The Virtual Rainforest
A Neotropical Rainforest
Rainforest Research


Tree Seedlings

Forest Flowers



Army Ants

Bullet Ants
Leafcutter Ants

Rhinoceros Beetle

Swallowtail Butterfly



Keel-billed Toucan

Howler Monkeys

White-faced Monkeys

Three-toed Sloth
Baird's Tapir
White-lipped Peccary
Reptiles and Amphibians:
Red-eyed Tree Frog
Poison Dart Frog
Helmeted Iguana
Eyelash Viper
Terciopelo Viper
Spectacled Caiman
American Crocodile
Human Systems:
Rainforest Boy
Rainforest Girl
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Rainforest Research

About the Authors





Welcome to the Virtual Rainforest.

Dr. Urquhart in NicaraguaI am Dr. Gerald Urquhart, creator and lead author of the Virtual Rainforest. Originally developed in 1997, the Virtual Rainforest is an educational website designed for K-12 education. I hope that students of all ages find it helpful.

I began traveling to the tropical rainforests nearly 20 years ago. My research has focused on Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica. During the 1990s, I also worked as a tour guide on the Amazon River.

My job is as a tropical ecologist and an assistant professor of biology at Michigan State University. I teach in the Lyman Briggs College at MSU, a residential, undergraduate program for the study of science and society. I lead several study abroad programs to introduce students to the rainforests, including a short program in Nicaragua and a longer program in the Ecuadorian Amazon and Galapagos Islands.

My research focuses on the impacts of globalization on tropical forests and their biodiversity. I have worked for nearly 20 years on the "Mosquito Coast" of Nicaragua in remote locations that are now feeling the impacts of globalization.

A native of Michigan, I attended Lyman Briggs College (where I now teach) as an undergraduate and received my M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. I held a postdoctoral position at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama before coming back to MSU in 1998.

If you have any questions about the Virtual Rainforest or my research, please contact me via email.


Other authors have contributed to the new version of the Virtual Rainforest, including:

Chelsea Gladney is a graduate of Michigan State University, majoring in Environmental Science with a specialization in Science, Technology, Environment and Public Policy. She has traveled to Nicaragua twice and taught science to children in the remote village of Orinoco. Chelsea contributed several accounts of species and life in Nicaragua to the Virtual Rainforest.

Chris Jordan is a researcher with Global Wildlife Conservation and Panthera, the world's largest research organization for the study of wild cat conservation. He completed his Ph.D. at Michigan State University in 2014 studying the people and rainforest mammals of Nicaragua's Caribbean Coast. His research focuses on the intersection of wildlife biology and cultural knowledge. He is working with local communities to assess the local ecological knowledge of different cultures, including the indigenous Miskito village of Kakabila and the Garifuna village of Orinoco. He is fluent in Spanish and, in addition to contributing to the species accounts, has translated the Virtual Rainforest into Spanish.

JP Lawrence is a herpetologist at studying poison frogs of the world for his Ph.D. at the University of Mississippi. He completed his masters degree at Michigan State University. A broadly trained naturalist with a love for everything that moves, JP brings a wealth of knowledge to the Virtual Rainforest.



The Virtual Rainforest

Back to the Rainforest

Copyright Gerald R. Urquhart
Michigan State University

Students and teachers have permission to quote text and use images from this website in class assignments. Images may be used in classroom and academic presentations with notification of author. All other use should request permission.


Virtual Rainforest development supported by grant #0815966 from the
National Science Foundation

Center for Global Change and Earth Observation

Michigan State University