Skip to content

Programs : Brochure

This page is the brochure for your selected program. You can view the provided information for this program on this page and click on the available buttons for additional options.
Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Field of Study: Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Housing Options: Homestay, Hotels
Language of Instruction: English, Spanish Minimum GPA: 2.75
Number of Credits: 16 Credit Hours Course Credit: Transfer Credit
UNL College: Arts & Sciences Experience Type: study abroad
Program Type: Affiliated
Program Description:

Program Highlights

  • Study the amazing wildlife of the Amazon rainforest at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station.
  • Learn to communicate effectively in Spanish.
  • Witness human impacts and threats to the environment and learn ways to conserve species and ecosystems.
  • Immerse yourself in Ecuadorian culture by living with a host family.
  • Tour the wondrous Galápagos Islands by boat for 8 days
  • Visit national parks, private reserves, community-based projects and a variety of land-use systems.
  • See an astounding amount of biodiversity and a variety of ecosystems.
  • Incorporate coursework and fieldwork to work on a conservation or research project as a conservation intern.
  • Study and experience the ecology and conservation of both terrestrial and marine ecosystems.


Course of Study

The opening course,Spanish Language & Cultural Immersion, provides customized instruction for mastery of Spanish grammar and conversational skills. Each student is placed into either intermediate or advanced Spanish, depending on prior coursework and a placement exam. Classes take place on the USFQ campus for 3 hours per day,four days per week, and are given by credentialed USFQ faculty. The course curricula are designed to advance each student to the next level of their university Spanish language sequence.

Students will receive in-depth coverage of ecological principles during the course Tropical Ecology I: Terrestrial Ecosystems. Key concepts are presented and compared in the context of the ecosystems we visit: high-altitude páramo, montane cloud forests, tropical dry forest, and live for three weeks in pristine rain forest. Lectures and field activities cover the natural history and ecology of major taxonomic groups, their adaptations in each ecosystem, and standard field methods for ecological research; students alsolearn to identify lora and fauna characteristic of each habitat type. Field work is integral to the course, and includes guided hikes, instructor-led mini-projects and small group research projects.

The course Conservation Biology, provides a strong foundation in the science and practice of conservation and includes site visits toa variety of active conservation projects. The course runs concurrently with the terrestrial and marine ecology courses, such that conservation problems and approaches are considered simultaneously with the aspects of the basic biology, ecology and natural history of these systems. This course exposes the multidisciplinary and comple nature of conservation problems and the interplay among their biological, physical, social and economic drivers.

In Tropical Ecology II: Marine Ecosystems, students will study the natural history,ecology and conservation of marine environments while exploring mangroves, sandy and rocky intertidal zones, coral reefs, and undersea environments of mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos islands! Students learn about the unique challenges facing marine organisms, their adaptations, and the profound threats affecting the oceans today during a three week stay in the Galapagos Islands that incorporates a one-week natural history cruise plus a week at USFQ's Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) on San Cristóbal. Homestays with families on San Cristóbal island offer an unique look at life in the Galapagos.  

In Conservation Internships students put the training they have received in the ecology, environment,culture and language of Ecuador to work on a local conservation or applied research project in conservation internships during the last month of the semester. Students form relationships with members of Ecuadorian organizations, providing for a mutually-beneficial cultural exchange, the potential to acquire useful job skills, and a chance to become familiar with careers in conservation and associated organizations. Furthermore, student interns can contribute tangibly as "ambassadors of goodwill" to the efforts of Ecuadorian NGOs and other institutions.

Course Credit

Spanish Language & Cultural Immersion, 3 credits (4 weeks, 48 hours; varying levels).

Tropical Ecology I: Terrestrial Ecosystems, 4 credits (4 weeks, 110 hours; UW Bot/Zoo 460).

Conservation Biology, 4 credits (4 weeks, 110 hours; UW Bot/Zoo 460).

Tropical Ecology II: Marine Ecosystems, 4 credits (4 weeks, 110 hours; UW Zoo 400).

Conservation Internships, 2 credits (5 weeks, 80 hours; UW Zoo 677).

*Each of the courses above award students with Honors Credit from the University of Wisconsin.


This program is designed for upper-level undergraduate students with at least two prior college-level biology or ecology courses(grade of B or better) and one semester of Spanish, or equivalent experience. A minimum G.P.A. of 2.75 is required. Graduate or continuing students seeking practical experience in international conservation also are welcome to apply.

