Ecology and Evolution of the Amazon Rainforest and the Galapàgos Islands

Summer 2015
July 8-August 11, 2015 (tentative) - If there is enough demand, an additional trip could be added. This trip would most likely be set sometime around late May to early July (before July 4th).
Application deadline: December 1, 2014 (Applicants accepted on rolling basis, so apply early!)

Facepainting in the Amazon Rainforest; Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Ecuador

Program Overview

  • Embark on a biological expedition to Ecuador, follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, and explore the Galapagos Islands - one of the world's most unique and historic ecosystems.
  • All students are required to enroll in Biology 373. These credits (4) will be applicable to the CSB/SJU Biology Major upper division requirement (five upper division lab classes). This course also has the option of receiving EL (Experiental Learning) credits. Most formal lecturing and testing will be completed prior to trip departure. During our trip, there will be some traditional lecturing and testing but most class work will be carried out in the field setting. Students will write two scientific papers and keep a journal of their experiences throughout the trip.

Program Description

Upon our arrival in Quito, we will spend a few days exploring this historic city. During this time period, we will also familiarize ourselves with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) campus. The Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS), a department of USFQ, develops our trip in terms to our specifications.

We will visit three major ecosystems:



Walking on the "canopy" trail at Tiputini Biodiversity Station. Aerial walkways are anchored into emergent trees (about 150 feet above the ground). All students will be harnessed into a separate safety system while on the canopy walkway.






 Amazon Rainforest- Tiputini Biological Station(TBS) is a state-of-the-art remote field station that focuses on independent research and undergraduate learning. It is located on the northern edge of Ecuador's largest National Park, Yasuní . Access to this research station is limited to undergraduates and researchers so very few people visit the site. The station has cabins with electricity, running water, toilets, and beds (all cabins are screened to prevent bug entry).

After traveling to TBS by plane, boat and bus, we will explore the trails, looking for the 10 primate species that reside in this forest, tapirs, and jaguars. We will visit the canopy walk, which is a series of suspended bridges 150' in the forest canopy (all have been tested and retested for safety and each person must hook into an independent suspension system). Several activities will include a night boat journey to view caimans and perhaps a jaguar. Indigenous guides will teach us about traditional medicine, animal tracking, and issues about oil extraction and conservation. Classes and schoolwork will be carried out in the air-conditioned library.



Squirrel Monkey, Tiputini Biodiversity Station






Galápagos Islands: After flying the 600 miles from Quito to the islands, we will spend our 19-21 days visiting 3-5 islands. Initially, we will stay on Isla San Cristóbal were we will plan, implement can carry out independent research projects (we will be here about 12 days at the onset). Our studies/projects will focus on sea lion behavior, blue-footed booby ecology, climate change and intertidal ecosystems, geology and island hot spots, tortoise ecology and conservation, sea turtle ecology and conservation, among others. Opportunities abound and will include: snorkeling with sea lions, sea turtles, hiking with land tortoises, and many others. 

After our class project is completed, we will then "island hop" to Isla Santa Cruz and Isla Isabela (four nights on each island).

  Snorkeling with Pacific green sea turtles, Isla Isabela, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador


Program Cost

The estimated Program Fee is as follows: a maximum of $1,300 for round trip airfare (MSP - UIO can get this flight for as little as $900), trip fees and associated miscellaneaous costs ($6,000), plus the cost of 4 CSB/SJU credits at the reduced summer tuition rate (approximately $550 per credit). The final price will be confirmed with participants early in the spring semester as airfare is secured.

This price includes:

  • Two internal flights (to Coca, Ecuador (rainforest), and Baltra, Ecuador (islands))
  • All accommodations during the trip
  • Local transportation
  • All meals and guides while at Tiputini Biodiversity Station
  • Breakfasts/some lunches while in the islands
  • In Quito, guides, and admission costs to museums, and parks

The Program Fee does not include:

  • Most dinners- we are opting to take advantage of the many wonderful restaurants found in Quito and the islands (If dinners are included, they are always at the same restaurant and the same food is always served - to be honest, it gets very boring)
  • Personal spending money
  • Any activities not included in the program



Professor Kristina Timmerman, Biology


Most island wildlife has not developed a fear response to humans due to isolation from the mainland and a historical lack of predators.