Biology Professor Explores Costa Rica, Utah for Courses

During the summer months while future students of Dr. Dale Utt enjoyed opportunities to rest their brains, the professor traveled to tropical Central America and to the Beehive State to dig up material for his biology courses. In the coming months, he will take OBU students to both Costa Rica and Hawaii on natural science explorations.

Utt, OBU associate professor of biology, spent the month of June in Costa Rica conducting research for a natural science course. He spent most of his trip in Proyecto Companario on the Osa Peninsula, near the Panama border. It is a private environmental education preserve that provides opportunities for tropical research study and community work for students of all ages.

Dr. Dale Utt, associate professor of biology at OBU, searches for fossils in a quarry in Utah during the Trilobite Jam in summer 2010.

In his research, Utt visited mangrove forests, marine intertidal and reef habitats, and the largest tropical lowland forests in Central America in Corcovado National Park. He assisted with capture and release studies of local bat populations and viewed wildlife such as scarlet macaws, coatimundi, white-faced and howler monkeys, three-toed sloth and the endangered Baird's tapir.

Utt's wife, Randy Bailey Utt, a 1984 OBU graduate, joined him on the trip. The Utts gave clothing and toys to a rural elementary school on behalf of OBU. They also provided a check to children of the Guayami tribe on behalf of Putnam City's James L. Dennis Elementary School, where Mrs. Utt teaches.

For January Term 2011, the Biology Department will offer BIOL 1999, "Tropical Ecology and Biodiversity of Costa Rica." This four-hour-credit class will satisfy the Natural Science requirement for non-science students. The class will meet daily for one week in January for pre-field classroom instruction and then travel to Costa Rica for approximately 13 days to explore the rainforest. The group plans to spend time at four locations: exploring Pacific coastal marine and lowland tropical forests on the Osa Peninsula; observing cloud forests at the Quetzal Education Research Center in San Gerardode Dota; hiking Caribbean lowland rainforest at the La Selva Biological Research Station; and the geologically active region surrounding the volcano, Volcan Arenal. Cost for this class (approximately $2,300) does not include tuition charges for J-term enrollment.

In addition to his international research travel, Utt spent four days of his summer in Utah, where he was one of 50 on-site campers from the United States and Japan who collected fossils in the first annual Trilobite Jam. The event provided collectors with the opportunity to limitlessly gather fossils from the Wheeler Shale and Marjum Formation. Utt returned with about 150 pounds of material for his biology classes. He was also awarded the honor of "Rarest Catch" on the last day of the Jam for his specimen of Hemirhodon amblipyge.

Trilobitesare a fossil group of extinct marine arthropods. They are the most diverse group of extinct animals preserved in the fossil record. Ten orders of trilobites are recognized, with more than 20,000 species placed in those orders.

The next Trilobite Jam will be conducted June 23-26, 2011. For more information about the event, click here.

During the spring semester, OBU will offer BIOL 1999, "Natural History of the Big Island: HAWAII," for four credits, taught by Utt. Class members will meet once per week on campus during the spring semester, and then travel to Hawaii for field work from approximately March 9-18, 2011. The course satisfies the Natural Science requirement for non-science majors. The estimated trip expenses are about $2,600 in addition to tuition fees. Utt said no science background is necessary, just an eagerness to learn and good hiking shoes.

"During our time on the Big Island, we will spend a day hiking Kilauea volcano, snorkel and dive the reefs, view the volcano via helicopter, go whale watching, hike the tropical rainforest, watch the sunset and stargaze from the observatories atop Mauna Kea (elevation 14,000 feet) and enjoy an authentic luau, plus much more," Utt said.

For more information about the J-Term course in Costa Rica or the spring semester course in Hawaii, contact Utt at