Ecuador: Comparative Ecology and Conservation

Key Features


One 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. Within this small country's borders, the Amazon Basin, the Andes, the Pacific Ocean, and the Galápagos Islands provide unique climatic niches that harbor ecological treasures and a plethora of endemic flora and fauna. Ecuador is home to two biological hotspots — the tropical Andes and the Chocó — known for their mega-diversity and rapid loss of habitat. Given the overwhelming ecological importance of Ecuador’s biota and the severe threats it faces, SIT's Comparative Ecology and Conservation program makes it possible for students to learn firsthand about tropical ecosystems, and simultaneously become immersed in the global, national, and local impacts of resource use in the tropics.

Students are based in Quito, where they live with a host family, attend classes, conduct fieldwork, and embark on excursions. Students receive lectures from local professionals in the fields of botany, forestry, entomology, ornithology, ecology, and natural history. Majestic mountains surround Quito, where Quiteños say they are living in "la cara de Dios," the face of God. UNESCO named Quito's elegant colonial center a world cultural heritage site in 1978.

Spanish language class and city excursions
Students practice and enhance their language skills, with a natural history and environmental emphasis, learned in the classroom during educational excursions to various locations in and around Quito. Field exercises in the city typically include relevant historical sites and the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World, i.e., the equatorial line). Experienced teaching staff and homestays combine to maximize students’ language learning opportunities.

Independent Study Project
Students spend the last four weeks of the program focused on an Independent Study Project (ISP), pursing original research on a selected topic of interest to them. The ISP can be conducted throughout Ecuador based upon requests from local activists, NGOs, and communities. Students should plan on completing an ISP that is rooted in the biological, ecological, and/or environmental sciences.   

Sample topic areas for the ISP include:

  • Biodiversity and population assessments
  • Use of biological/ecological indicators for environmental studies
  • Flora or fauna studies
  • Endangered species
  • Mining or petroleum industry environmental implications and alternatives
  • Traditional and organic agriculture
  • Endemism

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Quito

Language Study: Spanish

Prerequisites: Coursework in environmental studies, ecology, biology, or related fields; 4 semesters college-level Spanish. Read more...

View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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