Island Biodiversity and Conservation in Ecuador

Program Facts

Program Type: UA Faculty-led

Credit Type: UA Direct Credit

Level of Study: Graduate , Undergraduate

GPA: 2.5

Class Eligibility: Graduate , Junior , Senior , Sophomore

Language of Instruction: English

Program Open To: UA and Non-UA Students

Explore Island Biodiversity and Conservation in Ecuador

*Available Winter 2024*

Spend your winter break in the iconic Galapagos Islands and their surrounding marine habitats! Experience biodiversity and conservation efforts at field stations in the Galapagos Islands and mainland Ecuador hosted by indigenous peoples through this 10+ years running program. Want to stay longer? Extend your program by 9 days to include the Amazon rainforest, one of the world’s most biodiverse regions.

RNR 495F/595F: Island Biogeography and Conservation Biology (3 units) and Amazon Rainforest Biodiversity (1 unit), total of 4 units if main program and extension are completed.

Galapagos Island Main Program (January 1 - 14, 2025)

The Galapagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago at the equator, possesses a unique biogeography shaped by isolation, ocean currents, and varied climates. The island’s distance from mainland South America led to unique adaptations in arriving species, resulting in an astounding 80% endemism rate for land birds and 97% for reptiles and land mammals. These include iconic creatures like the giant tortoises, marine iguanas, land iguanas, flightless cormorants, and the various Darwin finches. The unique fauna and flora face constant threats. Invasive species like feral cats and goats compete with the native fauna, while habitat loss due to human activity encroaches on sensitive ecosystems. Conservation efforts include strict national park regulations, species restoration programs, and education initiatives. The Galapagos Islands highlight the delicate balance between humanity and the natural world.

Students will learn about conservation issues from the local guides and indigenous populations, government conservation services, international and national NGOs, and scientific institutions in Ecuador, and participate as an educational exercise in biodiversity research (including monitoring programs and ecological research). Student presentations at the beginning of the course and research papers due upon completion will allow students to explore specific topics of interest. A final compilation of student papers, floral/fauna lists, daily protocols, and notes will be created during the course and given to each participant and the course instructors.

Amazon Rainforest Program Extension (Dec. 22 - Dec. 31, 2024): Available for an additional cost of $2,650

We will conduct multiple excursions in the area guided by locals to observe plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and many other unique features of this amazing forest. Each student will be given the opportunity to develop and implement a unique academic field project. Subjects can include biodiversity and other topics, working with a local tribe to understand their relationships with the environment, and investigate the conflict of natural resource extraction (oil) in one of the last untouched rainforests on Earth.

1 additional unit of RNR 495F/595F is offered for this program extension.


Suggested reading for this program: Galapagos: A Natural History (2nd edition) by John Kricher and Savages by Joe Kane



Dr. Hans-Werner Herrmann
Research Scientist and Instructor, Wildlife Conservation and Management School of Natural Resources and the Environment (Link sends an email)


Contact your program coordinator (David Wray, with any questions.

Students will fly into Quito, the Ecuadorian capital, and leave from there at the end of the program.

From Quito, we will visit the Galapagos Islands and stay on Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands and visit other islands and diverse habitats. Flights between Quito and the Galapagos are included in the program cost.

For the Amazon Rainforest Program Extension, we will transfer to Coca at the Napo River and transfer downriver to lodge where we will stay to discover various rainforest sites. Transport between Quito and Coca is included in the program cost.

Good To Know

LGBTQ+ Equality Index rating: Ecuador rates 63/100 (with 100 being the most equal) on Equaldex’s LGBTQ+ Equality Index.

Global Peace Index rating: Ecuador ranks 97/163 in the Global Peace Index. The lower the score, the more peaceful the country.

Language Spoken: Spanish

Hotels, guest houses, and comfortable rustic cabins with showers and toilets.

For more information, use the following links of interest:

"After this trip, I can truly say that I learned a lot about the many facets of biodiversity. Whether it was about the ultra specific niches some of these organisms inhabit, the competition amongst them, biological phenomena, the struggle for evolutionary success, human-animal interactions, complex conservation issues we are facing, and much more. Being in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world accelerated the learning tremendously." - A. Dito, Winter 2017

"I can read and listen to topics related to the Amazon, but nothing compares actually being there and hiking every day in the Amazon. I got to experience what a conservation biologist does firsthand and compose scientific research in a sophisticated manner. Personally, I had an experience of a lifetime that is incomparable to my other college experiences." - Participant, Winter 2016

"Staying in the Amazon Rainforest was the experience of a lifetime and something I could not have done without the help of this program. I learned an incredible amount about the biodiversity." - C. Pijanowski, Winter 2016

"The faculty at the UA and field station and Hans-Werner have truly made this the trip of a lifetime. My skills as a scientist have drastically improved and this experience provided me with the tools to continue in undergraduate research this semester and beyond." - A. Michaels, Winter 2016

Term: Winter
Application Deadline: October 16
Start Date: January 1
End Date: January 14

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