Tropical Conservation Semester – Where We Go

El Pahuma Orchid Reserve

El Pahuma Orchid Reserve

This 450 hectare private 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)

Cayambe-Coca Ecological ReserveCayambe-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 many types of ecosystems. We visit 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.

BSLL Biological StationLalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve

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)

Equatorial Saki MonkeyTiputini 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 650 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.

Galapagos Sea LionGalapagos Islands World Heritage Site

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.

Galapagos USFQ CampusUSFQ Campus on San Cristobal

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