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Plan II Honors

Ruth E Buskirk

Senior Lecturer

Distinguished Senior Lecturer



Behavior and web structure of orb-weaving spiders. How undergraduates learn to read scientific papers. Undergraduate biology teaching and curriculum issues.


Ruth Buskirk earned her A.B. at Earlham College, M.A. at Harvard University, and Ph.D. at the University of California at Davis. Her research on behavior and physiology includes work of orb-weaving spiders, dragonflies, baboons, and unusual animal behavior before earthquakes. She has taught biology courses at the University of Texas at Austin for over 25 years. She especially enjoys her family, music, and being outdoors in different places.


T C 358 • Land Use Iss In Costa Rica-Crc

42985 • Spring 2017
(also listed as BIO 337)

Land Use Issues in Costa Rica

Maymester 2017 
Application Deadline Nov. 1

This course is restricted to students accepted into the Maymester Program.

Program Description: Costa Rica is home to some of the most beautiful and diverse wild lands left on the planet. All of this biodiversity depends upon preservation practices in the face of economic growth, energy demands, and land development. Costa Rica is unique in both its biome diversity and exemplary in the amount of land set aside to safeguard this diversity, as more than 25% of the country is protected in parks and reserves. Revenues from ecotourism help sustain these areas; however, there are questions about how effective this model is for an emerging economy and society. In this course we examine the ecological, social and economic pressures affecting land use and consider a variety of perspectives. Our experiences in Costa Rica will range from field studies in a remote Pacific rain forest, to mountain cloud forests, to the lowlands on both dry and wet sides of the central mountain ranges.

Requirements: In Costa Rica the components of the grade are: 20% active participation in course activities; 20% field exercises, including question-generating activities and gathering data; 40% group research project and presentation; and 20% individual write-up, summary of field notes, ideas about priorities and recommendations, and a final individual reflection.

Academic Credit: Plan II students will earn four credit hours for a Plan II Junior Seminar (TC 358) and a preparatory seminar (LA 119).  All students participating in the Costa Rica Maymester Program are required to take LA 119 (Maymester Seminar: Costa Rica), which meets weekly for the first half of the spring semester.  Non-Plan II students will earn four hours of academic credit for BIO 337 and LA 119.  All students will earn a Global Cultures Flag which can fulfill the requirements of the UT Core Curriculum. Maymester courses are part of UT spring registration; courses must be taken for a letter grade and are factored into the official UT GPA.  All courses are taught in English.

Prerequisites/Eligibility: All Majors welcome to apply, but students must have completed either Plan II Biology (BIO 301E) or Introductory Biology II (BIO 311D) or Honors Genetics (BIO 325H) prior to departure.  Minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 required.  All participants must be enrolled in residenece at UT Austing during the spring 2017 semester.  Students need not speak Spanish but those with knowledge of the language will gain more from the experience.

Faculty: Dr. Ruth Buskirk, a distinguished senior lecturer in Biology, has been the faculty director of this Maymester since 2010. Dr. Buskirk has visited Costa Rica many times for both teaching and research, and is particularly enthusiastic about the holistic student involvement and interdisciplinary nature of this course. Dr. Buskirk has taught biology courses at UT for over 25 years, including Introductory Biology, Plan II Biology and Honors Genetics. She has helped develop and lead student programs across campus and has been honored with teaching excellence awards from the University Regents, the President’s Associates, the Texas Exes, and the College of Natural Sciences. In addition, Dr. Buskirk is the 2012 recipient of the Plan II Chad Oliver Teaching award.
Costa Rica Maymester 2017 Program Dates:  May 25 - June 25, 2017

2017 Costs: Program fee is $4775; the fee includes the deposit, program activities, housing, most meals, and most local transportation.  In addition students should budget for the application fee ($75), airfare (approx. $750), required insurance ($95),  some meals/spending money/local tranportation ($275) and, if a student does not already have one, a passport ($135).  The total estimated cost for the program is $6,105. 

