UW Land Use, Water Quality, and Human Health
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Water quality is rapidly emerging as one of the leading environmental issues of the 21st century. Land use and land cover largely determine the type and amount of contaminants entering surface and underground water sources, and consequently, the health of human communities that rely on this water for drinking, cooking and bathing. During this new international service-learning course in Ecuador, South America, students will study the connections between land use, water quality, and human health, and work with a rural community in coastal Ecuador to evaluate water quality and community health indicators, and develop practical solutions for addressing the risk of water-borne diseases caused by inappropriate land management practices.
Students will receive instruction in the form of lectures, readings, self-guided research, and field study to gain a conceptual understanding of factors affecting water quality, particularly those driven by land use practices, including fecal contamination by livestock, sedimentation, and agrochemical pollution. Students will participate in a multidisciplinary, long-term community-based research project together with local teachers, high-school students, and landowners to collect and analyze data on land use practices, water quality, and incidence of water-borne disease. Students will also work with teachers to create instructional materials related to the project for school and community education programs, and pilot the use of simple sand-filtration systems for water sanitation. This service-learning course is designed to engage students from a wide variety of disciplines in hands-on community-based research in a developing country, and expand their awareness of global challenges in natural resource management and human health. The course is offered in partnership with the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation, an environmental non-profit organization that has been working in the region since 1999.
This service-learning course will be held primarily in the communities of Tabuga and Camarones, Manabi province of Ecuador. Tabuga is a small coastal village of approximately 2,500 inhabitants who dedicate themselves primarily to agriculture, fishing and tourism. Students will arrive in Quito, Ecuador and receive an orientation to the country, its geography, customs, and people. The next day we descend the western flanks of the Andes by bus, stopping along the way to visit a cloud forest reserve, before arriving at Tabuga and the Lalo Loor biological station where the program will be housed.
The coastal region of the Manabi province provides an ideal location for research on land use, water quality and human health. A low mountain range parallel to the coast comprises a series of watersheds, each drained by a river that provides the primary water source for one of several communities within a few miles of each other along the coast, including Tabuga, Camarones, Tasaste, Punta Blanca, Don Juan, and Jama. Land use and amount of deforestation varies among the watersheds and allows a unique opportunity for comparison. Land use analyses will be facilitated by the use of satellite imagery and GIS. Water quality will be assessed by both field (e.g., biotic index, DO, turbidity) and laboratory (e.g., E. coli) approaches. Human health will be evaluated through surveys and data collected by local health organizations as part of a community-based research project.
HousingHousing is included for the duration of the program. Students will be housed at the Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve, a biological station that accommodates up to 24 people in dorm-style rooms and will provide all meals. The station provides facilities for lectures and outdoor demonstrations, including water quality monitoring training in the stream that runs through the property. Full-time staff is present 24 hours a day. The town of Tabuga is a 15-minute walk away.
Excursions and Activities
Students will be responsible for their own international travel to Quito, Ecuador and should arrive the day before the program start date. Travel in-country will be coordinated by Ceiba, and includes transfers to a hotel in Quito upon arrival and prior to departure, and travel by charter bus to and from the field study site.
The program includes several excursions including a day-trip to the mangrove forests of Bahia and beaches of the Pacific coast, a visit to a local organic permaculture farm, and an overnight trip to the cloud forest of the El Pahuma orchid reserve.
Instruction and logistics will be coordinated by the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation, a U.S. non-profit organization legally domiciled in Ecuador. Ceiba has been offering international educational experiences to undergraduates since 1999, and its study abroad and internship programs are promoted and accredited nationally through UW's International Academic Programs. Ceiba has experienced staff that will take care of all in-country coordination and logistics, including orientation, domestic travel, housing, and student services.
The course will be taught by Dr. Catherine Woodward of UW's Institute for Biology Education, and co-instructors affiliated with the Ceiba Foundation and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.
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Conceptual Learning Activities: The course will combine classroom instruction with field research in collaboration with a small rural community in coastal Ecuador. Students will receive lectures from the program professor and local experts, and engage in self-guided research on important concepts underlying the relationships between land use, water quality and human health. Topics will be broadly applicable, yet presented in a local context, and include: working with communities- asset-based community development, participatory planning, involving people in conservation; the nature of science and scientific inquiry in teaching (essential background for the work with teachers); basic hydrology (the water cycle), watersheds, and water resource issues; land use and land cover assessment; sources of and pathways to water contamination (including sewage, manure, fertilizers, garbage, and pesticides); soil and water conservation measures (riparian zones, buffer strips, livestock management, etc); water-borne diseases; water quality indicators and methods for assessing water quality (biotic and abiotic).
Experiential Learning Activities: Students will spend a minimum of 50 hours in community service, working hand-in-hand with community members on data collection, data analysis, and educational components of the project. Specific activities of the service component are: working with local teachers and high school students to learn water quality monitoring protocols; collection and analysis of water quality and land use data; assisting local health organization in evaluation of community health issues; construction and testing of water-sanitation methods (sand filtration, boiling, storage, etc); creation of educational materials related to water quality and land use (water cycle diagrams, water sanitation recommendations, data summary diagrams, etc.) Students will earn 4 credits.
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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