Faculty Leaders

Dr. Meisel holds a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Wisconsin and an M.S. in wildlife ecology and conservation from the University of Florida, and is a board member and vice-president of Ceiba. He has worked in Central and South America for over 20 years, studying the effects of habitat alteration on native and migratory birds and evaluating the impact on tropical wildlife of varying land management practices. He has led numerous summer and semester field courses in Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador. Previously, he worked in Panama with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, studying the use of forest patches by North American migratory birds. His research interests include the foraging behavior of Neotropical army ants and ant following birds in isolated forest fragments, and the dynamics of fragmented landscapes.

Dr. Woodward holds a Ph.D. in botany from the University of Wisconsin and an M.S. in tropical botany from University of Florida. She also is the current president of Ceiba. She has conducted research and traveled extensively in Ecuador and throughout Latin America for over 20 years. For her master's degree she studied soil disturbance effects on tropical tree seedling growth in reforested areas along the Maxus oil company road in Yasuní National Park. Her current research interests include the impacts of forest fragmentation on plant population genetics and reproduction. She has worked with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, conducting field research on birds in forest fragments. She has an extensive knowledge of tropical ecology and has taught many field courses in Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador.

Visit or write to


This program will begin in Quito, which occupies a broad inter-Andean valley at an altitude of 9,250 feet. The city has a modern center and a historic Spanish colonial district and is surrounded by volcanoes, including the active Mt. Pichincha which last erupted in 2002. Classes are held just outside Quito in the town of Cumbayá, where the lower elevation makes for a pleasant, warm climate.

Upon arrival in Ecuador, you settle in with your Ecuadorian host families and begin the first month of classes in Spanish and Conservation Biology on the Universidad San Francisco de Quito campus in Cumbayá. USFQ is Ecuador’s most prestigious private university, and operates both the Tiputini Biodiversity and GAIAS research stations. It hosts study abroad programs from around the world, creating an exciting international atmosphere on its campus. We’ve limited classroom study mostly to Monday through Thursday, a schedule allowing for extended class field trips each weekend that introduce students to tropical ecosystems and some of Ecuador’s most stunning scenery.

During the course of the program, students will visit various communities and research stations to gain cultural awareness and contribute to research projects. These locations include research stations run by USFQ in the Amazon and the Galapagos as well as two of Ceiba’s active conservation projects in the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve in the Andean cloud forest and Bosque Seco Lalo Loor on the coast. The traveling to various regions and hands-on approach to fieldwork and provides valuable practical skills in conservation. 

Accommodations and Other Arrangements

  • You will need to make your own travel arrangements to Ecuador and must arrive before the first day of the program 
  • IAP expects you to be an active participant in preparing yourself for your study abroad experience. As a participant on an IAP program, you will receive a pre-departure orientation, either in-person or online. The type and format of this orientation will vary by program and will be provided to you upon acceptance to the program.. Required orientation sessions held before departure at UW-Madison help you prepare for studying abroad in Ecuador. You will also participate in an orientation program in Ecuador.
  • You will stay with an Ecuadorian host family while in Quito and the Galapagos. While conducting field research, you will stay at accommodations provided at the field research sites. The program fee includes all lodging, most meals, and travel to field sites within Ecuador.
  • You will travel with faculty to a variety of field sites including three weeks in the Amazon rainforest and three weeks in the Galapagos. You will explore Ceiba conservation projects in the cloud forest of the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve and the coastal dry forest of the Lalo Loor Reserve..
  • Dr. Joe Meisel, Ph.D. in Zoology, and Dr. Catherine Woodward, Ph.D. in Botany provide support and assistance on-site.
  • You will be enrolled in the UW System required health insurance through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and the cost of the insurance coverage is included in program fees..
  • Students are required to obtain the yellow fever vaccine for this porgram. 


Explanation of Costs

For more information regarding the costs of the program, please visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison fees page for this program.

Financial Aid & Scholarships

Please see the Education Abroad website for detailed information about financial aid and scholarships

Additional Resources

Below you will find links to resources for travel, health, and safety:

UW Study Abroad Tropical Conservation in EcuadorEcuador Embassy

Ecuador Tourism Organization

US Department of State

Center for Disease Control

*UNL Education Abroad does not officially endorse, administer, or monitor the content of these


Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring 2021 10/01/2020 ** Rolling Admission TBA TBA

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applicants will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.