Comparative Ecology and Conservation in Ecuador

Comparative Ecology and Conservation in Ecuador

Tropical birdOne of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet, Ecuador provides an ideal setting for learning about tropical biology and ecology in a comparative context.

This is a field-based program emphasizing the biological and ecological sciences applicable to conservation in Ecuador.

The program features hands-on experience in the field, allowing participants to be immersed in the rich ecological treasures found in Ecuador. Participants will hear from conservationists, researchers, and other experts such as biologists, ornithologists, entomologists, and botanists. The program includes visits to the Andean Highlands and Western Cloud Forests and three days at Tiputini Biological Station near Yasuní National Park, in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. This world-renowned field station hosts researchers exploring conservation sciences, biology, and ecology among a incredible diversity of flora and fauna.

The seminar draws upon the resources and networks developed through SIT’s semester-long undergraduate program Ecuador: Comparative Conservation and Ecology, which has run since 1989. All SIT programs are designed around principles of field-based, experiential education, with a strong focus on social justice and intercultural communication. In Ecuador and on all programs, SIT places the highest priority on the health, safety, and security of all program participants. 


The following topics will be explored on the faculty seminar in Ecuador:

  • Ecological, biological, environmental, and conservation issues in Ecuador and their impact on local resources
  • The ecology of three distinct biological regions: the Andean Highlands, the Cloud Forests, and the Amazon Rainforest
  • The state of current ecological/biological research in Ecuador
  • Important bird, plant, insect, and mammal species in Ecuador and their use as ecological indicators
  • The use of biological/ecological indicators for environmental impact studies and other types of research
  • Endangered species and protected area management

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this seminar, participants will be able to:

  • define and discuss the primary environmental issues and challenges to conservation in Ecuador;
  • demonstrate an interdisciplinary understanding of the key ecosystems in Ecuador, including the Andean/Páramo highlands, the Cloud Forests, and the Amazon Rainforest;
  • discuss the relevance of key bio-indicator organisms, biodiversity indexes, population structure studies, and other biological analyses;
  • discuss the biological, social, and institutional factors that affect Ecuadorian conservation efforts and natural resource management; and
  • assess the linkages between global and local conservation issues, problems, and solutions.


On this seminar, participants will engage with local experts to explore the ecological and biological dynamics of Ecuador’s ecosystems, emphasizing the most relevant biotic and abiotic elements in each environment.

Lectures Include:

  • Ecology of Ecuador: The Ecuadorian Regions (Andes, Amazon, Coast, and Galápagos) and Main Ecosystems (Andean/Páramo Highlands, the Cloud Forests, and the Amazon Rainforest)
  • Environmental Problems in Ecuador (Focus on Deforestation)
  • Social and Environmental Impacts of the Mining and Petroleum Industries
  • The Protected Area System in Ecuador: Successes and Failures of Governmental and Private Conservation 

Other lectures included in site visits described below.

Site Visits and Field-Based Lectures

  • Day visit to Yanacocha Andean Humid Forest or Jerusalem Andean Dry Forest – biological/ecological characteristics and main bio-indicator species
  • Day visit to a reserve in the Northwestern Cloud Forests in the Mindo Region – main ecological and biological features, botany, main species, and conservation concerns
  • Three-day visit to Tiputini Field Station in the Amazon – forest dynamics, herbivory, pollination, seed dispersal, botany, zoology, and environmental issues in the Amazon (examining the case of Yasuní National Park and Amazon indigenous communities) 

Xavier Silva, PhD

Xavier SilvaXavier Silva, an Ecuadorian, received his PhD in entomology applied to ecology from the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, where he also earned an MS and BS, focusing on ecology and biology, including population ecology, biogeography, and other environmental sciences applied to tropical ecosystems. Dr. Silva has worked extensively in applying his scientific knowledge to the conservation of natural resources in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as several countries in Africa and Asia. For several years, he was the director of biodiversity conservation for The Nature Conservancy’s Latin America and the Caribbean program based in Washington, DC, and was later the director of NatureServe’s Latin America and Caribbean program. He has also taught at the University of San Francisco Quito. Dr. Silva has written several books, including Butterflies of Ecuador and Ecuador’s Butterfly Ecology, which was awarded Best Biological Publication of Ecuador in 2012. Currently, Dr. Silva is president of the Entomological Society of Ecuador and a member of the Entomological Society of France and the Ornithological Society of Ecuador.

Participants in the Ecuador seminar should plan to arrive in Quito on June 12, 2017, and depart on June 20, 2017.

The program fee for the Ecuador seminar is $3,350 per participant. This fee includes:

  • Accommodations in single rooms in tourist-class hotels in Quito for five nights and three nights in modest field accommodations at Tiputini Research Station
  • All breakfasts, plus approximately half of all remaining meals, including a welcome dinner and farewell banquet
  • Airport transfers on the program start and end dates and all transportation to included program activities
  • All program activities as outlined above
  • Health insurance for the duration of the program
  • Pre-departure preparation materials, including informational materials, syllabus, and pre-program assignments

Program fees do not include:

  • International airfare to/from Quito
  • Passport or visa fees, if required. (visa not necessary for US passport holders.)
  • Immunizations, if needed
  • Approximately one meal (lunch or dinner) per day

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