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BIODIVERSITY & DEVELOPMENT IN THE ANDES-AMAZON,
- Terms: Fall, Spring
- Credits: 18 semester-hour credits
- Prerequisites: One semester of college-level ecology, biology, or environmental studies/science; 18 years of age
- Application Deadline: Rolling admissions. Early applications encouraged
- Financial Aid: All accepted students can apply for need-based scholarships, grants, and loans
Through coursework, field exercises, and Directed Research, students experience the richness of the Andes-Amazon region, study people’s dependence on the environment, examine threats to the environment and to social networks, and explore the tools and strategies that both mitigate threats and promote well-being among rural communities. Our research projects are geared towards identifying the range of socio-ecological issues, as well as basic questions about biodiversity, that help us guide and inform the program’s research agenda.
- Explore the lowland rainforest on a multi-day excursion, visiting oxbow lakes and flooded rainforests to understand differences in forest types and species composition
- Visit the Sacred Valley of the Incas on a multiday expedition, investigating highland tropical forests, historical and modern methods of natural resource management, and the interface between society and the environment
- Experience a cloud forest ecosystem at Wayqecha Biological Station, studying long-term impacts of climate change in the area, and comparing the flora and fauna with that of tropical rainforests
Through Directed Research (DR)—as opposed to basic, applied, or independent research—students conduct research on a specific topic that is part of the SFS Center’s long-term strategic research plan, which has been developed in partnership with local community stakeholders and clients.
The course, taught by resident SFS faculty, provides students with the opportunity to apply the scientific process in a mentored field research project that addresses a local environmental issue. Through the DR project, students contribute to a growing body of scientific research that informs local conservation and resource management decisions.
This program seeks to understand both the conflicts and synergies of conservation and development in western Amazonia, with a focus on Peru. Students gain a sense of the richness of the Andes-Amazon region—biodiversity, social and cultural diversity, and ecosystem services—while exploring strategies for sustainable livelihoods in this highly productive and diverse region of South America.
The interdisciplinary themes of resilience, environmental justice, and conservation guide our inquiry. Through coursework, field exercises, and Directed Research, participants study people’s dependence on the environment, examine the threats to the environment and to social networks, and explore the tools and strategies for mitigating the threats while promoting well-being among rural communities.
Students have a unique opportunity to learn first-hand about the extraordinary biodiversity of the Andes-Amazon region in the eastern slope of the Peruvian Andes. We look at the patterns and processes that contribute to the generation and maintenance of biodiversity of this region at multiple scales: landscape, ecosystem, communities, and species. Students discuss concepts of ecological resilience, multifunctionality, and redundancy in the context of the region, and explore the effects of climate change and land use on the regional and global biodiversity and human well-being.
POTENTIAL FIELD RESEARCH, LECTURES, AND EXERCISES
- Explore the lowland tropical rainforest biome with its distinct habitats of palm swamps, oxbow lakes, flooded forests, and upland forests
- Conduct a socioeconomic impact assessment of a proposed development initiative in Pillcopata
- Examine urban development and tourism in Cuzco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its meeting of two distinct cultures—Inca and Hispanic
- Use planning tools to design conservation strategies for a local issue or an existing development project Visit the lowland rainforest on a multi-day excursion by river to understand differences in forest types and species composition
- Learn and practice a series of different field techniques to collect data on biodiversity and habitat: looking at orchid diversity in the highlands, soil macrofauna across soil types, or measuring temperature and humidity along a vegetation cover gradient
- Consider the impacts of elevation and slope aspect on species distributions during a weeklong excursion in the highlands
- Develop field research skills including species identification, biodiversity assessment, survey design and interviewing techniques, environmental impact and protected-areas assessment, scientific writing and oral presentation, GIS or remote sensing, habitat assessment and mapping species distributions
The Villa Carmen Biological Station—operated by the Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) and its sister organization, Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica—is the home of the new SFS Center for Andes-Amazon Studies. An eight-hour drive northeast of Cusco, at an elevation of 2,500-4,000 feet above sea level, it is situated adjacent to the Manu Biosphere Reserve which supports a wide variety of habitats, including intact but disturbed rainforest, secondary forests, streams, rivers, waterfalls, and a highly diverse flora and fauna. Students are housed in shared accommodations in the station’s dormitory. The field station’s infrastructure includes a classroom, lab, organic gardens, and many miles of trails.