Costa Rica Dolphin Conservation and Research

Applications are open for Summer 2023!

Earn 40 research hours working with wild dolphins in beautiful Costa Rica!

Get real-world research experience working on this ongoing wild dolphin research project on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica!

This one-week program puts you alongside researchers whose job is to teach you so you can learn and practice new skills while helping animals in need. Spend one week living at a dolphin research facility learning doing boat-based and lab research of dolphin health and behavior. Your program will also include fun exploration and culture activities on the mid-program weekend.

Who It’s For

This program is designed for university-aged students who are interested in becoming veterinarians, researchers, or working professionally with animals. Participants must be at least 18 years old. Most are 18 to 25, but we also accept full-time undergraduates over 25. There are no pre-requisites for this program. You do not need to be in school currently to apply. Individuals of any nationality may apply.

Applicants should be comfortable working with animals and getting their hands, and everything else, dirty. You must be able to swim (no special advanced swimming skills are required.) This program can accommodate a maximum of 10 participants per session.

Highlights

  • Study and research wild dolphins
  • Learn behavior sampling research
  • Practice photo and video identification skills
  • Be a part of an ongoing wildlife research project
  • Explore beautiful Costa Rica

Dates open for applications

  • June 4- June 10

These program sessions are covered by Loop Abroad’s COVID-19 100% Tuition Refund Policy. If a program is canceled by Loop Abroad due to COVID-19, we will refund 100% of any program tuition you have paid (including the deposit).

 apply now

*Subject to 1 days +/- on the schedule, includes travel days

*Dates indicate the dates on which you will arrive to and depart from San Jose, Costa Rica. This program does not have a group flight – you will be asked to book your flight to arrive and depart within a travel time window on the arrival and departure dates. In-country airport transfer is provided. . Loop Abroad reserves the right to cancel any program at any time; in case of such cancellation by Loop Abroad, all payments will be returned in full.

 

Want to stay for a whole month? Add a two-week program!

Our Wild Dolphin Research program is a full adventure on its own, but it can also be combined easily with other Costa Rica two-week programs back-to-back, including our Sea Turtle Conservation and Research program. Combine two programs for an automatic $100 discount on each tuition.

Tuition

Tuition is $2650, not including international airfare. Tuition includes all program activities, all in-country transportation, and all program housing and meals.

Interest-free payment plans are available. Current college students may be able to use federal financial aid toward their tuition. Your space is not held until your $1,000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid.

Your tuition helps to support the partner projects where you will be working and studying.

Courses and Hours

This program is created with students who may want to apply to vet school in mind. For your application to vet school, the program provides approximately the following hours:

Research Hours: 40

Students can calculate their own record of hours for their VMCAS or other applications.

You will get to know your research instructor during the program, and they will get to know you! If you participate to the best of your ability, you will be well-positioned to ask for a recommendation letter at the end of the program.

This program provides a total of 40 service hours. Loop Abroad is a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, for which those hours are eligible.

No credit is available directly from Loop Abroad for this program. You may also be able to get credit directly from your college or university for this program. If you are seeking credit from your college or university, please contact us for any assistance needed.

All dolphin project photos by Yuval Amir.

 apply now

COVID and Safety

All participants will need to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (which may include boosters if eligible). All participants will adhere to the Loop Abroad COVID policy which includes providing a negative COVID test within 2-3 days prior to travel, wearing a mask when flying and when interacting outside of your “travel pod” (your group and staff), daily symptom report, testing if symptoms are present, and testing before return to the US. Loop Abroad had ZERO COVID cases in 2021!

If a program is canceled by Loop Abroad due to COVID-19, we offer a full refund of all tuition paid, including the deposit.

What if my program isn’t cancelled, but I can’t travel for personal reasons?

We understand that sometimes even though a program is not cancelled, an individual participant may be unable to travel due to illness or other personal reasons. In addition to our refund policy, if you must cancel your program enrollment less than 35 days before travel, for any reason at all, you can replace your program with the following virtual package.

 

This package includes 5 university credits from Iowa Wesleyan University (if you successfully complete the courses) and has a retail value of $5,080.

