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Organisation for Tropical Studies (OTS)

The Organisation for Tropical Studies (OTS) is a non-profit consortium that has grown to include 65 universities and research institutions from the United States, Latin America, Australia and most recently South Africa. 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 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 address this mission, OTS conducts graduate and undergraduate education, facilitates research, participates in tropical forest conservation, maintains three biological stations in Costa Rica and conducts environmental education programs.

In 2004, OTS ran its first Undergraduate Semester Abroad Program (USAP) in South Africa. With a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Kruger, National Park was chosen as the main site for this program. Other sites have been included to show the students the diversity of South African environment and culture. In the first course there were 11 students from the USA and 10 students from South Africa. The University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand each had five students from their honours program. The USAP is specifically focused on giving students research experience in the field. Each student has to participate in all faculty designed field problems and they have to complete two independent research problems of their own design. Coupled to this is an excellent lecture schedule where resource people who are experts in their particular field were invited to assist the OTS lecturers. This together with the fact that students spend almost three months in the Kruger National Park, makes this and unforgettable experience.

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