Costa Rica: Faculty
Dr. Sybil Gotsch is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. Sybil is a tropical plant ecophysiologist who has worked extensively in Latin America. Her research has taken her from the tropical dry forests of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, to the savannas of Brazil, and more recently to the tropical montane cloud forests (TMCF) of Mexico. In 2012, Sybil started a new research program in Monteverde, Costa Rica where she and her students are studying the vulnerability of the TMCF canopy community to changes in rainfall and cloud cover. A three-year veteran of BELL, Sybil finds mentoring young people incredibly rewarding, and is especially interested in using field-based learning activities in her teaching.
Marian Ahn Thorpe is a doctoral student in cultural anthropology at Rutgers University, where she studies indigenous environmental movements and climate change policy. Her work has taken her to Panama to research the effects of mining and hydroelectric dams on indigenous
communities, and more recently to Argentina and Paraguay,
where she taught leadership and strategic planning workshops for the Disciples of Christ Church. Marian holds a masters degree in environmental science from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. This will be her seventh summer working for the Leadership Institute.
Dr. Randol Villalobos Vega is a Research Fellow in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. He is currently studying the ecophysiology of trees in ground water-dependent ecosystems and their responses to climate change. Prior to this appointment, Randol conducted research in Brazil and Florida on water table and nutrient dynamics in neotropical savannas and wetland ecosystems. Randol is from Costa Rica and has always been an avid explorer and outdoorsman. He has extensive knowledge of tropical ecology and evolution, biodiversity, plant physiology, hydrology, environmental science, conservation, and wilderness exploration. This year will be Randol’s third summer with BELL, and he is very excited to help students gain a deeper understanding of natural habitats and human communities in his home country.
Brenda Zhang has spent two summers on BELL staff in Rhode Island and two summers in Costa Rica since attending BELL in Rhode Island as a high school student in 2007. She holds a BA from Brown, where she studied sustainable design, food sovereignty, and visual art. As an outdoor and environmental educator, she has led trips in the White Mountains and the Berkshires with high school and college students. Currently, she lives in Philadelphia, PA, where she works as a visual artist and teaches environmental science at Philadelphia University.