WB 2015 – MSU Ecological Engineering in the Tropics

Costa Rica – MSU / UCR – December 26, 2015 – January 9, 2016


About Me…

My name is Connor Bartle and I am a junior at Michigan State University majoring in Biosystems Engineering with a concentration in Ecosystems Engineering. Essentially anything involving the outdoors peaks my interest, however my favorite things to do on my down time are snowboard, wakeboard, play team sports, practice cooking, trying to play guitar, and my favorite, rock climb. I spend a lot of time practicing this sport which gives me loads of exposure to the outdoors allowing me to greatly appreciate nature! Being organized and punctual are things that I cherish about my personality along with being very outgoing, charismatic, and compassionate. Another thing that I am very interested in is international travel and immersing myself into new cultures that are different than my own. Meeting new people and learning their ways of life is an incredible experience for me. Allowing myself truly appreciate the opportunities I am fortunate enough to have along with learning how to live a happier and more sustainable life.

Personal interests related to my field of study are driven more towards environmental conservation and sustainability. One day I truly would enjoy working with either wetlands and water resources, ecosystem restoration/conservation, bio energy resources, or perhaps a combination of both. Unfortunately I lack of knowledge depth in these areas, my individual project for this study abroad will be based on a topic relating to those fields allowing me to better understand the job of an Ecological Engineer. The topic of my project will involve Ecosystem services provided to us by organisms in our environment, their health, and what needs to be done to make sure they stay around. While trying to find out the extent of productivity by engineered ecosystems VS. natural ecosystems, and what can be done to make sure human activities are sustainable for the planet. Due to Costa Rica’s extremely biodiverse environment these two weeks will be a learning experience that will hopefully drive ideas for my potential future career opportunities.

Over this study abroad I also hope to learn as much as possible about how the people of Costa Rica live peacefully with their environment and the roles of Ecological Engineers in this country. I without a doubt will benefit a great deal from this international work-related travel. It will allow me to witness and perhaps adopt new problem solving techniques that I am not exposed to in the United States, and incorporate them in my engineering style. Along with that I also hope to gain valuable leadership and group work experience as we will be solving and discussing real life engineering problems while abroad.

In Country Experience

This adventure was a dream come true! During my time abroad in Costa Rica I was exposed to an  incredible culture with environmental roots all while learning about Ecological Engineering and its real life applications. This opportunity both academically and culturally benefited my thinking and outlook on future career opportunities. From living on mountains where a windmill sunrise would start our morning to rainforests where night dwelling creatures sing you to bed at night, every day was a breathtaking experience. Sharing this time with fellow engineering friends and classmates was an experience that will forever influence my goals in life.IMG_4568

Being able to learn various Ecological Engineering applications for energy, agriculture, and ecosystems related work is something that will be very beneficial for future classes and career opportunities. One of my favorite things about Costa Rica was the amazing amount of competition for life going on in different ecosystems which leads to a rich and beautiful biodiversity. Working in the group project on the study abroad also was a very fun yet realistic assignment as compared to what I may do for a job one day. As a group we engineered a solution for harvesting plants from a waste water remediation wetland. The tool that we designed and tested helped remove plants at a more efficient rate to reduce labor costs and labor intensity. This allowed for maximum plant growth therefore maximizing nutrients uptake from the wastewater. An engineering experience like this was great practice for my future endeavors in the Ecological Engineering field.

Individual Project

For my personal project I chose to research the importance of ecosystem services in the human society. My goal was to find out and explain how impacted ecosystems provide inadequate human services as compared to healthy ecosystems. Along with determining the best options for allowing ecosystem services to recover; Naturally or with supplementation of engineered ecosystems. This research included assessing the health of ecosystems, the different classifications of ecosystem services, the importance of natural resource preservation,presents in Costa Rican industries. This report was followed up with recommendations that from my observations could improve the current situations mentioned.

Considering that largely agricultural dependent economy in Costa Rica, ecosystems services provide a very large role in the work force that leads to healthy harvests. During my time in Costa Rica I was able to witness this symbiotic relationship first hand in cloud and rainforests, on fruit and coffee plantations, and along side Costa Rican energy provider ICE. With the proper implementation of ecologically engineered ecosystems working with natural ecosystems, a greater sustainability can be reached by human daily practices. This sustainability is something that is a very large part of the Costa Rican culture and it was an unforgettable opportunity being a part of it.IMG_4627


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