International Research Experiences for Students (IRES)

Guanacaste Tectonic Sliver, Costa Rica


Apply to the our summer research program and join us in producing valuable insights into Earth processes. Applications are currently being accepted until January 15, 2024.


Apply Here

 About the Project

Plate interactions near tectonic plate margins explain the internal processes that sculpt and deform the Earth’s landscape. It helps authorities to quantify the seismic risk (damage from an earthquake) and its assessment (probability of damage). The north region of Costa Rica continues to be relevant for subduction zone research. Many Costa Rican authorities utilize these types of findings to make recommendations and policy decisions that are crucial to the safety and wellbeing of local communities.

In this IRES site project, student participants will collect geologic data via state-of-the-art GNSS stations, and magnetometers. Students will use this data couple with InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) methods to assess ground deformation with the goal of identifying a new  tectonic boundary and velocity a vector for a tectonic block that we have named the  Guanacaste Tectonic Sliver (GTS). This will allow for a better assessment of regional seismic hazards in this region of the country. Student-authored poster publications that will be presented at a scientific conferences are the expected research outcome for participating students.

Perform on-site, international research in northern Costa Rica

Five (5) students will be selected to participate in this summer research experience in Costa Rica for a duration of 18 days. Students will receive a $2,200 stipend. Additionally, all food and lodging, and all travel expenses to the field area and back will be covered by the program. The dates of international travel are Early June to Mid July

Experience a complete research experience from beginning to end in the field, lab, and national conference settings

During the international travel dates, students will visit several areas of interest and perform field data collection. Upon return from the field, students will work one-one-one with program leaders and supporting mentors for a period of one (1) year to coordinate the completion of the project, prepare for conference presentations, and provide feedback via short surveys related to their experiences. Students are expected to participate in one national conference to present their research. All travel and registration expenses are covered by the program! 

Apply early!

The final date to apply is January 15, 2024 @ 11:59pm PT. We will be accepting students into the program as early as October, 2023.

International Partnerships



Our activities are designed to involve personalized mentoring and academic and social support that has been proven effective in supporting the retention of students, especially underrepresented minorities (URM), in STEM disciplines. 

Cultivating an effective and safe learning environment


Pre- and post- participant interviews where each student can share their expectations and desired benefits, preferred mentoring style, concerns, and post-project satisfaction/success are used by the Principal Investigators to design the mentorship plan.

Real-time, intensive mentoring and support by program instructors and experienced peers in the field, lab, and beyond. Motivation and wellness check-ins.

Relevant training so that you can reach your goals

Field methods workshops emphasizing (1) skills building such as field safety, map navigation, and first aid, (2) maintaining mental wellness, motivation, and effective coping strategies for prolonged fieldwork, and (3) panel discussion with current/former students speaking on their personal research experiences and challenges that women and underrepresented minorities face during fieldwork

Speak with purpose

Communicating science workshops detailing topics such as (1) how to prepare for a poster or oral presentation for academic conferences, (2) increasing sense of belonging and confidence and reducing imposter syndrome, and (3) how to address microaggressions and navigating majority-white spaces.

Authentic research as a high-impact student experience

Students who actively engage in collaborative research and are closely supported by relatable mentors commonly demonstrate substantial gains in critical thinking and research skills, report more satisfaction with their overall educational experience, and are more likely to pursue graduate studies. The initiatives of this project will undoubtedly contribute to a high-impact student learning experience and foster intercultural effectiveness to produce the next generation of empowered, independent thinkers. Students can look forward to the following components:

Gain first-hand experience in field data collection

Develop highly coveted field skills using a combination of traditional field tools and the latest satellite and digital technologies while connecting to cultural landscapes

Get the tools needed to synthesize your research findings

Access to state-of-the-art research laboratories, field equipment, and applications (e.g., InSAR, GNSS).

Experience invaluable mentorship designed to help you cement your skills and self-identity as a future geoscientist

Personal, one-on-one mentoring and expertise training from program instructors and supporting staff and peers through the entirety of the project.

