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Biodiversity and Development in the Amazon


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Location Pillcopata,  Madre de Dios
Language English instruction with 2-credit Spanish Language & Culture course

Fall 2014: September 1 – December 4
Spring 2015: February 2 – May 7

Deadline Rolling admissions. Early submissions encouraged for acceptance into program of choice.


$20,750 (Includes all tuition, room, board, local travel. Excludes airfare).

Financial Aid

Need-based scholarships, loans, and travel grants are available.


One semester of college-level ecology or biology; 18 years of age

Credits 18 credits


This program seeks to understand both the conflicts and synergies of conservation and development. Students will 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 socio-ecological resilience, environmental justice, and conservation will guide our inquiry. Through coursework, field exercises, and Directed Research, students will 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 and promoting well-being among rural communities. A strong component of the program will be examining the ecological patterns and processes that underpin the high diversity of the region.



  • Travel from the treeless plains and dry valleys of the Altiplano to steep cloud forests and into the broad expanse of the low-lying Amazon rainforest
  • Study how topographic complexity and evolutionary forces have resulted in an exceptional array of habitats, sustaining a vast number of species and diversity of people
  • Explore the lowland tropical rainforest biome with its distinct habitats of palm swamps, oxbow lakes, flooded forests, and upland forests
  • Examine urban development and tourism in Cusco
  • Visit local mestizo and indigenous villages to learn about residents’ knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions, and study different livelihood strategies



This program will be situated at a field station deep in the Peruvian Amazon in close proximity to rural communities. The station and surrounding areas support a wide variety of habitats including intact but disturbed rainforest, secondary forests, streams, rivers, waterfalls, and a highly diverse flora and fauna. Students will be housed in shared accommodations in a dormitory, with access to shared bathroom facilities. Infrastructure includes a classroom, lab, organic gardens, internet, and trails.