Tropical Conservation Semester
Where We Go

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

Tiputini Biodiversity Station

Located deep within the Amazon rainforest, this 650 ha research station shares its boundary with Ecuador’s largest protected area, Yasuní National Park, and lies within the now-famous Yasuni Biosphere Reserve.  With 10 species of primates, 5 species of cats, more than 540 species of birds and a record 1600 species of tree 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 this 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, and earthworms as long as your arm!  We tour upland forest (terra firme), flooded forest (varzea), climb above the forest on a lofty canopy tower, float down the muddy Tiputini in search of Pink River dolphins, and sneak up on hundreds of parrots feeding at a salt lick.

Galapagos Islands

Cruise the islands for a week to see all they have to offer: frigatebirds, penguins, boobies, and seas brimming with fishes and sea lions

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 will visit on an 8-day tour by yacht. The volcanically-created islands are located 1000 km west of mainland Ecuador and are densely populated with marine life including sea lions, boobies, marine iguanas, the famous Galapagos tortoise, and of course, humans. The world’s largest marine reserve surrounds the park, although conservation and fishing activities often come into conflict.

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. (more)

Coastal Dry Forest

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

Lalo Loor Dry Forest

Ceiba’s second private reserve project, this reserve owned by a dairy farmer protects seasonally dry tropical forest on Ecuador’s Pacific coast.  With only 2% of Ecuador’s dry forest remaining, reserves like these represent important habitat to this ecosystem’s uniquely adapted flora and fauna.  Many trees here are deciduous, losing their leaves in the dry season, and the forest is intermingled with cacti.  Reptiles are a particularly important component of the dry forest fauna, and the now-protected Howler Monkeys are seen almost daily. (more)

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 elevational 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 páramo 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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