Study Abroad in Ecuador: May 16 – June 7, 2016

Ten Virginia Tech undergraduate students better hold onto their hats this summer as they plunge down Amazonian river systems into the heart of Ecuador! At the helm of their canoes will be Global Change Center researchers Ignacio Moore and Bill Hopkins. As part of a university-wide effort to promote study abroad, experiential learning and undergraduate research, the students will experience firsthand the politics, history, culture, biology, and conservation issues in the South American country.

All participants were enrolled in Tropical Biology & Conservation in Ecuador (BIOL/FIW 3954) during spring semester and worked in groups to design their own research projects to be carried out during the trip.

One of the most exciting projects for the students will be using camera traps to investigate the prevalence of large cats, including jaguars and pumas, in the rainforest and cloud forest sites. These cats are often hunted by poachers and ranchers and are rarely seen. Camera traps will let researchers document their presence and behavior.

Working with Brook Kennedy, an associate professor of industrial design, the students will also investigate the microscopic world using Macronauts, a macro lens that can be mounted on the camera of a smart phone camera.

The summer travel itinerary includes a visit to the Sani Isla community run by the Quichua and the Shiripuno community of the Waorani. Both of these indigenous groups live in much the same way as they have done for hundreds of years.

According to Moore, “The students will visit one of the most biodiverse, but also threatened, areas on earth. These types of study abroad experiences give students the chance to see in the real world what they have read about it books. Our aim is not just to be tourists but to conduct research and learn about how conservation efforts rely on interactions between scientists, local peoples, multinational corporations, and governments.”


You are invited to follow the VT Ecuador students as they report back from South America during their 3-week journey, May 16th-June 7th. They will be blogging @VTResearch and posting to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #VTEcuador.

Visit the social media links below and then check out their travel itinerary by zooming in on the map!

Ecuador Travel Itinerary

Faculty Leaders

Drs. Ignacio Moore and Bill Hopkins

Dr. Ignacio Moore (BIOL) and Dr. William Hopkins (FWC) are offering “Tropical Ecology & Conservation BIOL 3954/FIW 3954 (6 credits)” in Spring and Summer I 2016. The course is open to all majors. During Summer I, the class will travel to Ecuador where students will traverse multiple ecosystems, from the Amazonian lowland rainforest to the high altitude Andes. The course is reading- and writing-intensive, includes an independent research project, and requires enrollment during both semesters.

Banner photo credit (Jaguar): By Charlesjsharp (Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography) via Wikimedia Commons