Ecology and Evolution of the Amazon Rainforest, the Galápagos Islands, and Coastal Ecosystems of Ecuador

Summer 2014
July 2-August 2, 2014 (tentative)

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 classeses). 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.



Toucan, Mindo Cloud Forest, Ecuador 



Coastal/Oceanic Ecosystem: We will travel via plane and bus to Puerto Lopez, Ecuador. This is a sleepy little town and is one of the whale-watching centers of the country. We will conduct research on the impacts of tourism on humpback whale behavior. During days off, we will visit Machachilla National park and other cultural/ecological places of interest that are near the town. Preparation for this part of the trip will include lectures and readings on whale behavior and the tourist industry. We should be in Puerto Lopez for about five days.

Galápagos Islands: After flying the 600 miles from Quito to the islands, we will spend our 12-14 days visiting 3-5 islands. 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. 

Program Cost

The estimated Program Fee is $5,700 plus the cost of 4 CSB/SJU credits at the reduced summer tuition rate (approximately $525 per credit). The final price will be confirmed with participants early in the spring semester as airfare is secured

This price includes:

  • Round-trip airfare from MSP to Quito (each student buys ticket individually, costs just added into Program Fee as an estimate)
  • 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/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.