This offer is valid for cancellation of travel programs between 35 days and 1 day before the program begins, when no refunds are available for participants cancelling their travel. One virtual package available per participant; non-transferable. A participant cancelling their enrollment more than 35 days prior is welcome to select this option over their refund if they so choose.

Apply Now

Itinerary

In this one-week program, you’ll work and learn alongside  researchers at a dolphin research facility. See wild dolphins up-close in your boat-based research in the Pacific Ocean  and experience magnificent Costa Rica first-hand.

Dolphin Research project

Your program will be spent living and learning on the Gulfo Dulce on the Osa Peninsula, on the Pacific Coast about six hours from San Jose. This specially-designed research program gives you the opportunity to participate in ongoing research on wild dolphin populations in Gulfo Dulce. 

You will be trained in the on-site research methods and goals, and participate in on-boat research of wild dolphins and sharks. Your time will be split between the boat and the lab, where research includes examining photographic data for photo ID processing and image analysis, necropsies and shark dissections to analyze stomach contents, collecting and analyzing biometric data, and lots of behavior sampling tracking a known population of dolphins.

*Please note: swimming with the dolphins is not permitted, and there are no captive dolphins on-site. This is a wildlife research project. Gulfo Ducle is home to tiger sharks, stingrays, crocodiles, and mangroves, so while it is a wonderful area for marine research, free swimming in the ocean is not permitted for safety reasons. We will have opportunities to swim together in safe beach areas during the program.

On the mid-program weekend, we will take a break from research to explore some of the beautiful surrounding areas and recreational activities, which is all included in your tuition. Housing on the mid-program weekend may differ from weekday program housing if necessary to limit travel time, and will be provided by Loop Abroad.

Safety

Every program begins with a safety orientation. We’ll discuss how to stay safe and healthy during your time in Costa Rica. We’ll also discuss best practices for staying safe with all of the different species we will be interacting with, and staff will always be on hand to further instruct students regarding safe interactions with animals.

 

Marine Life

Your research will be capturing and analyzing data about wild dolphins and other marine life. You will not have physical contact with live dolphins – we believe in leaving wild animals in the wild. However, you will be able to see them VERY close from the boat throughout your work. It can be even more rewarding to watch the dolphins interacting with their natural environment from a distance because this is when their true personalities shine!

The research vessel will be captained by on-site project staff and exclusively for your Loop Abroad group. Your first full day on the project includes an orientation and safety training for participating in the program.

Students will always be accompanied by trained guides and volunteer coordinators who will instruct students in how to safely complete their wildlife research.

COVID Protocols


We will use a “Travel Pod” model – all students and staff in a single project group (maximum of 10 students) will provide a negative COVID test before travel. From that time, the group will wear face masks when in contact with anyone outside the group, which will allow them to be together as a group without face masks in classroom and shared living spaces. 

Whenever possible we will use transportation, living spaces, and clinic space that is restricted only to our students and staff. By disinfecting classroom and living spaces throughout the day, using hand sanitizer, and wearing face masks, we can help everyone in the group to stay well.

Scholarships

 

There are lots of ways to help fund your online and travel programs with Loop Abroad, and we are here to help!

Scholarships are a terrific way to cover some or all of your tuition for a Loop Abroad program. When you look for scholarships for pre-vet programs, you need to look at all your options!

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship:

The Gilman Scholarship could fund $5000 of your tuition and the next deadline is March 9 at 11:59 pm Pacific Time! 

The Gilman Scholarship was designed to help students of limited financial means have the opportunity to study abroad – online or in-person. Nearly a third of applicants are awarded the scholarship! This is a great opportunity to help cover your tuition.

Students can receive up to $5,000 for travel or virtual programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs, to our semester programs, or one of our 2-week programs.

Along with their application, students must submit two essays, the Statement of Purpose Essay, and the Community Impact Essay. Students must also upload their transcripts (unofficial or official). For more information on the application guidelines, please click here.

