Cold and Wet, and Happy, in the High Andes

Students come to Ecuador and join the Tropical Conservation Semester program to explore the amazing diversity of ecosystems this country has to offer, to immerse themselves in local culture, and to experience first hand the unique climate of the tropics.  Well, this year that has meant rain, rain, and more rain!  Don’t worry, we’ll get to the hot and sunny lowlands soon enough!  But you can’t have tropical trees and flowering orchids and ripe bananas without precipitation, so we are learning to enjoy what the skies are providing.

This weekend, the TCS program traveled to the amazing alpine environment known as páramo, which cloaks the high Andes above the tree line.  We hiked in the sprawling Antisana and Cayambe-Coca national parks, and were rewarded for our perseverance with terrific views of high-altitude hummingbirds, some very damp looking deer, and even an Andean Condor perched on a nest.  The students practiced measuring biodiversity — counting some of the amazing, tiny-but-gorgeous highland plants — and learned to use GPS units to map our study plots and hiking trail.Sparkling Violetear in Paramo

This coming weekend, we descend in altitude a few thousand feet, and explore the middle-elevation forests of the Andes’ western flanks.  There, we will get to know the rich cloud forest habitat protected by the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, the first conservation project of the Ceiba Foundation.  We’ll keep our binoculars at the ready in case we spot more extravagantly-colored hummingbirds, or perhaps the secretive Spectacled Bear climbing a tree!  Stay tuned for more updates, and follow us on Facebook.