Learn how to effectively communicate your science

All participants will have an opportunity to present their concluding results and recommendations at a conference setting (e.g., GSA, SACNAS, NABG). Take advantage of the networking opportunities with top researchers in the industry. Build and establish a professional internet presence for yourself as a future geoscientist through various online platforms (such as websites, podcasts, blogs, vlogs).

Studying abroad gives you a competitive edge!

Students who participate in international research experiences gain a level of exposure to foreign cultures that cannot be accomplished in a classroom or when on vacation. Acquiring these skills and new perspectives gives the student a competitive edge and are more likely to be sought after by future career searches and employers. By attending this IRES experience, you can expect to gain improved foreign language skills, intercultural competency skills, and develop confidence and independence.

Share your experiences and wealth of knowledge

Learn by teaching others! Studies have shown that students who spend time teaching what they’ve learned experience better understanding and knowledge retention. After the completion of your project, you can come back and serve as a relatable mentor in Atlanta, Georgia! Take advantage of the opportunity to lend a hand during training modules, offer virtual assistance, and share advice to new participating students.

This research program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The activities and framework planned will strengthen students’ knowledge of geosciences, teach them life skills that will prepare them for a successful future in academia or industry, and enhance their academic performance, confidence and sense of belonging through mentorship and social support. This project is designed to recruit and retain undergraduate and graduate level students, particularly from underrepresented populations, in various areas of the Geosciences field.

The safety of participants and our local community is paramount. We are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and will revise formatting, if needed.

Frequently Asked


Who should apply?

Students must meet certain qualifications:

  • Is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Currently enrolled as an undergraduate or graduate student college/university with an expected date of graduation no earlier than December 2023.
  • Students with no or limited research experience in the field are welcome to apply.
  • We strongly encourage students from historically underserved populations to apply. Such backgrounds include students with disabilities, first-generation college students, non-traditional students, students who are Black or African American, American Indian or Native Pacific Islanders, Hispanic or Latinos, and many more.
  • Students interested in learning more about a graduate-level career in the field of geosciences or related pathways.
Are there requirements to participate in this project?
  • Completion or enrollment in a course in mineralogy, petrology, or Earth materials is preferred.
  • Coursework in structural geology and/or field geology or field methods is beneficial but not necessary.
  • Experience using MATLAB, ArcGIS, Python is highly desired but not necessary.
  • You will need a passport before the departure date.
  • Meet all the sanitary requirements by the Costa Rican government to travel to the country.
  • Proof of vaccination. The last thing we want is to infect the local population with COVID-19. You will need to be vaccinated by the departure date to be accepted into the program.
What do I need to submit with my application?

In addition to the usual questions on the Google Form application, you will need to prepare the following items in advance of your submission:

  • A Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV) highlighting your academic, career, and personal experiences (e.g., volunteer work, service).
  • Personal Statement to communicate what you are interested in doing at this REU and why you want to attend. See the application for guidelines and tips on how to write a strong and reflective statement. This statement should be one page and single-spaced.
  • A current Academic Transcript. Unofficial academic transcripts are acceptable.
  • At least one Letter of Recommendation from someone familiar with the scope and quality of your past academic or professional work. This could be an instructor from a course, an academic advisor, an employer, or other individuals who can comment on your potential to succeed in this research program.  
Is this experience for me?

The overarching goal of this funding is to broaden and retain diversity in the geosciences workforce. You will find yourself in the center of the most relevant and high-quality research in the science field. Gain hands-on experience while working with top researchers and equally aspiring peers. You’ll develop an understanding of what it is like to be immersed in a research environment, versus what you think it may be like, in order to inform your future career choices. If this sounds like something you would be interested in pursuing, then we encourage you to submit an application. Do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions! Contact information is listed in the section below.

What skills can I expect to develop?
  • Experience with field and laboratory procedures/protocols
  • Intellectual skills such as inquiry and data analysis, reading and understanding research literature
  • Collaboration and teamwork building skills
  • How to effectively present research findings (orally and written) in both academic and non-academic avenues.

Program Leaders

Dr. Paulo Hidalgo
Principal Investigator
Georgia State University

Dr. Ana Cristina Araya
Principal Investigator
Universidad de Costa Rica

Dr. Guillermo Alvarado
Principal Investigator
Comisión Nacional de Emergencias Costa Rica