Scholarships: All Plan II students who apply to the Costa Rica Maymester program should also apply for the Plan II Travel Grant.  Additional funding sources for this study abroad program include the International Office Maymester Scholarship, the 25th Year Anniversary Scholarship, and theInternational Education Fee Scholarship to name a few.  Visit the Funding Study Abroad section on the Study Abroad Office website for more fundraising ideas and detailed scholarship information.  In addition, students should check in with the Academic Advisor in their Major to inquire about additional scholarships.  We encourage students to apply for all scholarships/grants that they are eligible for.  Since many of these scholarships have early deadlines, you may apply for scholarships even if you are not yet sure you have been accepted into the program.

: This highly successful and widely-recognized Maymester ran in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015.  

T C 357 • Rainforest Conservation-Cri

43465 • Spring 2011
(also listed as BIO 337)


This is a course offered by the Plan II Program in the College of Liberal Arts that is open to students with some background in biology. The course will be offered in May/June 2010. ?Exploring land use in Costa Rica is a study of the 'other side' of conservation. Many conservation studies involve the biology of an ecologically important region, but this course is dedicated to examining the other aspects of conservation-- the more 'real world' considerations. These include socio-economic, political, and anthropological factors.


Students in the Plan II Program and the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Texas bring the perfect spectrum of capabilities to bear on the wide range of issues that Costa Rica faces in its efforts towards sustainable conservation.



Our experiences in Costa Rica will range from field studies in a remote Pacific rain forest, to mountain cloud forests, to the lowlands on both dry and wet sides of the central mountain ranges. We will tour locations around the country, each with a distinct look and feel of life in a tropical community. We will stay in field station dormitories or in hostels while on the road. This course will involve a great deal of walking, sometimes over moderately rough, muddy terrain.  Students should be prepared to experience all four seasons in a matter of weeks. Temperatures will range from hot lowlands on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts to fairly cold nights up in the mountains.  It is likely to rain frequently, but be prepared for extreme sun while living so close to the equator.



- Program dates: late May through June 2010

- Total program cost estimate (including air fare): $4200

- Prerequisites: completion of BIO301E or BIO311D with a C or better by the end of Spring 2010

- Program includes course credit for either TC 357 or BIO 337

- Required Spring 2010 enrollment in: UGS 119 International Learning Seminar which meets for 8 sessions, January 20 through March 10 Wednesdays 4:30-6:30 pm.


To Apply:


- You must sign the Maymester application form or call the Study Abroad Office in order to log on to the application portal


Additional Information:

- Plan II Costa Rica Site:

- TC 357CR Site:


About the Professors:

Professor Buskirk is senior lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences and Assistant Director of the College of Natural Sciences Special Projects Offie. Her current research concentrates on spiders and dragonflies, and she is writing a biology textbook for Prentice-Hall. An award-winning teacher, Professor Buskirk has taught Plan II biology for the last several years. She received her doctorate in zoology from the University of California at Davis.


After attending a plethora of universities on different continents, Moon graduated with several degrees including Biology. He pursued his interests in California for more than a decade before arriving in Texas to study molecular neurobiology in the Atkinson labs. Prior to graduate studies, he was an avid traveler, climber and sailor. While preparing for doctoral candidacy, Moon devoted much of his energy to teaching biology- a focus that has led to him join the teaching faculty at UT.  Dr. Draper’s main interest is the genetic control of the suite of ion channels that populate a neuron. To this end, we are mapping the promoter elements that control the transcription of potassium channels in several species of Drosophila. This research has led to the separation of phenotypic behavior specific to transcription from a particular promoter. We are currently pursuing the study of transcriptional control of five different channel genes across a menagerie of 8 Drosophilid species. Distinct elements that direct the expression of genes in either the CNS or PNS have been identified. A combination of bioinformatics, sequence analysis, and transgenic lines may tease out discrete elements that regulate the electro-physiological state of a neuron.

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