Ecuador Tropical Ecology Program

The Ecuador Tropical Ecology Program offers biology and environmental science majors the opportunity to spend a semester studying the vast and diverse ecosystems of Ecuador through intensive hands-on experiences. The program consists of four ecology courses based on field research in the montane, tropical rainforest, and coastal regions, as well as an intensive Spanish language course.

All science courses are taught in English. Graduate credit may be awarded to full-time graduate students for the ecology courses by conducting additional independent research.

Program Curriculum

Students complete four upper-level ecology courses on the various ecosystems of Ecuador, which combine lectures at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito with studies lasting from several days to four weeks in different environments in Ecuador. Students also enroll in a required, 2-credit, intensive Spanish course during the first three weeks of the program. The highlights of the field experience include a guided scientific excursion to the Galapagos Islands, a coastal project at Los Piqueros (near Machalilla National Park on the Pacific coast), and a four-week stay in the Amazon rainforest at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station.

Students are required to take these courses:

CAS BI/EE 438: Tropical Montane Ecology (4 credits)

Ecology of the montane zone of the neotropics, including grasslands, sub-alpine, and alpine shrub ecosystems. This course examines the interrelationships among the flora and fauna of montane ecosystems, including how these environments are being exploited for natural resources and agriculture. The course includes lectures presented during a two-week period, interspersed with several one-to-two-day field trips to surrounding mountains. Individual and group projects are conducted on field trips. Staff. Syllabus

CAS BI/EE 439: Tropical Rainforest Ecology (4)

Ecology of the rainforest, including principles applied to the function of the tropical rainforest, using the Amazon Ecuadorian basin as an example. This course examines rainforest habitats, biodiversity, conservation, specialization, and co-evolution of rainforest species. The course includes lectures presented in Quito, followed by four weeks of intensive study in the world’s most diverse rainforest. Time in the field is dedicated primarily to individual and group research projects. Staff. Syllabus

CAS BI/EE 440: Tropical Coastal Ecology (4)

Ecology of the coastal zone of Ecuador, including a survey of terrestrial and shallow marine ecosystems. This course examines the ecology of tropical dry forests, mangrove swamps, reefs, rocky and sandy shorelines, and agroecosystems. The course includes lectures presented during a two-week period in Quito, followed by about two weeks of intensive field studies along the coast of Ecuador and a one-week field trip to the Galápagos Islands. Field study includes sampling and observations, and individual and group projects. Staff. Syllabus

CAS BI/EE 441: Studies in Tropical Ecology (4)

Capstone course in Tropical Ecology immediately following the series of three field-based courses. This course focuses on evaluation and statistical analysis of data previously collected in the field, library research, and preparation of written and oral reports. Staff. Syllabus

CAS QU 300: Intensive Spanish (2)

The main goal of this course is for students to improve their ability to express themselves in spoken and written Spanish through the development of vocabulary, and the mastery of the grammar and idioms of the Spanish language. Students also improve their listening comprehension and reading ability while learning about Ecuadorian culture. Staff.

Program Details

  • Students must have completed one full year of introductory biology, one course in ecology (BI 303 or BI 306 for BU students; non-BU students should contact BU Study Abroad to determine prerequisites)
  • Two semesters of college-level Spanish language or the equivalent
  • Must be able to engage in intensive fieldwork for significant periods of time
  • Admissions requirements for all programs
Program Dates
  • Fall Semester: mid August to late December
    • Spring Semester: early January to mid May
    • Upon successful completion of the program, students earn eighteen Boston University credits. Students must enroll for a total of eighteen credits.
    • Boston University’s homestay accommodations facilitate the students’ language acquisition and integration into the Ecuadorian society through the daily usage of Spanish. Housing costs include meals seven days a week, as well as laundry. Households represent a wide range of incomes and often include families with younger children and other university students. Students not only improve their conversational Spanish by living with families, but also learn important lessons about Ecuadorian culture and customs.
    Application Deadlines
    • Fall Semester: March 15 
    • Spring Semester: October 1

    Download a description of the Ecuador Tropical Ecology Program.

    Program Faculty & Staff

    The Boston University Ecuador Tropical Ecology Program is administered in coordination with our Boston and Quito offices. In Boston, a program manager facilitates the admissions and pre-departure procedures, and maintains contact with students prior to their arrival in Ecuador. In Ecuador, the program is facilitated by a resident coordinator.