See the official website and read about Loop Abroad students who have received this scholarship. If you are a US citizen receiving a Pell Grant and currently enrolled in college or university, we encourage you to apply for this scholarship. The March 2023 Deadline application will open in mid-January 2023 for applicants whose in-person programs or internships start between May 1, 2023 to April 30, 2024. This cycle encompasses Summer 2023, Fall 2023, Academic Year 2023-2024, and Spring 2024 programs or internships. The application deadline is Thursday, March 9, 2023 at 11:59pm Pacific Time, and the advisor certification deadline is Thursday, March 16, 2023.

Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship

Focused elephant imageLoop Abroad is offering one FULL TUITION scholarship to cover one travel program (up to 2 weeks) of your choice.  Applications are now open and are due MARCH 1st. We’re proud to add this to the list of scholarships for pre-vet programs.

Who can apply: This scholarship is open to all students age 18 and over. You do not have to be a US Citizen. You do not have to be currently in school. 

You do not have to complete an application to Loop Abroad in order to be selected for the scholarship. The scholarship winner must be able to complete the Loop Abroad enrollment paperwork, requiring a doctor’s signature, and must meet all safety requirements of program enrollment.

Note: if you have already applied to Loop Abroad and been accepted, you can still apply for this scholarship. If you have made any payments toward tuition and later receive the scholarship, your payments will be refunded.

Criteria for selecting the scholarship recipient: 

We will consider financial need, commitment to conservation and/or animal science, academic performance, and ability to be a positive team member as factors in our decision. We are not looking for the applicant with the highest grades or the most animal hours. We are not looking for the applicant with the saddest story. We are looking for a student who embodies Loop Abroad’s values of teamwork, commitment to a cause, and hard work, and for a student who would not be able to otherwise afford Loop Abroad tuition (whether because of household income or recent change in circumstances).

Scholarship details:

This scholarship covers tuition to one Loop Abroad program with a duration of 1 to 2 weeks in the summer of 2023. It is not transferable to other individuals or future semesters. It does not include airfare, travel or medical insurance, passport, college credit fees (optional), visa (if required), or any optional incidentals during your program. Please understand that a full tuition scholarship does not make travel completely free: passport, airfare, and other expenses depend on the program location.

Once a scholarship winner is chosen, the winner will need to complete full application paperwork for Loop Abroad. The winner must then also complete the enrollment paperwork, which includes waiver forms and a medical form signed by a doctor indicating that you are able to safely participate in a travel program.

The scholarship winner agrees that Loop Abroad may publicize the awarding of the scholarship, including the recipient’s information such as name and current university. The scholarship winner will be subject to all regular rules of participating in a Loop Abroad program.

How to apply:
To apply, you must complete the following three steps:

  1. Apply for the Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship here. The application requires a copy of your proof of household income (such as last year’s tax return).
  2. Follow @LoopAbroad on Instagram (instagram.com/loopabroad) and make an Instagram post about the program you’re hoping to join, tagging @loopabroad and #loopabroad in the post. You do not need to mention that you have applied for a scholarship.

Dr. Erica Ward holding a black dog and an elephant at the background and an elephant dogWhy is it called the Erica Ward Scholarship? Dr. Erica Ward is our Academic Director. We believe that she embodies the values we are seeking in our scholarship applicants: she is passionate, dedicated, hard-working, and driven to make the world a better place. Dr. Ward consistently strives to find ways that Loop Abroad can support projects in need and help its students and alumni have fulfilling academic opportunities. We have decided to name this scholarship after her to honor her continued commitment to her values and purpose. (PS – She isn’t dead. Please don’t write your essay about honoring her legacy. She is very much alive and still working here. If you are a finalist for the scholarship, she will read your essay.)

Details:
The scholarship will be credited toward tuition for the winning student toward the Loop Abroad program of their choice.

The scholarship is non-transferable. If the student cannot attend, the scholarship will be void – it is not a cash prize and cannot be paid as such. Applicants must be over the age of 18. Citizens and residents of any country may apply.

ALL PARTICIPANTS IN LOOP ABROAD TRAVEL PROGRAMS MUST BE VACCINATED AGAINST COVID-19. All participants are subject to other COVID requirements, such as providing a negative COVID test taken within the 2 days prior to travel. If you are unable to meet these requirements, you may use your scholarship toward a Loop Abroad online program of your choice within the 2023 calendar year.

