BIO 146: Natural History of Ecuador and the Galapagos
Minimum enrollment: 14
Instructor: Joel Carlin
Dates:January 1-26, 2011
Fee based on Minimum Enrollment: approximately $5,585
Additional costs not covered by course fee: approximately $500. (books, passport, immunizations, extra meals, etc.)
Students will learn the processes and observe the effects of organic and cultural evolution. We will explore biodiversity, conservation ecology and island biogeography by learning to observe and evaluate the geography, geology, flora, and fauna of four ecosystems: the Galapagos Islands, the dry coastal scrub, cloud forest and tropical rainforest. We also examine the cultural responses of indigenous peoples in formerly isolated subsistence economies to global influences of ecotourism, urbanization and the petroleum industry. Daily field notes, essays, and a final synthesis paper are due upon return from Ecuador. Some moderate exercise (extensive hiking, snorkeling) in difficult terrain will be encountered.
How is the course set up?
The theme of Bio 146 is that of a transect. A transect is a method used by ecologists and others to rapidly assess the diversity of an area. For instance, one could draw a straight line across a map of a forest. By walking that line you are assured of seeing a good portion of the plants and animals that live there. Students will run their own transects using rope and try to estimate biodiversity at several locations. However, the entire class is a transect. We will visit four spots in an attempt to quickly appreciate the diversity of Ecuador. The four locations differ in rainfall and elevation. But they also differ in the cultural heritage and attitudes of their peoples. Students will conduct a month-long transect experiencing ancient volcanoes, indigenous people with recently acquired wealth, forests flooded by rain and fishing villages dried up by economic and political strife.
Students will be responsible for learning a LOT about evolutionary processes and tropical ecology. We will also discuss the politics of Ecuador's enormous debt, their oil wealth, their exports of roses and sardines. The typical day includes several hours of guided hiking, lectures by local experts, evening readings (20-50 pgs daily) and boisterous discussions.
We will explore Quito and four areas differing in biodiversity and culture.
How do I sign up?
All potential students must apply to enter this course (see the International Ed office for details and deadlines). I hope to have a class where students can learn from each other, so I am looking for a mix of Spanish and non-Spanish speakers, those with extensive travel experience and those who have never left the US, biology majors and non-biology majors. So please, be honest and thoughtful in your answers. I apologize in advance to anyone who must be turned away, I wish I could take everyone who is as excited as I am!!
Probable reading list prior to arrival in Ecuador. All will be made available as .pdf files:
Read while in Ecuador (you will be assigned to bring one of the books, but you must read both).
You must ALSO bring any one of the following books:
AssignmentsStudents may take this course for a grade (ABCDF, A=90%, B=80%,…) or they may enroll as a Pass/Fail student (pass = 70% or above). All students must turn in all materials in order to be considered for a passing grade.
Quiz on Ecuador Moodle readings (10 pts.) This will be done our first full day in Ecuador.
Travel preparedness (10 pts.) You are responsible for being on time for all excursions. You are responsible for knowing where your partner is (know their hotel room location and their exact location during travel). You are responsible for following class rules (e.g., taking meds on time).
Field exercise participation (10 pts.) Good attitude, helpfulness, not talking loudly during hikes, not complaining about weather, etc.
Discussion input (30 pts.) Contributing but NOT dominating discussions. Staying respectful and listening to others opinions. Bringing new ideas, not just agreeing with everyone else. Bringing up past discussion topics during appropriate moments in the rest of the course. These and other factors earn you discussion points.
Calculations of species diversity (10 pts.) Done in teams, you fill out a worksheet and earn points as a group.
Final comprehensive essay (25 pts.) The official topic will be announced just prior to its assignment. The essay demonstrates your learning of class vocabulary and your introspective reflection on our shared experiences. The essay topic will focus on a combination of both natural and social sciences.
Natural history journal (5, 10, then 15 pts.) At each site you are to record the following:
Do not touch or scare wildlife. Some of the animals (esp. in the Galapagos) have never learned to be afraid of humans. Do not take advantage of their natural naivité. Sunscreen will soak into the skin of amphibians and kill them! Also, some invertebrates and many of the plants may have toxins that irritate the skin, so get in the habit of brushing things aside with a sleeve, flashlight, etc. When in doubt, just leave things alone. Also, while it is fun to walk in the woods and talk with friends, you have the chance to see some of the most unique and diverse array of life in the world. Speak in hushed tones (or not at all); keep your eyes and ears open.
Bad moods? get over it! Be supportive of others’ bad moods / no excessive complaining. At some point each and every person on the trip may feel overtired, too hot, too cold, too dirty, too carsick or just plain homesick. This is a part of travel and is only natural. Try not to complain about the obvious discomforts of travel. Also try to bear the complaints of others with grace, and try to minimize your own complaints (unless they are of a medical nature - then inform the instructor immediately, no matter how slight of an issue).
Be aware that your actions affect others, especially in enclosed spaces! It is natural for some people to form close, noisy social circles and others to avoid joining groups. However, we all wish to remain safe, learn, and have fun. Be respectful of eachother’s relaxation time…make an effort to include those who wish to be included, make an effort for those who desire privacy (except when this means a risk to safety, such as walking alone). During class discussions and field trips, however, actively solicit and truly listen to students from backgrounds different than yours.
