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Offered through the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation (Ceiba), this spring semester program in Ecuador is co-sponsored by UW-Madison. The Tropical Conservation Semester is an intensive, adventure-learning experience providing training in the ecology and natural history of the tropics, practical experience in conservation and scientific research, and immersion in Latin American culture. This program is ideal for third and fourth year undergraduates in biological, environmental, political or social fields with an interest in international conservation. You'll even earn Honors credit for your work done in Ecuador! From day one you are involved in Ceiba's ongoing conservation projects in Ecuador, including reserves that you will visit, and a variety of programs to which you can contribute throughout (and beyond) the semester.
During the program, you'll hike through rough, broken, or very muddy terrain (sometimes under very rainy or otherwise challenging conditions) to see some of the most remote and pristine ecosystems left on earth. Therefore, good physical condition and a sense of humor are essential.
Note: The yellow fever vaccine is required for participants on this program.
You will travel with faculty to a variety of field sites including three weeks in the Amazon rainforest and three weeks in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. You will explore Ceiba Foundation conservation projects in the cloud forest of the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve and the coastal dry forest of the Lalo Loor Reserve.
The terrestrial ecology course culminates in a three-week stay at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station. This research station is situated in the center of one of the world's "diversity hotspots" and is now indisputably the most biologically diverse place on the planet. The area boasts ten species of monkeys (which are regularly seen on hikes through the forest), over 500 species of birds, and over 50 species of frogs. Jaguar, ocelot and tapir sightings are not uncommon and participants routinely observe pink river dolphins, capybara, peccaries, sloths, and other large mammals.
Marine biology study takes place on Ecuador's Pacific coast and in the Galapagos Island archipelago where you will spend eight days on a live-aboard cruise of the islands studying marine organisms and the islands' unique flora and fauna, sometimes snorkeling two to three times per day. The final two weeks of the marine course are spent at the USFQ campus and research station on the island of San Cristobal where you will live with local host families and conduct marine research projects to conclude the course program.
Internships are arranged by each student during the early part of the semester, and can take place anywhere in the country. Many students choose to return to Ceiba program sites such as the cloud forest or coastal dry forest, while others prefer opportunities with organizations working in the Amazon, the high Andes, or other regions of this rich country.
Getting to Your Program
You will need to make your own travel arrangements to Ecuador and must arrive before the first day of the program.
A student visa is required. U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport valid for at least six months beyond the end of the program. Ceiba will provide you with visa information.
OrientationIAP expects you to be an active participant in preparing yourself for your study abroad experience. As a participant on an IAP program, you will receive a pre-departure orientation, either in-person or online. The type and format of this orientation will vary by program and will be provided to you upon acceptance to the program.
Required orientation sessions held before departure at UW-Madison help you prepare for studying abroad in Ecuador. You will also participate in an orientation program in Ecuador.
HousingYou will stay with an Ecuadorian host family while in Quito and the Galapagos. While conducting field research, you will stay at accommodations provided at the field research sites. The program fee includes all lodging, most meals, and travel to field sites within Ecuador.
Excursions and Activities
You will travel with faculty to a variety of field sites including three weeks in the Amazon rainforest and three weeks in the Galapagos. You will explore Ceiba conservation projects in the cloud forest of the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve and the coastal dry forest of the Lalo Loor Reserve.
You will be enrolled in the UW System required health insurance through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and the cost of the insurance coverage is included in program fees.
Dr. Joe Meisel, Ph.D. in Zoology, and Dr. Catherine Woodward, Ph.D. in Botany provide support and assistance on-site.
Returned Student Network
to contact a returned student.
"I wanted to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country on a program that incorporated environmental studies. This was the perfect fit!"
"This program was so amazing- words can't describe. The professors were awesome and this semester was a life-changing experience for me."
"I had one of the best experiences in my life on this program- I would do it again in a second. Bettering the world, learning in an outdoor classroom, spending time with wonderful people, it doesn't get much better!"
"Adventure learning at its best! Greatest four months of my life."
Read about current & past students' adventures.
Emily - Spring 2012
How to Apply
First complete the IAP Online Application. UW Affiliate programs may require you to apply directly to the affiliate either simultaneously during the IAP application process OR after you have received a preliminary admissions decision from IAP. After you have completed the IAP Online Application, the following forms will become available to you through the application portal. Be sure to read the instructions carefully for information on when to apply to the affiliate.
Ceiba Recommendation Letter
Ceiba Tropical Conservation Online Application
Scanned Copy of Passport ID Page
Unofficial Transcript (Student Record)
Unofficial Transcript - OPTIONAL - Additional File
Forms are subject to change. Complete the forms according to the checklist provided to you in the online application portal.
After the Deadline
IAP will review your application and make a preliminary admissions decision. You will be notified of the admissions decision via email. The affiliate university or organization will make the final admissions decision.
You'll take classes for the first month of the semester at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ). While at USFQ, you will take intensive Spanish language classes as well as introductory classes on the ecology of Ecuador. The Spanish course helps you acquire the Spanish language skills that are necessary to build relationships with your Quito and Galapagos host families, and effectively communicate during fieldwork projects and internship placements. All other courses are taught by ecologists with over thirty years of experience in the tropics.
You will spend over half of the semester at field sites studying ecology and conservation in some of the richest ecosystems on earth: the Galapagos, the Andes, and the Amazon. The program consists of the following sequence of courses at sixteen credits for the semester:
- Spanish Language (3 credits)
- Conservation Biology (3 credits - Honors)
- Tropical Ecology I: Terrestrial Ecosystems (4 credits - Honors)
- Tropical Ecology II: Marine Ecosystems (4 credits - Honors)
- Conservation Internship (2 credits)
Note that three courses will be notated as Honors credit on your UW transcript. All students will receive this Honors credit and you do not need to be in the Honors Program to receive this credit.
During the last month of the semester, you will select one of several internship or research opportunities with an Ecuadorian conservation or development organization. Past internships have included reforestation, environmental education, sea turtle monitoring, organic farming, and primate research. These internships allow you to apply knowledge and language skills obtained during coursework and provide you with first-hand experience in international sustainable development and conservation.
Program Web Page(s)
Ceiba's Tropical Conservation Program Page
Use the links below to see a list of courses that students have taken on this program before and the UW equivalents. Note: this list only includes pre-approved courses for your program and may not be an exhaustive list of courses or departments. You will get instructions on the course equivalent process after acceptance.
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