden as well as visits to local elementary schools. Tasks vary from day - to - day and are, generally, project based. Occasionally, the intern will as sist with professional development for teachers and participate in high school and college - lev el courses .

Education and Experience
The successful candidate is a self - motivated, computer - literate, detail - oriented, and an organized individual looking for a vibrant international experience in a collabor ative educational environment. Applicant should currently be pursuing, or have graduated from, an undergraduate program in education , environmental studies or a similar field that provides background knowledge in education and sustainability . Must be able to speak and read Spanish and English at an intermediate level or better.

6. Job Description - Plant Records / Herbarium Intern

The Plant Records Intern works closely with the Station’s resident naturalist and the science director to learn the methods and techniques applied in maint aining plant records at the Wilson Botanical G arden. Specific experiences gained will include the curation and m anagement of living collections, accessioning, verifying plant nomenclature, inventorying, and producing plant records reports. The intern will utilize the plant database for plant labeling and producing both educational labels for visitor s and accession labels . Intern will also learn to coll ect specimens to add the Station and Garden H erbarium and may also build other collections including arthropods and DNA samples.

Duties & Responsibilities
The intern will develop a thorough understanding of the principles of plant nomenclature and gain familiarity with a wide variety of plant manuals, nomenclature related pu blications and archival files. The intern may also assist in produc ing digital maps of the collections.

Education and Experience
A background in botany, plant taxonomy and familiarity with plant identification keys is required . Intern should be willing to work independently. Applicant should currently be pursuing, or ha ve graduated from, an undergraduate program in biology, botany, horticulture, plant science or closely related field. Must be able to speak and read Spanish at a beginning level or better and speak English fluently .

7. Job Description - Horticulture Intern

The Horticulture Intern helps maintain a wide range tropical herbac eous and woody plants throughout the Gardens. The intern will develop an understanding of tropical plants and their cultural requirements through hands - on work with the gardening staff . T he horticultural practices of the Garden conform to organic principles and practices.

Duties & Responsibilities
The Horticulture Intern will carry out planting, weeding, mulching, watering, pruning, stakin g, fertilizing and occasionally assist with tra il and path maintenance with the garden department as needed . The intern will work in the cultivated areas of the Garden and occasionally on forest trails with a wide range of tropical woody plants, herbs, bulbs, ground covers, vegetables, and fruit trees.

Education and Experience
Applicant should currently be pursuing, or have graduated from, an undergraduate program in horticulture, biology, ecology, botany, environmental science, forestry or closely related field. Applicants should be able to do physic al outdoor work, be prepared for adverse field conditions (rainy, warm/cool weather), able to h ike over slippery and rough terrain and work responsibly and safely with garden tools. Must be able to speak and read Spanish and English at an intermediate leve l or better.

8. Job Description – Open application opportunity

If you have a strong work ethic , the ability to work with a team, and the willingness and flexibility to pitch in wherever needed in the day to day operations of a work ing biological research s tation, the n this is a great opportunity to gain real life experience. In this job, you will have the opportunity to work across a wide range of projects in close coordination with Las Cruces staff .

Duties & Responsibilities
Work with station staff following a normal 8 am – 4pm schedule on a variety of tasks as needed. Expect to contribute to a wide range of tasks such as assisting with field research, data entry, processing samples in the lab or herbarium, assisting with environmental education , doing maintenance in the botanical garden, helping with visitor services, housekeeping , trail maintenance, etc.

Education and Experience
This internship is open to a wide range of experiences, backgrounds and skill sets. The most important skill s are the ability to work r esponsibly and well with other and effectively contribute the operations of the research station . Must be able to speak and read Spanish and English at level or better.

Last Updated ( 01/11/18 )
Organization for Tropical Studies
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