The Political Ecology of Water in Costa Rica Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the world's leading exporters of pineapples.


In this practicum, students will gain experience in the practical application of political ecology as a means to study and understand environmental conflicts in southwest Costa Rica. This year, the practicum will build on previous research and focus in particular on issues related to water.

Political ecology is the intersection of political economy and the environment, and broadly focuses on how power intersects with the environment. While methods of political ecology are interdisciplinary, they have been heavily influenced by ethnography and anthropological approaches. As such, this practicum will focus largely on anthropological field methods and will be working collaboratively with water activists in the region.

Water is one of the principal concerns in areas of pineapple cultivation in southwest Costa Rica. The pineapple industry has recently expanded to become Costa Rica's largest export crop. Current pineapple cultivation utilizes a great deal of water and an intense application of pesticides, which has impacts for both water access and water contamination. Pineapple cultivation has negative health impacts for workers and those who use drinking water around plantations. In addition to the pineapple industry, the region is known for its rivers and is the location of hydroelectric projects that threaten water flow and access. Accordingly, students will investigate water issues that revolve both around industrial agriculture and energy generation.

Students will learn research skills and a political ecology framework and will produce a deliverable for water activists in the region.

Information Session

December 5, 2019 3:30 PM in SIS 112 - All Information Sessions

To join the information session online please click the link below and use the meeting ID: 

Join Information Session Online - Meeting ID: 657-164-1042

Program Dates

Course Dates (on-campus and virtual meetings)
June-August 2020 (exact dates to be announced)
Travel to Costa Rica
May 31- June 13, 2020 (dates subject to change)

Program Fee

The program fee is $1,200 and covers in-country housing and transportation, some meals, cultural activities and other costs related to operating the program. The program fee will be charged to your AU Student Account in addition to your tuition at the time of registration by the SIS Office of Experiential Learning.

All students are responsible for the program fee, 3 credits AU tuition, international airfare, most meals, in-country transport outside of the program, visa fees and immunizations.


SIS students will work alongside students from SIS Partner School, the Norweigan University of Life Sciences (NMBU) and students from Costa Rican institutions. UN University for Peace (UPEACE) will be a partner institution for this research.

The client for this practicum will be water activists in Southwest Costa Rica. Through ongoing collaborations facilitated by program faculty, students will be working for a community association located adjacent to areas of pineapple cultivation, and will apply methods of political ecology and produce deliverables that will address the association's current concerns.

Faculty Director

Suggested Program Match

This practicum is open to all SIS graduate students meeting the practicum requirements and may be of particular interest to students studying Global Environmental Policy, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development, International Peace and Conflict Resolution, and International Development.

There are no specific course prerequisites, but an application’s competitiveness will be enhanced by showing experience with or capacity for any of the following: relevant language skills; prior experience or field work in the region; coursework on or experience with conservation; prior work on food and agriculture projects; and coursework, experience or skills with indigenous rights. The practicum's purpose is to gain an applied understanding of the political ecology approach, and to gain experience in applied field research. The course’s central objective is to prepare students to competently use a variety of field research methods in investigating environmental issues.