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Oregon State Everywhere: ‘Live your life with passion and don’t be afraid to connect with others’

Marc Mains in baseball hat and backpack standing in office of Monteverde Institute

Through an internship at the Monteverde Institute in Costa Rica, Marc Mains gained valuable experience as a wildlife researcher, so he can continue pursuing his childhood dream of becoming a herpetologist.


By Marc Mains
Oregon State University graduate
B.S. in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences

Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved wildlife, particularly reptiles and amphibians. At the age of six, I knew that I wanted to be a herpetologist. Once I finished high school, I knew this dream was going to be hard to accomplish as I would have to travel out of state to attend a college that taught herpetology. This would be expensive, and I ended up putting that dream on hold, until years later when I found out about Oregon State University Ecampus, and how they offered a fisheries, wildlife and conservation sciences bachelor’s program that was 100% online.

Once enrolled I found the classes and professors to be engaging and the online environment was easier for me to adjust to as I was able to set my own schedule based on my daily life. Oregon State University Ecampus even helps you prepare for real work/life experience in your area of study in the form of internships. Part of the curriculum for my degree program requires you to complete two internships, which a coordinator will talk more about in class. Internships can be local, online or abroad. I chose the abroad option, as I had always wanted a chance to travel and work abroad.

“My advice for future students is to take a chance and go live your dream, even if it takes you to unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations.”

For my international internship, I went to Monteverde, Costa Rica where I interned at the Monteverde Institute as a wildlife researcher. For two and half months I lived with a family that lived close to the institute. They treated me like a member of the family, cooked meals, helped me with my Spanish when I asked, included me in family celebrations and holidays, and taught me about the Tico (this is what Costa Rican people call themselves) culture, lifestyle, and their motto “Pura Vida.”

A small bird held in a person's hand.

Learning how to properly band birds was an important part of Mains’ internship. A resident olive-streaked flycatcher was one of the first birds he banded during his time at the Monteverde Institute. Photo by Marc Mains.

My daily life was much like an American one, where I worked Monday through Friday from 9 to 5. My research included tracking mammal movement in conservation areas with trap camera data (I placed these cameras myself), mist netting and banding neotropical and migrant bird species, and cataloging reptile and amphibian species found in the Crandell reserve.

At the end of my time in Costa Rica, I was able to compile and analyze all my collected data to present to the staff and the community in Monteverde, like a TED Talk.

The experience was an amazing one. I learned about another culture, spoke in another language, studied wildlife I had only dreamed of seeing, and most importantly made new friends and contacts whom I still stay in contact with to this day.

I think I have grown personally and professionally from this experience as I gained valuable skills and knowledge while learning from people who live in — and with nature from — another country.

My advice for future students is to take a chance and go live your dream, even if it takes you to unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations. Live your life with passion and don’t be afraid to connect with others, especially those people you’ll meet in your internships.

Learn more about Oregon State’s study abroad opportunities, as well as the Gilman Scholarship, which helped make Marc’s internship experience in Costa Rica possible.

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