Tropical Conservation Semester
Where We Go

On a Ceiba study abroad program, you’ll explore some of the most pristine, remote, and diverse locations on the planet.  We take you to more exotic places than most people can visit in a lifetime. From the Amazon rainforest to the Pacific coast, the Andes mountains to the Galapagos islands, Ecuador has it all!  You’ll live at world-class research stations, and lend a hand to ongoing conservation projects, from the highlands to the islands.

Amazon Rainforest

Charismatic megafauna like the tapir, giant anteater, and jaguar, are still regularly seen at the remote rainforest site where you live for two weeks

Journey to the Amazon

We venture deep within the Amazon rainforest — traveling by plane, bus, and canoe — to explore the world-renowned Yasuní Biosphere Reserve.  With 10 species of primates, 5 species of cats, more than 540 species of birds and a record-breaking 1600 species of trees in just one hectare, this is definitively the most biodiverse location on Earth!  Sightings of fantastic wildlife are guaranteed during our two-week immersion in our rainforest site on the banks of the Tiputini River.  Highlights include tamarins and pygmy marmosets, two and three-toed sloths, toucans and macaws, poison-dart frogs, anacondas, and maybe even a jaguar.

Tiputini Biodiversity Station

This 1600 acre research station shares a boundary with Ecuador’s largest protected area, Yasuní National Park, and lies within the Biosphere Reserve.  World class researchers call Tiputini home, with we share the forest and join for dinner after a long day in the field.  We explore trails and lagoons and salt licks of the rainforest interior, always alert for the sound of monkeys crashing through the trees.  Before dawn you’ll climb a massive Ceiba to a lofty tower overlooking the canopy, where macaws fly by.  After a hot day, we’ll go floating down the muddy Tiputini in search of pink river dolphins and enjoy a cool swim.  As night falls, all manner of animals emerge, from tree frogs and colorful insects to owl monkeys and tapirs.

Galapagos Islands

Cruise the world-famous archipelago for a week, and live amongst penguins, frigate birds, boobies, tropical fishes, sea lions, and giant tortoises

An Island Voyage

Famous for its role in inspiring Darwin’s theory of evolution, this archipelago of 19 major islands is a virtual showcase of diversity and speciation that we visit on an 8-day tour by yacht. The volcanically-created islands are located 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador, and are densely populated with wildlife including sea lions, boobies, marine iguanas, the world-famous Galapagos tortoises, and amazing sea life. One of the world’s largest marine reserves surrounds the islands, giving us an unparalleled opportunity to snorkel with penguins, sea turtles, and brilliantly colorful tropical fishes.

San Cristobal Island

Following our traveling adventure among the islands, we delve deeper into the study marine biology and conservation at the San Cristóbal island campus of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ). The headquarters of the Galapagos National Park is located here, in the port village of Baquerizo Moreno. Our 2-week stay provides the unique opportunity to stay with a native host family, and to carry out independent research projects in marine biology and conservation. The island has resident populations of endemic Galapagos plants and animals, with easily accessible beaches, snorkeling or diving sites, and hiking trails.

Andean Cloud Forest

Orchids abound on mossy trees that cover the upper slopes of the Andes mountains; among them you may find toucans, parrots, and even a Spectacled Bear

El Pahuma Orchid Reserve

This rugged 450 hectare reserve is protected by South America’s second-ever conservation easement, signed between the landowner and the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation.  Here, we explore lush montane and cloud forests, replete with showy orchids and an amazing diversity of birds like the endemic Plate-Billed Mountain Toucan.  The endangered Spectacled-Bear also calls this forest home.  During our study of montane forests, we camp at the remote “Bear’s Den” cabin in the upper reaches of the reserve. (learn more about this Ceiba project)

Coastal Dry Forest

Tropical forest meets the Pacific Ocean, right on the equator. Where else can you see monkeys in the morning and beaches in the afternoon?

Coastal Conservation Corridor

Ceiba has launched an ambitious program to protect, and link, the last remnants of Ecuador’s spectacular dry coastal forests.  Habitat conservation protects the uniquely adapted flora and fauna of this critically threatened region, while connecting isolated forest fragments allows animals to migrate for food and shelter during long dry seasons.  You’ll examine the challenges of implementing a conservation project that spans 85 miles and encompasses dozens of local communities.  Many species are endemic to the area, and regular sightings include Howler Monkeys, a rich reptile fauna, and colorful birds like trogons and motmots.

Lalo Loor Dry Forest

Ceiba’s second locally-based conservation project, this reserve is owned by a dairy farmer and protects nearly 500 acres of seasonally dry tropical forest in the heart of the corridor.  The Loor family now manage the reserve’s day-to-day operations, setting an example for everyone in the region and demonstrating that conservation can be good business too.  Many trees here are deciduous, losing their leaves in the dry season, and the forest is intermingled with cacti (including some that you will see later, in Galapagos).  If you scour the streambed, you can find pottery pieces that date to the Jama-Coaque culture that thrived here some 2000 years ago. (learn more about this Ceiba project)

Highland Paramo

Above treeline, the Andes are draped with the unique paramo ecosystem - a kind of tropical tundra - where condors soar over endless vistas

Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve

This vast protected area (403,103 ha) spans an impressive elevation range from the lowlands of the Amazon to the lofty peak of Cayambe volcano at 5790 m.  The reserve thus contains a bewildering array of ecosystems. We concentrate our visit on the stunning moist paramo ecosystem dotted with lakes and perpetually saturated bogs dominated by cushion plants. We examine the fascinating adaptations of these plants to nightly freezing temperatures. The reserve is part of the Condor Bioreserve which contains the world’s largest population of this endangered bird.

Quito & Cumbaya

Your home away from home is the sunny and tranquil suburb of Cumbaya, just a short bus ride from the historic center of bustling and culturally diverse Quito

On the Tropical Conservation Semester, you’ll spend more than half of the program’s 18 weeks at incredible and remote field sites.  But everyone needs some down time, too.  Our home away from home is Cumbaya, a small university town located a half hour outside (and a thousand feet of elevation below) the sprawling capital city of Quito.  There, your host family provides a comfortable home for you, where you can catch up on the internet, call your family in the States, eat a home-cooked meal, and clean your muddy research clothes for the next trip!  Our academic partner, the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, is also located in Cumbaya, and the classroom component of the semester is held in their attractive, leafy campus.

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