Communicate! If you are uncomfortable with something, it is your responsibility to tell your classmates or your instructor(s). Nothing heals hurt feelings faster than responsible communication. Bear in mind that human beings think at different tempos: some communicate quickly and others only speak after deep introspection. If you do not typically speak in class discussions, please try your best to speak up. If you are always willing to speak up, bear some silence and let others contribute. And everyone should really listen to eachother.
Travel with buddies – Be responsible for eachother. You will be assigned a travel buddy and you must know where they are at ALL times, but keep track of other nearby students, too. In cities, always travel in groups of 4 or more. Be aware of your surroundings and be aware of your possessions.
Be responsible. You are not to engage in any behavior that might delay a departure, or risk missing a travel connection. In turn, you are responsible for helping others keep the class on schedule. Take your medications on time, wake up on time, get to meals on time. Don’t leave your sunglasses, sunscreen, camera where you will forget them.
Don’t steal or “borrow” other students’ things. Thefts (even of a roommate’s shampoo) are often due to selfishness or laziness. We can’t afford either on this trip.
Review the most recent class intinerary nightly. Have an idea of where and why we are travelling somewhere before we get there, whether the day will be cold or hot (or both), and when/if you will be eating next (on occasion we may be replacing a meal with travel snacks!).
Remember the bigger priorities. Many things can befall a traveller abroad – not enough clean socks, hair that never dries, a lost camera, a stolen iPod. Your biggest priorities are safety and staying with the group. Remember your medicines, your passport, your classmates and your instructors, and everything else will work out fine.
Mornings should be prompt, quiet and pleasant. Your classmates did not pay nearly $6,000 to wait around for you: get out of bed on time, every time. Once awake, be gently pleasant or quiet. We are a mix of perky morning people and surly risers: don’t push us.
Communicate differently. For a month we will be in a Spanish- and Quichua-speaking nation, with less telephone contact to home and nearly totally unplugged. Challenge your family and yourselves to truly immerse yourself in a different world, rather than just being a pocket of travelling United States. It is fun to laugh and joke with friends, but leave the world of FaceBook, iPods, and American English (if you are able) aside. Take time for meaningful silences… take the time to consider Ecuador and your travels while you are still there. Consider not just what you can photograph, but also what you smell, what you hear, what you taste and (especially) what you feel.
Let your instructors help you. Your first and best means of solving any problem while in Ecuador is to speak with the instructors. Parents and friends back in the US can do little to help with your indigestion, your morale or your snoring roommate. Your privacy is always respected during 1-on-1 conversations with either instructor, even after we return to the U.S.
Itinerary (Rough...Subject to Change!!!)
Date -- Region -- Activities -- Where we sleep that night
Tue, Jan 4 -- ORIENTE -- Rainforest hikes, Night hikes -- TBS cabin
Wed, Jan 5 -- ORIENTE -- Canoeing, fishing, swimming, Night hikes -- TBS cabin
Thu, Jan 6 -- ORIENTE -- Rainforest hikes, Night hikes -- TBS cabin
Tue, Jan 11 -- MINDO -- Departure to Mindo, cloudforest hikes -- El Monte Lodge cabin
Wed, Jan 12 -- MINDO -- Early a.m. birdwatching, Cloud forest hikes -- El Monte Lodge cabin
Sun, Jan 16 -- QUITO -- Return from Otavalo -- Family Home Stay(?)
Mon, Jan 17 -- CERRO BLANCO -- Departure to Guayaquil -- Camping
Tue, Jan 18 -- CERRO BLANCO -- Dry forest hiking -- Camping
Wed, Jan 19 -- GALAPAGOS -- Departure to Galapagos, board yacht -- Yacht
Thu, Jan 20 -- GALAPAGOS -- Snorkeling, island hikes -- Yacht
Fri, Jan 21 -- GALAPAGOS -- Snorkeling, island hikes -- Yacht
Sat, Jan 22 -- GALAPAGOS -- Island hikes, Depart yacht -- Isabela (camping?)
Sun, Jan 23 -- GALAPAGOS -- Sierra Negra (volcano hike), Gal. Tortoise breeding center -- Isabela (hotel?)
Mon, Jan 24 -- GALAPAGOS -- Tintoreras, Concha de Perla (snorkelling) -- Isabela (hotel?)
Wed, Jan 26 -- QUITO -- Write final essay; Return to U.S. -- HOME
Other Informative Weblinks
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Students will be trained in estimating biodiversity via transects
The cloud forests are far cooler than the Amazon, but still incredibly lush.
Excursions are mostly hiking, but there is boating and swimming as well.
We will study the many varied cultures of Ecuador.
Ecuador has world-famous bird diversity. Bring binoculars!
Religion, politics and culture have an enormous impact on the natural history of Ecuador.
The Galapagos Islands are a desolate, desperate place for their wildlife.
You will be trained in the rapid but careful observation of nature.
The floral diversity of Ecuador must be seen to be believed.
While we rarely stay indoors, we will visit a few interesting anthropological and zoological museums.
Do NOT forget your sunscreen