A Gap Year

in the Rainforest

Spend 4 to 16 weeks in Costa Rica, working with wildlife and across cultures, as you deepen your experience in the sciences and build leadership skills for life.

Join EPI on a journey of science and self-discovery.

At EPI, we believe that learning, at its best, involves more than just the mind. It involves the whole person, the head, the heart, and the hands. EPI's Gap Year Program is designed to facilitate an exploratory and holistic approach to science and sustainability. By working directly with researchers, protecting wildlife, and conducting meaningful service work, you'll learn what captivates you, what inspires you, and what you want to contribute to the world. And the opportunity to extend your stay as a Research & Conservation Intern will allow you to build on those experiences and emerge prepared for any future.

EPI is currently accepting applications for our Summer Gap Year Program.

At a Glance

Dates and Duration

The core program is 4 weeks in length:

Summer: June 6 - July 3


Internship extension possible up to 12 weeks.

Tuition & Fees

The 4-week core program is $4,750 plus airfare. All food, lodging, and in-country transportation included.


The cost for the internship extension is $300 per week in room and board. 


The program is open to high school graduates, including currently enrolled college students, ages 18+.

College Credit

Students can receive up to 8 undergraduate credits through EPI's partnership with Hamline University (additional registration process and fees apply). Or students can opt to receive independent credit through their home institutions.


As part of the core program students will receive certifications in:

Wilderness First Aid (WFA) for completion of a course in wilderness medicine

Pacuare Reserve Wildlife Assistant (PRWA) for protocol training and 30 hours of wildlife research

Financial Aid

We encourage all students to apply for our need-based financial aid. The deadline for financial aid is February 28th.

Program Overview

Whether you're measuring sea turtles under the cover of night or planting a garden with the local community, this program is designed as an immersive introduction to field science and sustainability.


The program curriculum dives into four interwoven modules that address important issues in wildlife conservation, and activities like hands-on data collection, community service work, and outdoor adventure bring these subjects to life.


Through self-reflection, exploration, and skill-building, you'll emerge with greater clarity about your plans for the future.

Curriculum Modules

Rainforest & Wildlife Research

The lowland tropical rainforest of Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, the site of EPI's Gap Year Program, is home to more than 2,700 species of plants and animals, including sea turtles, jaguars, and rare agami herons, making it an ideal locale for the study of ecology. This module will focus on a variety of ecological concepts such organismal adaptation, population growth and regulation, species biology and behavior, and more. The curriculum is underpinned by hands-on wildlife interaction. Students will collect biometric data on nesting leatherback sea turtles, study primate behavior through direct observation, and examine the migratory patterns of big cats. Conducting wildlife research alongside Reserve scientists and staff forms a core aspect of the curriculum that will span the duration of the program.

Cultural Contexts in Science & Conservation

Science and wildlife conservation do not occur in a vacuum. Cultural context matters. Costa Rica has a long and celebrated history of wildlife conservation, but the on-the-ground realities are more complicated. This module will focus on the complex intersections between humans and their environment. With a broad view of culture as the starting point, students will examine stakeholder issues like wildlife consumption, land use, loss of cultural tradition, and more. These issues will become all the more real as students visit surrounding agricultural communities and engage with locals through storytelling, cooking, and shared service work, gaining valuable insight into other ways of life.

Service & Sustainability

It is impossible to understand and address the issues facing wildlife without recognizing the critical social and economic factors that bear on it. It's all part of a sytem, and in a broad sense, sustainability is an effort to bring those systemic elements into balance. In this module, students will bring an integrated systems ecology approach to the study of resource management, community engagement, tourism, economic development, and other concepts that fall under the umbrella of sustainability. Through service work activities in organic agriculture, green building, and habitat restoration, students will discover their own ability to effect positive change through sustainable endeavors that strengthen wildlife and human communities alike.

Outdoor Leadership

Environmental education is the perfect tool for building leadership skills. The challenges and structured risks of studying and adventuring in the wilderness provide countless opportunities for learning. The key is creating an emotionally safe and supportive learning environment. Through team building exercises, shared goal setting, and formal certifications in outdoor leadership skills such as Wilderness First Aid (WFA), students will build confidence and find their voices as leaders. Students will have ample opportunity to employ those skills through structured adventured activities like rafting and snorkeling, and by working as mentors to local Costa Rican school kids. Gap Year participants will build leadership qualities that transcend outdoor education and apply to all aspects of life.


The Field Station

EPI's Gap Year program is hosted at Pacuare Reserve, a tropical research station located on Costa Rica's remote Caribbean Coast. The facilities at the Reserve are rustic. With cabanas and cots, simple meals, and solar electricity, it's the perfect introduction to life as a field scientist. 

Internship Extension

Looking for a career in the sciences? Want to work with wildlife? Participants who have successfully completed the core Gap Year Program are eligible to serve as Research & Conservation Interns at Pacuare Reserve.