Center for Amazon Studies


Due to its unique and varied range of ecosystems, Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. A small band of arid lowlands line the Pacific coast before the altitude quickly soars to the high peaks of the Andes, home to glacial lakes, tropical montane forests, and wind-swept plateaus. Continuing to the east, the altitude plunges back down into the terra firme and flooded forests of the Amazon basin, where dense green foliage blankets the horizon as far as the eye can see. For millennia, Peru’s rich natural resources have supported human communities and an incredible diversity of wildlife found nowhere else on the planet. 


15 Weeks


18 Credits

Fall 2024

 Sep 1 - Dec 12



 Jan 30 - May 3





Room & Board:


Total Cost:


Sample Itinerary

Sample Itinerary:


semester PROGRAM

The Living Amazon


Discover the living Amazon. Explore the extraordinarily biodiverse ecosystems of the northern Peruvian Amazon. Discuss threats to the region – from climate change to resource extraction – and get at the heart of Peru’s conservation challenges. Experience flooded forests on a multi-day riverboat expedition and travel to the Andes where you’ll visit cloud forests and experience the rich cultural traditions of the highlands. 


  • Take a multi-day excursion to the village of Sucusari to learn about the livelihoods of the Maijuna people and explore the rainforest from one of the world’s longest canopy walkways 
  • Take a five-day riverboat expedition in Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Regional Conservation Area, home to species like pink river dolphins, sloths, piranhas, primates, macaws, and giant river otters 

Application deadlines:
Spring – November 15
Fall – May 15

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This academically rigorous program follows a five-day/week schedule. Each program combines theory learned during classroom sessions with field-based applications. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Peru. Read more about the SFS program model. Major academic themes include:

  • Climate change and conservation practice
  • Landscape ecology and habitat fragmentation
  • Biodiversity assessment
  • Forest health and recovery
  • Indigenous knowledge and histories
  • Ecosystem services and carbon markets
  • Impacts of development in the Amazon
  • Biogeography
  • Political ecology


On the The Living Amazon program, you will take three 4-credit disciplinary courses, one 2-credit language and culture course, and a 4-credit capstone Directed Research course. Courses are participatory in nature and are designed to foster inquiry and active learning. Each course combines lectures, field exercises, assignments, tests, and research. All courses are taught in English. Click on each course to view a description and download the syllabus

SFS 2090
Language, Culture, and Society of Peru
2 credits
SFS 3800
Conservation Science and Practice in Peru
4 credits
SFS 3831
Tropical Ecology of the Amazon
4 credits
SFS 3840
Political Ecology of Peru
4 credits
SFS 4910
Directed Research
4 credits

SFS 2090 Language, Culture, and Society of Peru (2 credits)

This course provides two integrated modules: Spanish language instruction, and Peruvian society and culture. The language module offers listening, oral, and written practice of Spanish to increase students’ communication and comprehension skills. The sociocultural module is designed to help students gain experience in the culture and therefore become more adept at working effectively in their community-based Directed Research efforts. Both modules emphasize the understanding of, and direct interaction with, the local communities with which the Center works. This exposure to culture and language is reviewed and processed through lectures, field exercises, community outreach, and classroom discussion.


SFS 3800 Conservation Science and Practice in Peru (4 credits)

This course introduces the concepts, tools, and incentives to effect conservation of the environment and natural resources. The field of conservation is focused on protecting biological diversity—including ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity—by promoting processes, both ecological and social, that support biodiversity. The course focuses on five core themes: what biodiversity is; why biodiversity is important; threats to biodiversity; strategies for conservation; and the concept of sustainability. We explore the practical aspects of conservation using local case studies, considering the array of conservation strategies in the region, and using this lens to evaluate global concerns on a local scale.

SFS 3831 Tropical Ecology of the Amazon (4 credits)

This course examines biodiversity from multiple scales, including region, landscape, ecosystem, community, species, and genes. Students learn to: identify and characterize a variety of the diverse flora and fauna in the Amazon region, understand the patterns and processes that support this diversity, and appreciate the importance of biodiversity to people. Students examine the fundamental principles of tropical ecology through the study of a diverse mosaic of ecosystems, habitats, and species along elevational gradients, successional gradients, and geomorphic patterns.


SFS 3840 Political Ecology of Peru (4 credits)

This course focuses on human interactions with and impacts on local natural systems, and vice versa. We consider these interactions through the interdisciplinary lens of political ecology, examining the political, economic, social, and historical factors of environmental issues and changes. The course provides the conceptual and practical skills and tools to critically examine and assess the human-environment nexus by exploring distinct cultures and socioeconomic systems from the upper Andes to the Amazon basin. We also consider the theories and ethics of sustainable and unsustainable development, and the need to view these issues in ways that are inclusive and just.

SFS 4910 Directed Research (4 credits)

This course prepares students to distinguish hidden assumptions in scientific approaches and separate fact from interpretation, cause from correlation, and advocacy from objectivity. Students learn specific tools including: experimental design; field techniques; basic descriptive statistics; and parametric and non-parametric quantitative analysis. Emphasis is placed on succinct scientific writing, graphic and tabular presentation of results, and effective delivery of oral presentations.


