An innovative educational and research facility located in a cloud forest in Costa Rica was developed more than three decades ago to advance scientific knowledge and ecological sustainability.
In 1986, the Quetzal Education Research Center (QERC) emerged out of the relationship begun between Southern Nazarene University, founded in 1899 in Bethany, Oklahoma, USA, and the Efrain Chacon family, from San Gerardo de Dota, who pioneered the settling of Costa Rica’s Savegre Valley in 1952. This partnership resulted in the completion of a small laboratory in 1996 and a larger educational and research facility in May 2001 that provide students, scholars and the citizens of San Gerardo with educational opportunities through the practice of ecological sustainability.
QERC promotes biodiversity, conservation, and sustainability in global and local communities. The educational courses offered at the center include:
- Tropical Field Research
- Tropical Ecology and Sustainability
- Tropical Medicine
- Applied Cultural Integration
- Global Stewardship
These courses provide students with an opportunity to design and implement a research projects in light of their contributions to QERC, the community of San Gerardo de Dota, and the larger scientific community. Students create research proposals and produce public presentations for the citizens of San Gerardo de Dota as well as to the campus communities from which the students attend.
This Research Center is a place to learn about the environment and conservation and they prioritize the principles of sustainability and to help promote and sustain the health of Costa Rica’s Savegre Valley in a number of ways, Including:
Waste Reduction – Due to the remote location and the lack of general services available, waste reduction is the first line of sustainability. Everything brought into the valley must eventually be taken out; therefore special care is taken to minimize waste. The first step is to eliminate products with excessive packaging. They purchase the products they need from local farmers and producers, especially those who provide goods in reusable or limited packaging. Instead of buying expensive and wasteful bottled water, the students are encouraged to carry reusable water bottles. Clean drinking water is available throughout most of Costa Rica and the students are encouraged to use portable water sterilizers to ensure clean drinking water.
Composting – At the facility a small-scale vermin-composting operation handles organic waste. Worms break down kitchen food scraps, creating nutrient-rich compost. In turn this compost is used to supplement the soil in the native plant gardens, and the Aguacatillo nursery project.
Recycling – The research facility recycles the following materials:
- Clean and dry paper or cardboard
- Plastic containers (bottles, jugs, etc.)
- Tetra Pak or aseptic packaging (boxed milk, juice etc.)
- Aluminum cans
- Tin cans
- Glass bottles and jars
All recycled materials must be transported out of the Savegre valley to the nearest recycling facility, over an hour away, and transporting recyclable materials incurs a lot of environmental impact, as well as cost, so the best practice is to reduce waste in any way possible.
Energy Conservation – This facility has taken passive and active steps to reduce electricity use. Hot water is generated by solar power. The faculty and students enjoy plentiful light from skylights and large windows for electric conservation during the day and they minimize the use of lights during the evenings. Students are encouraged to conserve energy by bringing only essential electronic gadgets, and using them during daylight hours.
Water Conservation – The research center’s water supply comes from mountain streams within a protected reserve and although the supply is plentiful and sustainable, the students are encouraged to minimize consumption. Because wasting water is a bad habit that can cause soil over-saturation, erosion, and waste management issues. Several practices that are encouraged for conserving water are: minimal watering of the gardens, less time in the showers, and turning off faucets while brushing teeth.
Sustainable Treveling – To be sustainable travelers and reduce their environmental impact, the students are encouraged to practice these healthy traveling tips.
- Pack lightly and bring durable, neutral-colored clothing that can be easily mixed and matched.
- Bring only a few biodegradable personal hygiene products to reduce the weight of luggage.
- Pack reusable containers and bottles and clean and reuse them to limit waste production.
- Bring only essential electronic gadgets that can be recharged with a portable battery charger.
The research center offers state of the art facilities and resources for visiting educational groups and researchers, including:
- Close access to the Savegre Hotel Reserve, the Dantica Lodge Reserve, the Trogon Lodge property, and Parque Nacional Los Quetzales
- Dorm style housing for up to 25 Students
- Faculty Suite with Private Bathroom
- Natural History Museum
- A Library that focus on tropical flora and fauna
- Lab Facilities
- Birding Scopes
- Field Guides and Maps
- Audio Recording Equipment
- Mist Nets
- Rubber Boots
- Projectors and whiteboards
- Television for video and online conferencing
- Wi-Fi Access
- Public Computers
Additionally, there are field station managers who live on site, and they provide, guided tours, lectures, and transportation for visitors as needed.
The writer, Tom Rosenberger has lived and worked in Costa Rica since 1993 and from his travels throughout the country inspecting property and construction he has acquired a wealth of knowledge about living and doing business in Costa Rica.
If you have questions and would like to contact Tom click here.