The Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) is a nonprofit consortium of nearly sixty universities, colleges, and research institutions from around the world. In the early 1960's, scientists from U.S. universities forged working relationships with colleagues at the Universidad de Costa Rica in the interest of strengthening education and research in tropical biology. Intense interest, both in the U.S. and in Costa Rica, led to the founding of OTS in 1963. OTS was founded to provide leadership in education, research and the responsible use of natural resources in the tropics. To this end, OTS offers intensive field courses for undergraduates, graduate students, and natural resource professionals in tropical biology and related disciplines in Costa Rica and South Africa. OTS maintains research stations in three ecologically diverse ecosystems in Costa Rica:
La Selva Biological Station is located in the Caribbean lowland at the northern base of Braulio Carrillo National Park and recognized internationally as one of the premier sites in the world for ongoing research in lowland rain forests. In particular, work on climate change and its impact on biodiversity in tropical wet forests has become a significant area of study at the station.
Palo Verde Biological Station located in the northwestern Pacific lowlands, it is known for its deciduous dry forest, freshwater marsh, and extensive wetlands. Palo Verde is home to thousands of migratory and domestic waterfowl, yet the wetlands are experiencing negative impacts from large scale agriculture located outside the boundaries of the park. Research on the ecological processes occurring within the park and in the surrounding region of the Lower Tempisque Basin is helping to protect the park’s wide array of ecosystems and its biodiversity as well as having significant ramifications on similar parks around the world.
Las Cruces Biological Station & Wilson Botanical Garden on Costa Rica's southern Pacific slope is renowned for its extensive collection of palms, bromeliads, and endangered plants. Las Cruces is part of the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve and is a key site in the study of restoration ecology and biological corridors.
For five decades OTS has been the world’s leading institution in the study of tropical biology with more than 350 graduate-level courses in the ecology and management of natural resources and over eight thousand students participating in its programs and conducting research annually.
Research at the OTS stations has added significantly to what is known about tropical biology and forest ecosystems - more than 300 scientists from 25 countries work at OTS sites each year. The traditional focus on education and research has broadened to encompass quality-learning options for natural history visitors and local schoolchildren who come to the OTS stations just for short visits.
In 1985 OTS was the first organization to receive the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement; in 2000 OTS was singled out for Special Recognition and Merit by the Ecological Society of America; and in 2006 OTS was awarded the first Diversity Award from the Organization for Biological Field Stations.