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.

  • All students must enroll according to, and remain in compliance with, the Boston University Study Abroad Course Load Policy.
  • Students must have completed one full year of introductory biology and 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
  • Admission requirements for all programs
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 four weeks of the program. The highlights of the field experience include a guided scientific excursion to the Galápagos 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.

The Global Learning Experience: An Online Course

Students in all Fall and Spring programs have the opportunity to enroll in The Global Learning Experience at no additional cost.

  • CAS IP101 The Global Learning Experience (1 credit)
    • All program participants have the opportunity to make the most of their semester abroad with The Global Learning Experience, a self-paced, Pass/Fail course with brief readings and experiential assignments that accompany them while living and studying in a country and culture different from their own. Students post their work, experiences and observations to an online platform to trace and articulate their achievements abroad from an academic, personal and professional standpoint. The course links students with the faculty instructors as well as peers studying on other BU Study Abroad programs around the world. Students earn one credit in addition to the total program credits mentioned below at no additional cost.
    • Syllabus

Local Homestay

  • Single bedroom in a shared home with a local family, including shared bathrooms; key access to home; all housing has A/C, window screens, or mosquito nets where necessary
  • Kitchen available to use in Quito with permission from host family
  • Board included; breakfast and dinner with host family seven days a week, stipend for lunches
  • No dining hall available but there are many local places to eat near the university and in Quito
  • Laundry included—in home or handled by host family
  • Study spaces available at the USFQ and local cafés throughout Quito


  • Fall Semester: mid August to late December
    • Spring Semester: early January to mid May
    • Fall Semester: March 15
    • Spring Semester: October 1