Ecuador: Comparative Ecology and Conservation

Explore tropical ecosystems and study biological sciences to support conservation efforts in Ecuador

offered by SIT Study Abroad

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One of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet, Ecuador provides an ideal setting for learning about tropical biology and ecology in a comparative context. Within this small country's borders, the Amazon Basin, the Andes, the Pacific Ocean, and the Galápagos Islands provide unique climatic niches that harbor ecological treasures and a plethora of endemic flora and fauna. Ecuador is home to two biological hotspots — the tropical Andes and the Chocó — known for their mega-diversity and rapid loss of habitat. Given the overwhelming ecological importance of Ecuador’s biota and the severe threats it faces, SIT's Comparative Ecology and Conservation program makes it possible for students to learn firsthand about tropical ecosystems, and simultaneously become immersed in the global, national, and local impacts of resource use in the tropics. A focus on science and field research This is a field-based program emphasizing the biological and ecological sciences applicable to natural resource management and conservation in Ecuador; therefore, throughout the entire semester, you will engage in serious scientific fieldwork in a variety of locations, including the Amazon Tropical Rain Forest, the Cloud Forest, high altitude Páramo, and the Galápagos Islands. You will find yourself conducting studies of plants and insects, sampling soil, doing species counts, mist-netting, bird-watching, and so on. This will require being in the field for long lengths of time (where you will be wet, hot or cold, up to your knees in mud, and in extremely close contact with insects and animals). Often, the field research is conducted in the very early morning or late at night, depending on the activity. Please be aware that all sustainability, socio-economic, and policy aspects of conservation are examined from a scientific perspective. How can science contribute to conservation efforts in Ecuador? This program will let you live like a biologist as you answer that question. Quito Students are based in Quito, where they live with a host family, attend classes, conduct fieldwork, and embark on excursions. Students receive lectures from local professionals in the fields of botany, forestry, entomology, ornithology, ecology, and natural history. Majestic mountains surround Quito, where Quiteños say they are living in "la cara de Dios," the face of God. UNESCO named Quito's elegant colonial center a world cultural heritage site in 1978. Spanish language class and city excursions Students practice and enhance their language skills, with a natural history and environmental emphasis, learned in the classroom during educational excursions to various locations in and around Quito. Field exercises in the city typically include relevant historical sites and the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World, i.e., the equatorial line). Experienced teaching staff and homestays combine to maximize students’ language learning opportunities. Independent Study Project Students spend the last four weeks of the program focused on an Independent Study Project (ISP), pursing original research on a selected topic of interest to them. The ISP can be conducted throughout Ecuador based upon requests from local activists, NGOs, and communities. Students should plan on completing an ISP that is rooted in the biological, ecological, and/or environmental sciences.    Sample topic areas for the ISP include: Biodiversity studies and population assessments Use of biological/ecological indicators for environmental studies Flora or fauna monitoring for conservation purposes Geology related to ecology and conservation Endangered species Protected area management Mining or petroleum industry environmental implications and alternatives Traditional and organic agriculture Endemism


  • Environmental Studies
  • Sustainable Development
  • Environmental Management
  • Environmental Management Systems / Policy
  • Marine Science
  • Ecology
  • Spanish


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