Students will take a full course load on the Global Environmental Challenges program. Students will enroll in three courses in Cuenca over a span of 12 weeks; the fourth course, Ecology & Biodiversity in Ecuador, will be taught as a three-week module in the Amazon river basin and the Galapagos. There is no Spanish requirement to enroll in the program; however, all students will be required to take a Spanish language course at their level.
• Environmental Challenges: linking the local to the global This course examines local environmental challenges in Cuenca, Ecuador and nearby locations. Examples of potential topics include, but are not limited to: gold mining and its effects on water quality; eco-agricultural sustainable food production; corn sovereignty (small production vs. large agro-industrial production); invasive species of flora and fauna (e.g. introduction of trout in Cajas). Experiential learning will be a significant element of the course, and students will regularly visit local communities, NGOs, museums, governmental offices, etc. so that students can learn from those who are most affected by these issues. Additionally, students will observe local community members’ engagement in political activism, artistic expression, and cultural practices that illustrate their experiences with the environment and their efforts to pursue alternative ways of interfacing with the natural world. While each of the environmental challenges mentioned above is present in and around Cuenca, the course will explicitly explore links to the broader global context. For example, gold mining has a negative impact on the environment in this region; however, mining has similar effects on various communities around the world, from coal mining in the southeastern United States to cobalt mining in central Africa. The course should include discussions around questions such as: How does the practice affect the environment (land, water, air)? What are the reasons for these environmentally damaging practices? How are these practices affecting local and global communities of people? How are the affected communities employing artistic expression to illustrate their experiences? What alternatives have been suggested or implemented? What are the obstacles to achieving solutions? Again, the discussions would apply to locations in Ecuador as well as other places around the world and at the global level where organizations such as the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), World Bank, Greenpeace, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), World Wide Fund for nature (WWF), etc., work to address these challenges Taught by Dr. David Christopher Siddons (Ecuador), Universidad del Azuay
• Environment, Conservation, and Policy Issues in Ecuador; The main purpose of the course is to offer an introduction to the most influential factors shaping the ecosystems and their conservation looking at the global, regional, and local factors that determine the climates and the contrasting ecosystems in Ecuador. The course includes several field visits to the Ecuadorian Amazon (Tiputini Biodiversity Station) and the Galapagos Islands. This allows students to experience first-hand current topics of conservation and policy issues, while discussing the main environmental challenges associated with the conservation of natural ecosystems in tropical developing countries. Additionally, this course reviews the environmental issues facing contemporary Ecuador in the context of a transforming global reality. These issues include the oil industry and indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin, aquaculture, and shrimp farming, introduced species, large scale ranching and deforestation, fisheries, and the management of fragile marine ecosystems. We investigate possible solutions taking into account political and ecological pressures, perspectives of indigenous populations, environmentalists, the governments, NGOs, as well as international investors and multinational companies. Taught by Dr. Leo Zurita Arthos (Ecuador), Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) – 3 weeks at the end of the program
• Spanish Language (Beginner to Superior, depending on the ability of the student)
• Tropical Biology This course surveys the diversity of tropical ecosystems and examines the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape them. Through lectures, readings, discussions, and guest speakers, the course examines foundational theories and major themes in tropical biology, including species diversity, adaptations and coevolution, community structure, biogeography, and conservation challenges. The course uses Ecuador as a model to illustrate general principles and contemporary issues in tropical ecology and conservation. Taught by Dr. Michael Collins (Rhodes College)
• Faculty Director is Dr. Michael Collins (Rhodes College)