Environmental Science and Studies in Cuenca, Ecuador
Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet. Ecuadorians say that the small country of only 13 million inhabitants is actually home to four worlds.
What are the different environmental regions of Ecuador?
The Amazon jungle, home to Yasuni and Cuyabeno wildlife reserves, are virgin rainforests that are still home to indigenous peoples like the Huaorani and Kichwa. The Napo River carves through the dense overgrowth where boas, spiders, and pumas watch from the banks. The river is where magnificent pink dolphins and black caimans swim and hide, popping up for the lucky canoe of tourists. Various eco-lodges have created foundations that partner with indigenous peoples, creating education training programs. Students can create internships with these lodges to learn the traditions of the indigenous communities, related to medicine, cleansings, and healing, or they can work in the farms and fields, cultivating local crops like yucca.
The Sierra, or mountainous region through the middle of the country, is often called Volcano Alley. Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, and Tungurahua, along with other smaller volcanoes, stretch up into the clouds. Hikes and mountain bike routes are available for adventurous tourists. Students studying ecology or environmental science can work with local guides to learn about medicinal plants and herbs, along with the endemic species of this range of the Andes. The mountain people of the Andes have evolved genetically to live at such high altitudes. Studying the reality of living at such altitude, over 2,560 meters, is a fascinating opportunity to learn about daily life of mountain-dwelling communities.
The coast, made up of large cities like Guayaquil and smaller towns like Olon and Puerto Lopez, has experienced lots of change due to seismic activity in the last few years. The 7.8 earthquake that hit Ecuador in 2016 displaced tens of thousands of people. Right now, the communities are rebuilding, using innovative methods like bamboo construction, to create houses that are resistant to future quakes. Along with learning about what life in on a fault line is like, the coast is also home to many organizations working with water sanitation, creating processes to clean up rivers and the pollution in the ocean. Groups are also working to better the process of growing cacao and bananas on the coast. There are opportunities in farm experience, organizational engineering strategizing, and scientific and cultural study for environmental majors.
The Galápagos Islands
The inspiration for Darwin’s work on natural selection wait off the coast of Ecuador. Considered a world unto themselves, the Galapagos is one of the best places to study the birth of nature. There are virgin volcanoes only a few thousand years old that have pushed their way up from the ocean. Cactus and small plants are emerging through the lava ropes that cover the younger islands like Fernandina. But on the older islands, like San Cristobal, you can study the evolution of nature itself: Darwin’s finches, land turtles, insects, land iguanas, marine iguanas, penguins, sea lions, and more call the Galapagos home. Opportunities for internships are abundant, whether they’re working with conservation of the declining turtle population, or learning about the growth of volcanoes, or studying the effects of tourism on a place as isolated and untouched as the Galapagos.
What courses does CEDEI offer in the sciences?
CEDEI has a variety of courses in Biology and Environmental Science/Conservation work. Most courses are taught by Teresa Clare. The courses are multi-faceted. Students are exposed to various environments through the excursions with CEDEI. They are less than an hour away from El Cajas, one of the national parks of the country. They also get to see all of the four regions mentioned above. The science courses combine research, projects, documentaries and independent study opportunities.