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The Tropical Conservation Semester gives you a one-of-a-kind adventure in Ecuador, where you will immerse yourself in Latin American culture and language, and survey some of the most pristine and wildlife-packed sites on the planet. Ceiba has teamed up with the University of Wisconsin to deliver an electrifying semester in applied tropical ecology, conservation, and rural community development; this unique collaboration encourages you to blend the academic and applied realms, bridging the gap between classroom science and practical conservation. The Tropical Conservation Semester is ideal for undergraduate students in biological and social fields who seek interdisciplinary training for careers in habitat protection, tropical ecology, environmental education, and international development.
*Note: The health and safety of our students, and our staff, are our highest priority. Along with our US and Ecuadorian partner institutions, we are closely monitoring the Covid-19 pandemic and will make modifications to upcoming programs as needed.
"This is the ultimate study abroad program if you want the greatest diversity of biological and cultural experiences. Expect to be stimulated with newness every day." - Teal P.
Venture deep into the Amazon, discover the Galapagos, scale lofty Andean peaks, and explore mountainous cloud forests, then return to the comfort (and laundry!) of your host family in the sunny, cosmopolitan outskirts of Quito. You’ll spend more than half the semester away from campus investigating sites that include three weeks traveling and living in the world-renowned Galapagos Islands and two weeks at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest. You also visit Ceiba Foundation project sites like the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, now the centerpiece of a new World Biosphere Reserve, and the Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve where we are working with local communities to protect threatened coastal dry forest. Our goal is to keep classroom time focused and fast-paced, then move to the outdoors where you can apply the concepts you’ve learned to ongoing research, conservation, and community development programs.
"Ceiba was a remarkable experience that truly changed my life. We have been given an opportunity through this program to use our skills toward the betterment of ourselves, our communities and the world." - Christa S.
Your semester will be more than forest time spent searching for extraordinary wildlife, in Ecuador your exploration of Latin American culture and language literally will change your life. Whether interviewing park guards, joining community meetings, or discussing politics with your host family, you’ll be practicing Spanish (no matter your starting level) every day, and learning firsthand about how the rest of the world lives and works.
Studying abroad refines leadership skills, enhances creativity, instills adaptability, and teaches you to be sensitive to the needs and priorities of others. International experience is increasingly valuable, both to business and nonprofit employers as well as to graduate schools and scholarship committees. Students who study abroad return to their home university with superior foreign language abilities and go on to have higher GPAs, improved graduation rates, and greater employment opportunities: studies show that graduates with study abroad experience win 25% higher starting salaries and are twice as likely to land a job within a year of graduation.
Study abroad programs are designed to take you out of your comfort zone, and often to far-flung locales that may lack the high standards of health and safety that we enjoy in the U.S. and Europe. In addition, there are certain ailments which are more common in developing tropical countries, against which one must be prepared. If basic precautions are followed, however, you will have a safe and healthy study abroad experience.
Five courses give you 16 honors credits from the University of Wisconsin: Spanish, Terrestrial Ecology, Marine Biology, Conservation Biology, and a hands-on internship.
Tropical Ecology – master the fundamentals of ecology, understand what makes the tropics unique, and explore these systems yourself during expeditions to rainforests, cloud forests, and coastal dry forests.
Marine Biology – discover the ecology of fishes, coral reefs, and shorelines, examine the influence of oceans on global climate, and dive deeply into fishery management, under the sun of Ecuador’s coast and the Galapagos Islands.
Conservation Biology – explore how protecting habitat for rare species works best when stewardship by local communities is encouraged, and investigate those links during field studies and community meetings.
Spanish Language & Culture – every day is a chance to improve your Spanish and immerse yourself in local culture, but you’ll start the semester with intensive language and conversation training, and practice with your host family.
Conservation Internship – learn by doing on a project of your choice; you may work at a Ceiba site, or select from partners focused on scientific research, wildlife rehabilitation, community education, or sustainable organic farming.
Joe Meisel, Professor
Dr. Meisel received a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin, and is vice-president of Ceiba. He has worked in Central and South America as a biologist and author for over 25 years, His research examines the effects on tropical wildlife of land use conversion, and how to protect biodiversity on human managed landscapes.
Catherine Woodward, Professor
Dr. Woodward was awarded a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Wisconsin, and is the current president of Ceiba. She has conducted research and traveled extensively in Ecuador and Latin America for over 20 years. Her current research interests include the impacts of forest fragmentation on plant population genetics and reproduction.
Carolina Toapanta, Coordinator
Ms. Toapanta obtained a M.S. in Environmental Conservation from the University of Wisconsin, and is the Executive Director of Ceiba’s operations in Ecuador. She has led conservation efforts on the Pacific Coast, and has been instrumental in establishing large-scale conservation areas there and in the Andean highlands.
Eighteen weeks isn’t nearly enough to explore all Ecuador has to offer, but it’s all we’ve got! You’ll arrive in early January, skip out on the worst of winter, and return in mid-May just in time for the start of summer.
The semester gets underway with three courses: Terrestrial Tropical Ecology, Conservation Biology, and intensive Spanish. After Spring break we dive into Marine Biology, and continue Conservation Biology, now with a decidedly marine flavor. Conservation Internships fill the final month, and then the course wraps-up after a whirlwind 18 weeks. Here’s the schedule outline:
Arrive in Ecuador: January 7, 2020 (you’ll be met at the airport by your host family)
Program Orientation: January 9 & 10
Classes Begin: January 13
Spring Break: March 7 – 15
Classes Conclude: May 13 (with final banquet that evening)
Depart from Ecuador: May 14 (or stay long and enjoy the country, or the continent!)
Our study abroad programs are highly competitive, particularly when you consider our extended explorations in remote and incredible locations like the Galapagos Islands and Amazon rainforest. Once in Ecuador, virtually all your expenses are covered, except for lunches while on campus and any weekend activities you care to plan — other than that, it’s all included: in-country housing, meals, the Galapagos cruise, and travel to all sites. Here’s a breakdown of the costs:
Ceiba 2020 program tuition: $20,050
University of Wisconsin credit fees: $1450
Total tuition: $21,500
Note that tuition does not include international airfare. We don’t arrange a group flight, preferring to let you decide whether to come early or stay late, and take a bit more time to explore South America.
Due to to travel uncertainty stemming from the global pandemic, program tuition for students enrolled in the the 2021 Tropical Conservation Semester will be fully refundable to any student who chooses to withdraw before 20 December 2020. After that date, no refund can be given as most funds will already have been committed to in-country expenses. If the program is cancelled by Ceiba for any reason prior to that date, tuition will be refunded in full to all participants.
Applying could not be simpler, just submit online forms to Ceiba and Wisconsin by the first Friday in October. Need to plan your semester sooner? Ceiba now offers provisional early acceptances to qualified candidates.
Deadline: Apply by Friday, October 2 for the 2021 Tropical Conservation Semester.
How To Apply: Applying is a simple two-step process! First, click the Apply button below and fill out Ceiba’s online application form. After that, you will need to go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison program page to fill out their application and upload your transcript.
Early Acceptance: You are welcome to submit your application before the formal deadline and request an early review (contact courses). Ceiba issues provisional early acceptances to strong candidates, which virtually guarantees you a spot in the program as long as you meet University of Wisconsin-Madison eligibility requirements. See the UW Study Abroad program page for more detail.
Financial Aid: Participants in Ceiba programs are eligible for any financial aid and scholarships offered by the University of Wisconsin or other sources to support your college studies; please contact Jessica Vodvarka (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Lindsay Heiser Barger (email@example.com) to explore a wide range of available options.