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Amazon Field School


The National Science Foundation funds the Applied Biodiversity Science Program Field School in the Peruvian Amazon. This course introduces students to the social and ecological complexities of biodiversity conservation in tropical ecosystems. Students engage in a variety of field methods from the biological and social sciences to evaluate the causes, consequences, and solutions to biodiversity loss through the lenses of ecology, culture, and governance. The course takes place in the Tambopata National Reserve and Bahuaja Sonene National Park in the Department of Madre de Dios, Peru. The region has some of the highest recorded levels of biodiversity in the world, but it is vulnerable to many new threats, including extensive agriculture, gold mining, illegal logging, and land speculation associated with construction of an Inter-Oceanic Highway. Students explore a variety of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, visit local communities, organizations, and ecotourism lodges, and talk with conservation practitioners and scientists. Interdisciplinary teams of students examine all sides of complex issues surrounding the region’s conservation challenges. Working in collaboration, students gather ecological, social, and economic data relevant to a particular conservation concern. We have now completed three courses which has resulted in interdisciplinary team publications as well as serving as a research site for several of our trainees.

Address Goals

This unique course introduces students to the social and biological realities of conservation and research in Latin America. Students have firsthand investigation into key resource management systems, and apply conservation research techniques. Students complete case studies of important resources found in lowland tropical forests of southeastern Peru. Students interact with a mix of native peoples, colonists, conservation organizations, loggers, gold miners, and eco-tourism experts. While the course is aimed at graduate students, high achieving undergraduate students are invited to participate as well. Our course has been taught to National Science Foundation funded United States citizen trainees as well as students from Brazil, Argentina, France, and Senegal. These culture rich forums are key to cultivating a high achieving, globally linked scientific community. Students are encouraged to speak Spanish with the local community members to broaden their communication skills which also serves well for engaging local communities. The intensive introduction through the field school to this area serves students well in their research objectives by providing an in-depth examination of conservation issues and history. Students research is enriched by the experience and enhanced by interdisciplinary cooperation.