Loop Abroad reserves the right not to grant a travel scholarship for the 2023 year if there are no qualified applicants who have applied by the deadline.

 

The Gilman-McCain Scholarship:

Young lady holding a blue parrotThe Gilman-McCain Scholarship is a congressionally funded initiative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and named after the late senator John S. McCain from Arizona.

This scholarship is open to US citizen undergraduate students who are child dependents of active duty service members and receive any type of Title IV federal financial aid. Students can receive awards of up to $5,000 for 2+ weeks of international travel or online programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs,  semester programs, or 2-week travel programs.

The deadline for this scholarship is March 9, 2023.

Freeman-Asia Scholarships:

Smiling woman hanging on a ropeThe Freeman Awards for Study in Asia (Freeman-ASIA) provides scholarships for U.S. undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to study abroad in East or Southeast Asia. This scholarship is open to both US citizens and permanent residents who are undergraduate students at a two-year or four-year college or university.

Recipients can receive up to $3,000 in awards for summer programs. This scholarship can be applied to our Thailand programs for 2+ weeks.

In order to apply, students must fill out an online application. Read the scholarship instructions here and the eligibility requirements here.

All student applications for Academic Year 2023-2024, including the following terms: Summer 2023, Fall 2023, Academic Year 2023-2024, Spring 2024, and Calendar Year 2024, are expected to open in February 2023.

The Fund for Education Abroad:

Loop Abroad scholarships student checking heartbeat of the tigerThe Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) invests in promising students with financial needs who wish to study abroad. Potential applicants who meet our eligibility requirements may participate in any international education program that meets their academic objectives.

This scholarship is open to US citizens or permanent residents currently enrolled as an undergraduate at a college or university in the US. Scholarships range from $1,250 – $10,000.

Along with their application, students must submit a financial aid form (filled out by the financial aid office at their school), one recommendation letter, and a copy of their unofficial transcript.

Applications for Spring 2023 (programs from January- May) are due by September 15, 2022 at 12pm (noon) EST. Students may review the scholarship and application instructions here.

Scholarships of note that you can apply for through the Fund for Education Abroad include:

  • The Hiliary Echo Douglas Memorial Scholarship – for students studying abroad in Southeast Asia
  • Boston Area Study Abroad Association Scholarship – for students with schools in Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Connecticut.
  • Rainbow Scholarship – For LGBTQI students that participate in a high-quality, rigorous education abroad program.
  • Malú Alvarez Global Access Scholarship- Five scholarships for semester-long programs to be awarded for study in any country.
  • NAFSA Tamara H. Bryant Memorial Scholarship- These funds are awarded to African-American undergraduate students in the United States who hope to study abroad.
  • Gateway International Group Education Abroad Scholarship- Scholarship awarded to those who are first-generation college students, or those whose home or college of study is in Kentucky.

Smiling woman holding small wildcat

NAFSA scholarships

NAFSA is the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and they have a long list of scholarship databases (including scholarships for pre-vet programs) that might help make your program possible!

SeniorCare.com Aging Matters Scholarship

SeniorCare.com continues to bring more awareness to the key issues we face as an aging population. For the 8th consecutive year, we will be awarding an annual college scholarship to an individual that best demonstrates to us why “Aging Matters” to them. A $1500 scholarship will be given annually to a selected college student that currently cares for an aging loved one, works within the senior community, or intends to pursue a career that will have an impact on the elder population. Any existing student (or incoming freshman), in good academic standing, at a 2 or 4-year accredited college can apply for this scholarship. The recipient will demonstrate a unique and admirable understanding and desire to show us that “Aging Matters” to them.

All applicants can get more information and apply online here. Applications are due May 15, 2023.

"This was a great learning experience! We were able to spend a lot of time with the vets and they were constantly answering questions and sharing their knowledge. Strongly recommend this trip!"

Andrea G., Thailand College Veterinary Service 2016

Wright State University, Dayton, OH