Volunteer Research Assistantships

About the Project:

Volunteer field assistants are needed for an on-going wild feline monitoring and conservation project at the Aula Global Biological Reserve, a remote private reserve located in the mountainous regions near Monteverde, Costa Rica. The Global Classroom has been conducting scientific studies focusing on documenting the movement and population density of endemic cats (jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay, jaguarundi) within the reserve.  Among other tasks, volunteers will be using camera traps, track pads, animal tracking techniques, and photography to gather information on local and transient cats within the reserve.  Data collected will be entered into an ongoing database for the reserve’s conservation efforts.

Secondary work projects within our private biological reserve may include bird, mammal and reptile census and behavioral observations, trail maintenance, orchid identification and canopy exploration requiring technical climbing equipment. We have several rare species of birds that nest on our property during the spring, including the Three-wattled Bellbird, Resplendent Quetzal, and the Bare-necked Umbrellabird. During our spring time sessions we will be focusing on documenting the breeding and nesting habits of the Bare-necked Umbrella bird using direct observation, photo / filming of this little known species.  If volunteers are interested, upon discussion with the Aula Global Staff, they may conduct custom-built projects.

No previous rain forest experience is necessary, but field assistants must be motivated, self directed and prepared for off trail hiking in rugged, wet conditions. Participants may be asked to carry 15-20 kg loads short distances as all food and equipment must be carried into the research station due to no road access.

The Aula Global volunteer and internship project connects people with some of the wildest, unspoiled tropical forests left in Costa Rica. Aula Global reserve is not open to the general public so human activity within the reserve is at a minimum, allowing volunteers and interns the unique opportunity to study unencumbered by tourist activity and restrictions placed upon many researchers studying in public reserves.



Research sessions run in one-week sessions starting on Sunday and ending on Saturday. Volunteers are welcome to participate in multiple sessions if they wish to gain a variety of skills and experiences.

October/November 2015 Women-only Volunteer Sessions*:
Session 1: October 18th – 24th, 2015
Session 2: October 25th – 31st, 2015
Session 3: November 1st – 7th, 2015

Due to some last minute cancellations, a few spots have become available on these sessions!  Contact us at kathy@ravenadventures.com for availability and enrollment.

*These research sessions are for women, led by women. Develop and share important field research skills and connect with other like-minded women in the incredible, diverse ecosystem of the Costa Rican cloud forest.  For others interested in our program, we offer volunteer sessions to both men and women during different times in the year.  Please contact us for more information on these dates.

March/April 2016 Volunteer Sessions:



Visit our gallery to view photos of our volunteer and internship program at Aula Global!


About the Global Classroom and the Aula Global Biological Reserve:

In 1992, the non-profit environmental organization Global Classroom began a fundraising campaign to purchase and protect over 700 acres of rain forest along the continental divide of Costa Rica. After years of dedicated work from volunteers across the globe, the Aula Global biological reserve and corridor was created in 2001. It spans five ecological zones, encompassing virgin rainforest, clear running streams and rugged mountainous terrain.  A walk up through though the reserve corridor will take you through small patches of regenerating pastures into wild, virgin acres of unexplored pre-montane wet forests that slowly transition into the infamous cloud forests that make Costa Rica so biologically unique and diverse, making it an excellent location for a wide range of studies.

Our eco-friendly research station, dormitory and composting toilet/gray water system are conveniently located within the reserve, allowing easy access to the forest at all hours of the day and night. Night walks reveal a new collection of species not observed in the daylight hours, opening up entirely new avenues for research.  Many new and unidentified species have been documented within our boundaries, and many more await discovery.  Over 200 species of bird have been identified from the front porch alone!

Mammals seen at the reserve include howler and white- faced monkeys, tayra, peccary and armadillo to name a few. The reserve boasts 5 species of cat consisting of jaguar, puma, marguay, ocelot and jaguarundi. It is possible the illusive oncillo is also present though we have yet to confirm this. An ongoing study is underway using camera traps as well as terrestrial tracking and audio recordings. In 2009 and 2010, a bare necked umbrella bird female was witnessed constructing a nest within the reserve. Until this date, the nesting habits, egg color and number and other nesting details were unknown and un-described in avian literature.



Cost is $450 per week and includes transportation from Monteverde to Aula Global reserve, all food and lodging within the reserve, all technical equipment, animal tracking and other related workshops. A $200 deposit is required to save your space.


How to Apply:

No previous rain forest experience is necessary, but field assistants must be motivated, self directed and prepared for off trail hiking in rugged, wet conditions. Participants may be asked to carry 15-20 kg loads short distances as all food and equipment must be carried into the research station due to no road access.

To apply please contact Kathy Leone at kathy@ravenadventures.com to ensure there is availability on the session dates you are interested in.  Once you have confirmed the dates you wish to join us, please fill out the the Registration and Waiver Form + Health Form and submit your $200 deposit, which will save your space.  Your space will be fully secured upon receipt of your final payment. Thank you and we look forward to seeing you soon!



Do I need shots to enter Costa Rica?
No.  It’s always advised when traveling internationally to have tetanus and hepatitis shots but it is not critical for Costa Rica.  We have guided hundreds of students and adults to Costa Rica for over 20 years with not one case of dysentery, malaria, or other serious travel illnesses.

What if there is a medical emergency?
Raven Adventures staff is trained and certified in advanced wilderness medicine and rescue.  Costa Rica also has a well developed Red Cross system, public and private clinics, and hospitals located through out the country.  It’s always advised when traveling internationally to purchase trip cancellation and emergency medical and evacuation insurance.  Most policies can be purchased for under $100 USD.

Will I be able to contact family and friends at home while I am traveling?
You will have access to internet cafes and pay phones in Monteverde both of which are very reasonably priced.  Once at the reserve you will not have internet or phone access.

What is included in the project cost?
The project cost is $450 per week and includes transportation from Monteverde (Santa Elena) to the Aula Global reserve, all food and lodging within the reserve, all technical equipment / canopy climbing safety training, animal tracking and other related workshops.

What is NOT included in the project cost?
The project cost does not include flights to/from San Jose, bus tickets to/from Monteverde (Santa Elena), lodging outside of the reserve, travel insurance, or spending money for snacks, souvenirs, etc.

What do I need to bring?
Please click here to view a copy of our Costa Rica packing list.

How do I get from the San Jose international airport to Monteverde (Santa Elena)?
The Juan Santamaría International Airport lies in the San Jose suburb of Alajuela.  From Alajuela there are two buses -one departing in the morning and one in the afternoon- that will take you straight to the Monteverde region and drop you off in the town of Santa Elena.  (This is the final stop on the bus).  Our reserve lies approximately 10km from town.  Depending on how your flights and bus ride are scheduled, you may be spending the night in Santa Elena before the start of the session.  There are plenty of hostel options in town.  Most hostels will charge around $20USD per night.

How will I get from Monteverde (Santa Elena) to the reserve?
On the first day of your volunteer session, we will have a set time and place where we will meet you and then transport you out to the reserve. 


Facilities for Self-Directed Research: Year Round


Many research projects are possible at Aula Global, and we are open to your suggestions. Past projects by motivated students include amphibian identification, distribution, fungal infection and mortality rates, and the effects of climate change upon reserve amphibians. Other topics include bird migration patterns, climate change and its impacts on plant distribution throughout the reserve elevations, orchid identification, and hummingbird pollination impacts on flowering trees and flowers. The profusion of butterflies, moths and other insects found throughout the reserve offer endless opportunity for unique research topics.

Aula Global’s remote location is the perfect location for self directed students to create and obtain results in a pristine and wild tropical forest setting. Participants must be comfortable with spending many days and nights alone or with few students in a rustic setting. The reserve infrastructure is rustic but fully functional with clean running water, propane cook stove, gray water and composting toilet and large research station with excellent views of river valleys and forested ridges.  The possibilities are numerous for those wishing to apply their skills and knowledge in a tropical forest. Let us know how we can assist you.