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Like a caterpillar spending months gathering its energies to become a butterfly, students on the 2018 Tropical Conservation Semester have been packing, buying gear, practicing Spanish, and completing a hundred other preparations, readying themselves to emerge from their cocoon (pupils pupating?!) of wintry Wisconsin into the sunny tropics of Ecuador. But the long-awaited butterfly day has finally arrived and we are ready to unfold our wings!
Ceiba’s students arrived in Ecuador, were whisked to their host family homes — time to use that Spanish! — and have had their first taste of campus life in the lovely, verdant city of Cumbaya. Classes start on Monday, and our first field expedition takes flight (we’ll be walking, actually) this weekend, when we explore the gorgeous, high-elevation Andean tundra known as páramo. There we will be mesmerized by the incredible flowers and diverse plants of this unique ecosystem, and maybe will have some buena suerte and be able to spot an Andean Condor, a white-tailed deer (left), or even the elusive Spectacled Bear!
After the lofty heights of the páramo, we will spend the following weekend in the entrancing, misty cloud forest of the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, Ceiba’s first conservation project in Ecuador. At both sites, students will learn to identify the characteristic plants and animals of these tropical ecosystems, practice fundamental field biology skills, and assess the effectiveness of various approaches to habitat protection.