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Spring Semester

(January - May)

Apply by: Oct 7

Tropical Conservation Semester Program Overview

Ceiba The Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation has teamed up with the University of Wisconsin to offer this exciting semester-abroad program in applied tropical ecology and conservation.  Based in Ecuador, this one-of-a-kind program features internships with conservation organizations, participation in ongoing habitat protection projects, coursework in the conservation and ecology of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and immersion in Latin American culture.  The unique collaboration between two renowned universities and an established tropical conservation organization allows us to blend the academic and applied realms, bridging the gap between science and practical conservation.

The TCS program is ideal for undergraduate students in both biological and social fields that seek interdisciplinary training applicable to careers in habitat protection, international development, tropical ecology and environmental education.  By combining extended explorations of the Galapagos and the Amazon with internships that immerse participants in ongoing conservation projects, this intensive program grants students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to broaden their horizons and acquire hands-on experience with conservation and development in practice.Snorkeling with sea lions

The TCS program includes 3 main components:

I.  Conservation & Ecology sequence includes classroom and field lectures in conservation biology and the ecology of major tropical ecosystems: terrestrial biology, marine ecology, and conservation biology.

II.  Conservation Internship with a local conservation, research or development organization during the final month of the semester.

III.  Spanish Language and cultural immersion includes host-family stays in Quito and the Galapagos islands, and extensive interactions with local people throughout Ecuador.

Over half the semester is spent at field sites that include the world-renowned Galapagos Islands and the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Amazonian Ecuador (see Where We Go), as well as Ceiba Foundation project sites at the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve and the Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve.  Each course will combine classroom lectures with field instruction and activities that focus on ecology and natural history, ecosystem and reserve management, monitoring and biological research methods, community-based participatory planning, and habitat conservation.  During the final month of the semester, each student carries out an internship with a local organization of their choice, putting their knowledge to work in a conservation, applied research or sustainable development project! TCS Video

See for yourself!  Filmed and produced by a former student during his internship, this video highlights the activities and amazing sites of the tropical conservation semester. The video combines incredible footage of wildlife, in forests and underwater, with interviews of many of the program participants, and it reflects the full range of experiences this program offers to students. Enjoy!

Our semester program has trained conservationists and ecologists for more than a decade, with most of them going on to meaningful jobs with international organizations or field research research.  Program professors are highly experienced ecologists, each with over 25 years experience in the tropics (see Faculty).  Ceiba's ongoing habitat conservation projects are among the key sites visited during the program, giving participants a chance to gain experience with how such projects are planned and managed.  As a member of the international conservation community, Ceiba offers participants the opportunity to make connections with other non-governmental organizations and to work directly with them as interns on real conservation projects.  Please visit Ceiba's home page for more information about the foundation's activities.

Course Descriptions

Conservation & Ecology Sequence
Insect monitoring
Conservation Biology

A thorough introduction to the science of conservation biology combined with experiential learning in a variety of terrestrial and marine communities of conservation concern.  This course covers the theoretical background for conservation problems and addresses concepts such as population biology, habitat loss and fragmentation, land use, reserve design and management, and sustainable development in the context of the tropical ecosystems and human communities we visit.  (3 cr.)  (details ...)

Woolly Monkey in the Amazon
Tropical Ecology I:  Terrestrial Ecosystems

An in-depth treatment of ecological principals and a survey of major tropical ecosystems.  You'll study the ecology and conservation status of flora and fauna in each system, practice methods for biological surveys and monitoring, and learn about key environmental threats -- all necessary elements for planning and executing successful conservation projects.  Visits to Ceiba's El Pahuma Orchid Reserve and Lalo Loor Dry Forest, plus a three-week stay in the Amazon rainforest highlight this hands-on learning adventure.  (4 cr.)  (details ... )

Collecting marine data
Tropical Ecology II:  Marine Ecosystems

An introduction to oceanography and an exploration of the ecology, evolution and conservation of marine environments including coral reefs, mangroves and the deep sea.  We discuss the many ways humans rely on the oceans, and how fisheries and marine reserves are managed.  Three weeks in the Galapagos Islands Marine Reserve, including a cruise of the islands and a home stay with a local family, make this course a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  (4 cr.)  (details ... )

Conservation Internships
Reading The Lorax to local school kids

Put your knowledge gained in the ecology, conservation, culture and language of Ecuador to work in ongoing conservation projects!  During the final month of the semester, students work with a local organization to gain first-hand experience and contribute tangibly to an active project in habitat protection, ecological research, environmental education, or sustainable development.  Choose among internships located on the Pacific coast or in the Andes, in rural communities or remote field stations, or in many other exciting places throughout Ecuador.  (2 cr.)  (details ... )

Spanish Language & Cultural Immersion
Quito's old town
You will be paired with an Ecuadorian host family in the capital city of Quito, and placed in a 3-credit Spanish language course taught by experienced native speakers.  Pre-course placement exams ensure you receive training appropriate to your existing command of the language.  Intensive classes teach grammar, vocabulary and the richness of Latin American culture, helping you to adapt smoothly to life in Ecuador and communicate effectively during the program and beyond.  Spanish classes take place on an attractive university campus just outside Quito.  (3 cr.)  (details ...)

Academic Credit

Ceiba's Tropical Conservation Semester is fully accredited (16 honors credits) by the University of Wisconsin, for students of any college or university in the US or Canada.  Students receive a number of benefits in addition to automatic transfer of credit, including access to financial aid, overseas health insurance during the course, and detailed pre-departure orientation.  For further information, please contact UW International Academic Programs (106 Red Gym, 716 Langdon St., 608-265-6329, website, TCS program page).

If you are enrolled in an institution outside the US or Canada, please contact Ceiba for information on obtaining credit for the TCS program.

How to Apply

1)  Read the complete Course Information Packet

Required reading for anyone interested in applying or already enrolled, the course information packet includes a thorough course description, detailed schedule, recommended and required gear lists, travel information, and much more. View or download the packet here:

TCS Packet

TCS Program Packet (pdf)

Get Adobe Acrobat Reader

2) Apply through University of Wisconsin's Study Abroad Office

To complete your online application please visit the University of Wisconsin's online application site; for more detailed instructions (and if you are an international student) please check the TCS Application page.


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