Organisms and the environment
Undertake field work in a huge variety of environments including primary and secondary rainforest and cloudforest in Costa Rica, Alpine and Mediterranean biomes in France or geothermal and glacial areas in Iceland.
Evolution, adaptation and natural selection
Learn about the Arctic Charr, a unique species of fish which has evolved exclusively in an Icelandic lake; measure zonation of microorganisms adapted to survive in geothermal outwash; study bats or frogs and the adaptations required to survive in the rainforests of central America.
Ecosystems and relationships in ecosystems
Stay at a Costa Rican Field Station, study Iceland’s geothermal springs or visit the Mediterranean lagoons and marshes of western Europe’s largest river delta to learn about the complex ecosystems and interdependence of varying environments.
Biodiversity and sampling techniques
Use a range of investigative techniques to increase understanding of populations and ecosystems. Measure zonation of microorganisms related to different abiotic environmental characteristics in Iceland; study Rainforest Ecology & Diversity in Costa Rica; examine the impacts of sewage pollution on rivers in France.
Conservation and maintaining biodiversity
Costa Rica and Mediterranean France both lie within a Global Biodiversity Hotspot, meaning they contain rich and unique biodiversity which is under threat. Volunteer at a turtle reserve in Costa Rica, study the reintroduction of vultures or visit a captive breeding programmes for European bison in France.
Visit commercial greenhouses in Iceland to learn about how and why light, temperature and carbon dioxide levels are carefully controlled to support plant growth; what range of plants are grown and what are the ideal conditions required? Compare how leaves are adapted to photosynthesis in the rainforest and cloudforest of Costa Rica.
Each of the destinations offers the opportunity for students to practice classification skills and appreciate the importance of being able to accurately identify and order different living organisms.
Learn how the natural biological processes of Icelandic hot springs have been adapted for industry, for example the use of enzymes in PCR.
Energy for biological processes
Examine how Icelanders have harnessed geothermal power to assist with agriculture, echoing the biology of the naturally occurring ecosystems in hot springs. Scientists are testing many exotic plants to grow commercially, including bananas, figs and coffee.
Earth’s water resources
Any journey through Iceland brings you into contact with rivers, waterfalls, lakes and glaciers – all important sources of water. Reykjavik is supplied with naturally heated water. Costa Rica’s topography and location ensure high rainfall and abundant water reserves.
The rock cycle
Stand on new rock between two continents at a diverging plate margin at Thingvellir in Iceland; visit the volcanic coastline at Reynishverfi and see the effects of erosion along the coast and due to glaciation; visit volcanoes and lava tubes in Costa Rica and Iceland.
Climate change and atmospheric science
Visit Solheimajokull to see and measure the retreat of the glacier over the last century; investigate the carbon capture of Iceland’s woodlands. In France, study and measure local weather and climate.
Measure a range of abiotic factors including pH at the hot springs in Hveragerdi, Iceland, to determine the ideal conditions for a variety of different microorganisms.
The remoteness of all three destinations offers fantastic opportunities to view the night sky unhindered by light pollution. View stars, the Milky Way, planets and in Iceland, if you’re lucky, the Northern Lights.
Seasons on earth
Visiting Iceland in summer and winter offers a clear indication of the impact of the earth’s tilt on day length and seasonal weather patterns. In tropical Costa Rica the seasons are determined by rainfall, not day length or temperature.
Costa Rica generated 99% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2015. Learn more with visits to hydro and geothermal power stations. In Iceland there are also opportunities to visit power stations as well as geothermally heated greenhouses. You can also bathe in geothermally heated waters.
Experimental skills and investigations
All of the science destinations featured provide a wide range of hands on field work opportunities led by qualified, experienced tutors and offer strong links to local projects which make real contributions to local environments and the development of scientific understanding.