Core Skills

You will gain practical skills in the field such as: species identification and population monitoring, biodiversity and habitat surveys, research plots and transects, interviewing and mapping techniques, conservation strategy assessment, basic Spanish language skills, research design and implementation, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, and research presentation. 

Field Sites

You will visit different ecosystems and communities which may include tropical lowland rainforests, wildlife sanctuaries, protected reserves, Amazonian riverine ecosystems, high-elevation forests and the highlands of the Andes, traditional medicinal gardens, high-elevation montane and cloud forests, rural villages and agricultural communities, and floodplain forests.     

What Students Are Saying:

“Before this program, I had only left the country once before, and that was to go to Montreal in Canada. I was a little nervous joining the program due to that, but my fears were groundless. This program was stunning in scenery, meticulous in safety preparations, and fascinating in class information. I learned more during my semester with SFS than I had learned in the previous year in University, in addition to meeting and befriending many like-minded nature nuts and hiking pals.”
– Sean, University of Massachusetts Lowell

“Amazonia is a land of magic – something I’ve learned time and again while here. It takes many forms, but each has made me incredibly thankful to be here. My first glimpse of the Amazon river was christened with the leaps of dolphins, and I knew in that instant that I had made the right choice.”
– Tess, Reed College


Where You'll Be Living

The Peru Center is an oasis of calming nature, while a short walk from the bustling town of Tarapoto, gateway to Amazon adventures. The Center is connected by a web of pathways lined with flowers, medicinal herbs, and rows of stone terraces teeming with native plant species. Students have access to wooded hiking trails through protected areas, as well as quiet lofts and rocking-chair-patios offering panoramic views of the Escalera mountain range.

  • Two-floor bungalows with balconies and full bathrooms housing 4-students
  • Traditional maloca, an ancestral long house used by the Amazon’s indigenous people
  • Laboratory with stone worktables, 5 sinks, and shelves stocked with scientific equipment
  • Family-style 25-foot dining table for communal meals prepared by local cooking staff
  • Private student lounge spaces with sweeping forest views
  • Open air classroom building with library of western and indigenous texts
  • Gyms and running routes in surrounding neighborhood
  • Kitchenettes, laundry facilities, and the center’s traditional bread oven


    Program Costs

    Study abroad is an investment in yourself – you’ll return home with new experiences, skills, knowledge, and friendships that will stay with you for the rest of your life. SFS program costs cover a variety of expenses, including:

    • Pre-program advising and on-site orientation
    • Tuition and research fees
    • Housing at the field station and on excursions
    • Daily meals and snacks
    • Airport transfers (for arrival/departure)
    • Field excursions and cultural activities
    • Student success and wellness team on site
    • 24/7 mental health and well-being support
    • Emergency evacuation and repatriation insurance
    • Official transcript processing

    View Peru Program Costs

    Financial Aid

    We know cost can be one of the biggest barriers to studying abroad. At SFS, we’re committed to making our programs accessible to students which is why we award more than $650,000 in need-based financial aid each year. Our Admissions Team has worked with thousands of students and are here to answer your questions about the SFS aid process, aid available through your home school, and funding from external sources.
    SFS Financial Aid: Need-based aid packages typically consist of a combination of scholarships, grants, and zero- and low-interest loans. SFS matches Federal Pell Grant funding for students applying to an SFS semester program.

    Home School Aid: Be sure to ask your home school study abroad office or financial aid office what financial aid resources might be available to support your study abroad experience.

    External Funding Opportunities: Organizations such as the Fund for Education Abroad or the Gilman International Scholarship Program award scholarships to students going abroad. These can be a great opportunity to reduce the cost of your program even more.
    Learn More about Financial Aid




    Research at the SFS Center for Amazon Studies focuses on biodiversity conservation and ecosystem protection in the face of resource extraction, unrestricted infrastructure development, and the inequitable distribution of environmental benefits. Students and faculty engage with local community members, Indigenous groups, land managers, agriculturalists, conservation organizations, and fellow researchers. As the only rainforest of its size left on the planet, the Amazon harbors unmatched biodiversity and carbon sequestration, and the success of conservation efforts here has both regional and global implications.
    Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

    • Climate change
    • Forest and soil ecology
    • Perceptions and impacts of development in the Amazon
    • Rural livelihoods and land use
    • Natural resource management
    • Forest health and recovery
    • Sustainable use of non-timber forest products



    SFS develops our research plans based on the environmental issues faced by the community and local ecosystems. Throughout the program, students interact with local residents through community mingas (work projects), our recycling program, local festivals, and sporting events. The Center is a short walk or taxi ride to downtown Tarapoto, the third largest city in the Amazon, and the province’s culinary and cultural capital. Students enjoy a variety of museums, parks, and a vibrant nightlife offering the Amazon’s most iconic and increasingly global cuisine, which blends indigenous culture, European technique, and Japanese ingredients. Tarapoto is also home to the Universidad Nacional de San Martín, a leading research university for rainforest biodiversity.

    At the end of each semester program, we host a Community Research Night where select students will present their research findings to the community. SFS research data is shared with communities, local NGOs, and the Peruvian government.

    Read stories about our research in Peru