Program Details

Location: Quito, Ecuador

Dates: Winter 2020: January 22–March 5, 2020

Accommodations:  Research stations, occasional camping and/or youth hostel or rural lodge

Credits: 15 quarter credits or 10 semester credits

Language: English instruction

Courses: ESCI 437A, ESCI 437B, ESCI 437C

Prerequisites: One college level course of ecology or similar,
18 years of age

Program Costs 

Ecuador Winter 2020
$      150    Application Fee
$   5,500    Program Fee
$   3,000    Estimated In-Country Group Fee
$   1,600    Estimated Airfare/Visa
$   1,000    Estimated Food Money/Personal Spending

$11,250    Total Estimated Cost
Winter 2020: Program fees due by November 1, 2019      


The Program

Owing to its unique location and geography, straddling the equator and bisected by the massive Andes mountains, Ecuador is among the world’s most important biodiversity “hotspots,” with more species of plants and animals found in the country’s grasslands, forests, aquatic and coastal habitats than almost anywhere else on the planet. Here we can observe animals such as giant otters, black caiman, Amazonian river dolphins, monkeys, marine mammals, hundreds of species of birds, and a bewildering variety of butterflies and other exotic insects. Team members will take part in hands-on investigations of key species, habitats and local management of these resources.

We begin our studies in the high Andes, where the chilly grasslands of the paramo are the dominant ecological feature. The bizarre frailejones, a giant member of the daisy family, contribute to the mysterious atmosphere of this unique ecosystem. The paramo gives way to cloud forest, so named because the trees are enveloped in a perpetual covering of fog and mist. This transition, known as an “ecotone,” is another factor driving such high levels of biodiversity. We will hone our identification and observational skills, examine endemic plant and animal species, and study conservation initiatives that aim to protect the region’s disappearing natural ecosystems. From the high Andes we make our way to our second field site, the Rio Bigal Biological Reserve, at the base of the Sumaco volcano in the Andean foothills. Here, where cloud forests meet the sprawling Amazon basin, Andean spectacled bears and jaguars roam the area. At Rio Bigal we will focus on plant and animal census techniques, biodiversity monitoring and ecological observational skills.

Next we head to the Yasuni Scientific Research Station in Ecuador’s lowland Amazon. This region is home to the highest concentrations of plant and animal species known on Earth. While the majority of Yasuni’s rainforest is intact and wildlife populations are generally healthy, oil development has emerged as a growing threat to both biodiversity and local indigenous communities. From the lowland jungles of Yasuni we depart for the Galápagos archipelago, perhaps the world’s most famous natural evolutionary laboratory. In the Galápagos we will study how extreme isolation has resulted in a diverse flora and fauna that is almost entirely endemic. We will also study the human activities that now threaten the islands’ plant communities and wildlife and what is being done to protect and restore this irreplaceable natural treasure.

By the end of the project team members will have a deep understanding of the Ecuadorian natural and human landscapes, the human activities that threaten their biological integrity, and the efforts underway to restore and protect the country’s natural environment.

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Geoffry R. Gallice

Program Leader

PhD in Entomology, University of Florida, 2015

Geoff is a tropical biologist whose scientific research interests lie in the ecology and evolution of butterflies. In particular, he is interested in the clearwing butterflies, a group whose biology is fascinating, and which serves as a model for diverse studies in ecology and evolution in the tropics. He is also active in applied conservation research, and is currently leading a project to explore the threat posed by road construction to biodiversity conservation in the Amazon rainforest of Peru. His research has taken him throughout Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Malawi, Zambia and Malaysia. Geoff has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 2012 and currently leads our Peru and Ecuador Program.

Geoff's Other Program: