Miami Alumni Travel Presents: Exploring Costa Rica through Science, Culture, and Photography

Presented on: Thursday, March 9th at 12:00 PM EST

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Join us on a virtual expedition designed for a naturalist eager to learn about the natural splendor and charm of Costa Rica.  Featuring golden sand beaches, humid tropical forests, and active volcanoes, you won’t need a passport to get a closer look at the wonders of Costa Rica… at least, not yet!

Miami’s own Dr. Hays Cummins,  Dr. Donna McCollum and Ron Stevens will take you on an eco-travel adventure from the comfort of your laptop.  Frequent travelers to the region, these three experts will share the science, scenes, culture, and experiences that make Costa Rica so extraordinary and worth returning to again and again.

Dr. Hays Cummins is a Professor Emeritus, former Distinguished Educator, and Harrison Scholars Professor in the Western Program and Geography at Miami University. Hays is a founding Co-Director of Project Dragonfly and served as the science editor for Dragonfly magazine. He received his Ph.D. in oceanography from Texas A&M University. He has taught interdisciplinary tropical ecology in Costa Rica for the last three decades.  He has also led international courses to the Bahamas, the Netherlands Antilles, Belize, Australia, and Namibia. 

His interdisciplinary research areas include tropical ecology, coral reef ecology, understanding global change and climate change, ecological restoration, and science pedagogy. He also has a passion for birding, weather, astronomy, and photography. Hays has authored many research papers and popular articles focusing on science and science education. Recent publications include an article on coral reef disease on the Great Barrier Reef, an article on the ecology of beavers, and books on Bahamas birds and coral reef fish.

Dr. Donna McCollum is an ecologist with expertise in stream and riparian ecosystems, native plants, restoration, tropical and marine ecology, and environmental science.   She has a Ph.D., M.S., and M.A.T. in zoology from Miami University, and currently teaches classes on Ohio native plants as an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati.  She retired from Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, in 2014 after a decade of teaching in Western College, Zoology, and the Institute for Environment and Sustainability. 

After retiring, Donna served on the Board of Directors for Three Valley Conservation Trust.  As chair of their Outreach Committee, she became the project manager for restoration at Helen S. Ruder Preserve.  She has coordinated the restoration efforts of 2,500 people at this riparian forest, as well as helping to raise funds for and build nearly 700 feet of an ADA-compliant boardwalk.  Donna has continued to lead international field courses in Costa Rica, Belize, and the Bahamas after retiring, accumulating nearly two decades of experience in leading field excursions.  

Ron Stevens is an award-winning photographer who has taught photography in the Department of Art at Miami University for over 30 years. He has conducted numerous travel photography workshops and seminars throughout the United States and internationally, working with both beginners and advanced photographers. He is a passionate environmentalist and strives to reflect the beauty of the natural world in a unique way. Stevens has photographed commercial projects for many advertising campaigns. 

Stevens is a member of the Society for Photographic Education and the National Association of Photoshop Professionals. He has been part of several regional and national exhibits as well as twice receiving the Hoosier Award from Indiana for outstanding photography and being named one of the top five photographers in the state of Ohio. His images are in private collections across the country and he has been the featured speaker and judge of numerous photographic exhibits and competitions. Currently, Ron is the Director of Miami University’s Art Center and CraftSummer program.


Please visit us at this link to learn more about the Miami Explorers alumni travel program and see our exciting lineup of 2023 trips, tours, and cruises.

This event is free to attend, but registration is required. Questions? Please contact Mollie Young @

*Photo credit: Ron Stevens

The views expressed by presenters are their own and their appearance in a program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Miami University Alumni Association.