Fall Break in Ecuador:
Tropical Field Studies
This unique field study course gives students hands-on experience in the ecology of tropical rain forests. Tropical Field Studies will explore the physical and biological factors that result in the formation of these forests, and their impressively high biodiversity. We will be based in a global biodiversity hot-spot in eastern Ecuador (Amazon basin), with a short visit to beautiful cloud forest in the Andes mountains. Students will explore some of the key animal and plant players in these ecosystems and their complex interactions. Students will also consider the effect of human impacts on these forests, and how development processes affect local communities. Teaching methods will include faculty and guest lectures by local experts, immersive hands-on field teaching modules, and research papers.
By completing this Intensive Course Abroad, students will:
Watch the 2023 Ecuador Info Session recording here!
- Gain a first-hand experiential understanding of the environmental factors that contribute to the formation of tropical forests and the ecological principles that govern their function.
- Obtain knowledge of tropical ecology through field studies in tropical forests.
- Develop an understanding of the challenges faced by tropical forest managers in light of modern development pressures.
- Develop the student’s awareness of the increasing threat to the world’s biodiversity due to ongoing destruction of the tropical forests.
Credit/Registration: Students will be registered for ENVS 323 or ENVS 523 Tropical Field Studies 3 credits as part of their fall term course load. Students must leave room for the 3 credits in their credit load when registering or will be billed for credits exceeding the 20 credit maximum. Graduate students will be billed for 3 Drexel credits at their normal rate.
Instructor: Sean O'Donnell, Professor in Drexel's Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science
Arrival Date: September 2, 2023
Departure Date: September 17, 2023
*This program departs during Drexel summer term finals week. A letter of support for early departure will be provided.
SAMPLE Itinerary: Daytime and night time field trips and observation periods
Day 1 Fly to Quito
Evening at Quinta la Constanza hotel
This boutique hotel is in Tababela, a quiet neighborhood near the Quito airport, and features beautiful garden grounds and a swimming pool (it might be warm enough to go in).
Day 2 Day in Quito - tourism/acclimation
We will explore the Old City section of Quito, founded in the early 1500s. Amazing culture and architecture abound. A World Heritage site. Possible hike into an extinct volcano and cable car ride to a high mountain overlook.
Evening back at Quinta la Constanza
Day 3 Early AM fly to Coca; travel to Tiputini Station
A long but exciting travel day- fly over the Andes and several volcanoes and land in the steamy lowlands. Boat ride on the huge Napo River, shuttle through Yasuni Park, smaller boat on the Tiputini River, and arrive at the station in late afternoon. Last course saw a jaguar from the boat on the Tiputini.
Day 4 to 9 At Tiputini Station
Our days at this mega-biodiversity research station will be rich in tropical lowland biology.
Activities will include lecture-hikes, student group field projects, float trip on the river, canoeing an oxbow lake, visits to the forest canopy tower and to animal-loved salt licks, and night hikes. 10 species of monkeys, hundreds of bird and tree species, amazing amphibian diversity, army ants… One of the biologically richest spots on the planet.
Day 10 Early AM leave Tiputini; spend an evening at Hotel Heliconias in Coca.
The Grand Hotel Heliconias has a big outdoor pool. We’ll head out for a group dinner at my favorite local restaurant, La Casa del Maito.
Day 11 Depart Coca in the morning and drive to WildSumaco station in the highlands.
The beautiful shuttle drive part-way up the Andes to this mid-elevation site will cross several ecological life zones. We will experience mid-elevation forest at this rustic field station, thinking about how local climate shapes the forest and its residents.
Day 12 and 13 At WildSumaco station.
We will learn about tropical montane forests while exploring the amazingly diverse bird fauna of this ecologically rich foothills region. The hummingbird diversity is epic.
Day 14 Travel to the high elevation town of Papallacta
Lodging at Pampallacta Lodge
We will warm ourselves in mineral hot springs, surrounded by gardens and the Andes mountains.
Day 15 Morning hike in paramo (above treeline), exploring the fantastic flora of this harsh, cold environment. Last course experienced a snow squall.
Afternoon shuttle back to Quinta la Constanza in Tababela. Final course dinner.
Day 16 Depart for US
Due May 1st: $550 Advance Payment + $25 application fee
Due July 1st: $1,800 Final Payment
*All payments are non-refundable unless declined admission or program cancels for unforeseen reasons.
Included in Program Fee:
- 15 nights lodging
- All meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- Local ground and boat transportation
- In-country flight
- Park entrance fees
- Field supplies
- Cultural activity
- On Call Emergency Assistance insurance
Not Included in Program Fee (estimated):
ICA Financial Aid:
- R/T airfare to Ecuador (approx $800)
- Passport ($165)
- Meals on arrival/departure days ($30)
- Course materials ($20)
- Spending money ($100)
- Mandatory Yellow Fever Vaccine ($150-$300)
- Taxi to/from Quito Hotel ($40)
- Normal Drexel Tuition. Graduate students billed for 3 Drexel credits.
Students may request an Adjusted Cost of Attendance
by submitting the ICA program fee and estimated out of pocket expenses listed above to Drexel Central (via askdrexel). Doing so could make students’ eligible for additional financial aid. Students may also be eligible to apply for Drexel's ICA Scholarships
Pell Grant recipients may apply for the federally funded Gilman Scholarship
, which has two application cycles with deadlines in October and March. Students do not need to be accepted into the ICA in order to apply to Gilman.
- US Citizens are not required to obtain a visa for entry to Ecuador. Students of other nationalities should confirm visa requirements on the Ecuador Embassy website.
- Students will be responsible for making their own flight arrangements. A suggested flight itinerary will be provided. Students should arrive as early as possible on Day 1 of the program, as the scheduled activities begin that day.