AMEO experience: IRET-UNA in Costa Rica – Lukas Reinhard (2022)

In this blogpost, Lukas Reinhard shares his internship experience at the Central American Institute of Studies on Toxic Substances (IRET) of Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica. Students of the Environmental Pollution Management (Ecotoxicology)  Program complete an 8-week internship each year, the so-called “AMEO”. The AMEO is performed either at an external university, governmental or industrial research institute  where students learn to apply the competences achieved during their study. Students also use this opportunity to travel and explore not only Germany, but also other countries.

“My name is Lukas Reinhard and in 2022 I completed my internship at the IRET-UNA in the Central Valley of Costa-Rica. IRET is the Central American Institute of Studies on Toxic Substances, which is a part of the Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica (UNA) and is located in Heredia. The research center has a regional, national and international scope, and among other things, focuses on the effects of toxic substances and other human activities, the protection and conservation of natural ecosystems, as well as sustainable development.

During the eight weeks of internship, I joined the institute’s Ecotoxicology and Environmental Chemistry teams to participate in ongoing research activities. The focus of my work lay on supporting Gabriel Brenes Bravo (a master’s student and an amazing guy) with his soil ecotoxicology project, supervised by Freylan Mena Torres. Therefore, soil and earthworms were collected in the agricultural area of Zarcero on multiple occasions. Part of the lab work was to measure stress bio-markers from earthworm tissues. I was also involved in the design and execution of a behavioral test to assess the habitat selection of earthworms. They even gave me the opportunity to design, execute and evaluate my own little project to measure soil macro-fauna activity using the bait-lamina test.

Additional tasks outside this project included comparison of extraction methods for pesticide residue analysis in soil and evaluation of GC/MS chromatograms, supervised by Clemens Ruepert. I really enjoyed participating in multiple field trips, supporting the sampling of water, sediment and biota, as well as identification of fish.

All of my colleagues at IRET have been very welcoming and were always available to answer my questions. Additionally, I was also introduced to the students in the Master EcotTrop (Tropical Ecotoxicology) and Master Conservation Medicine programs, made great friends and spent some of the evenings and weekends together with them.

For accommodation, I looked for a room within walking distance of the IRET and found a shared house on Airbnb. Looking for a shared house with local roommates was the best decision I could have made regarding housing. I spent a lot of time with these amazing guys and their friends.

After the internship, my girlfriend accompanied me on a trip through Costa Rica. For about four weeks we traveled through the country, visited several national parks and enjoyed the sight of the beautiful nature and wildlife.In conclusion, I absolutely recommend you to visit this amazing country, do an internship at IRET, find local roommates and get to know the amazing food and culture. Thank you for all the people who made this time memorable, especially the ones at IRET, my hosts and all the friends I made.”

Here are some beautiful glimpses from Lukas’ AMEO:-

Here are also some videos from Lukas’ field trips:-

  1. Water sampling at the outlet of the Laguna Hule.
  2. Catching fish in flooded illegal gold mines.
  3. Water sampling at Laguna Río Cuarto.