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 and development issues. Experience flooded forests on a multi-day riverboat expedition and travel to the Andean highlands where you’ll visit cloud forests and the historic Incan capital of Cusco, the hub for visitors to Machu Picchu.
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
Visit a manatee rescue center, tropical fish exporter, and potato and butterfly farms to study a range of local agriculture and conservation organizations
All students are welcome to apply for our need-based financial aid. Students who exhibit financial need for their program will be offered SFS financial aid. SFS aid is offered through a combination of scholarships, grants and loans.
Pell Grant Match
SFS matches Federal Pell Grant funding for students applying to an SFS semester program.
Many SFS students receive aid through their home institutions or other outside sources, so check with your financial aid office to see what aid may apply to an SFS program.
Cait was raised on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Cait joined the SFS team in 2017 after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in Sociology and Education. During the fall of her junior year, she studied in Florence, Italy. In the heart of Tuscany, she discovered her passion for learning and experiencing through education abroad. Throughout her career, Cait has facilitated a Faculty-Lead Program throughout Ireland and Scotland, served as an International Coordinator for a higher education first year abroad program, and has served in SFS Admissions advising and preparing students for their adventures to the field. Cait loves to share her passion for education abroad with every student she serves, and believes international education is an important part of any student’s undergraduate experience. Cait can’t wait to prepare you for your SFS experience!
Itinerary varies from term to term and is subject to change. Program activities take place 6 days a week with one day free.
Week 1: ¡Bienvenido a Peru! Move into dorms, meet roommates and SFS staff, and attend program orientation. Start classes in Iquitos with a tour of the city and guest lecture by Earthwatch scientist Dr. Richard Bodmer. Visit the bustling market of Belén. Lectures on the history, ecosystems, biodiversity, and Indigenous groups of the Amazon. First Spanish language class.
Week 2: Field trips to the port city of Nauta (fisheries market exercise) and the white sand forests of Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve. Intro to field research – quantitative analysis and monitoring techniques. Tropical plant ID field exercise. Visit a local radio station focused on Indigenous issues and learn about the livelihoods and culture of the Kukama people. Spanish classes continue.
Week 3: Lectures on Indigenous livelihoods, plant defenses, qualitative analysis. Multi-day excursion to Sucusari. Meet with the Indigenous Maijuna people. Spanish classes continue.
Week 4: Spend the day at Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve. Lectures on environmental policy, tropical plant families, conservation approaches, and perceptions of nature. Field exercises on identifying understory biodiversity and data collection techniques. First minga, (community work day) on the SFS campus. Spanish classes continue.
Week 5: Spend the week on an Amazon riverboat exploring the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Conservation Area: Learn about flooded forest ecology, fish diversity, Amazon geology, climate change impacts, community conservation management, and agricultural systems. Practice wildlife monitoring techniques for terrestrial and aquatic animals. Guest lectures from Earthwatch scientist Dr. Richard Bodmer.
Week 6: Fly to Cusco and spend two weeks in the Andes. Explore tropical alpine and montane ecosystems. Stay at the Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station and conduct an Andean bear tracks exercise. Lectures on plant adaptation to climate change, human-wildlife coexistence, and Andean community organizations. Visits include Huacarpay Lake, Abra Malaga Polylepis forest, Manu Biosphere Reserve, Incan ruins, and Parque de la Papa – a community of Indigenous farmers working to save over 3,000 potato species.
Week 7: Mid-semester break – 5 days of independent student travel in the Cusco/Machu Picchu area. Fly back to Iquitos and return to the Center. Second minga on the SFS campus.
Week 8: Lectures on food systems (forest walk to identify trophic dynamics), top-down forces in animal-plant interactions, research writing, and project management. Field visits to the Morphosapi Butterfly Farm in San Rafael and Iquitos-based fish farms. Guest lecture from the EverGreen Institute on environmental education. Directed Research (DR) group selection.
Week 9: Lecture and field excursion on bat ecology – practice mist-netting and using bat detectors. Visit to the Quistococha palm swamp to explore climate change effects on the Amazon (atmospheric measurements). Lecture on wildlife trade with visit to the CREA Manatee Rehabilitation Center.
Week 10: Lectures on tropical forestry (tree farm visit) and Indigenous land rights issues. Final exams for Tropical Ecology of the Amazon, Conservation Science and Practice, and Political Ecology of Developing Landscapes. Free weekend away – independent student travel.
Week 11: Lectures on research ethics and presentation techniques. Week of data collection in the field for the Directed Research (DR) project.
Week 12: Final week of data collection in the field for DR project.
Week 13: Data analysis: organize, analyze, and write up your results in a scientific paper.
Week 14: Final papers due. Create a DR presentation and poster based on your research findings. Present to students, staff, and community members.
Week 15: Re-entry exercises and room cleanup. Closing activities. Head home.
This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. 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
Forest health and recovery
Indigenous knowledge and histories
Ecosystem services and carbon markets
Impacts of development in the Amazon
On the Biodiversity and Development in the 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)
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 - 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 Developing Landscapes (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.
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.
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.
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, white-sand forests, traditional medicinal gardens, high-elevation montane and cloud forests near Wayqecha Biological Station, rural villages and agricultural communities, and palm swamps and floodplain forests.
In the Directed Research course, each student completes a field research project under the mentorship of a faculty member – beginning with data collection and analysis and concluding with a research paper and presentation. Project subject areas span ecology, natural resource management, conservation science, environmental ethics, and socioeconomics.
Between the remote city of Iquitos and the port city of Nauta, nestled in the Amazon, sits the Center. The sounds of the forest permeate our campus, from student cabins to the pool and open-air student lounge. The rainforest is accessible via an on-campus trail system which traverses our 183-acre property. Small communities and local shops are within walking distance.
Dorm living with 6-person bunkrooms
Open-air student lounge and study space
Large dining area, and on-site cooking staff
Trail network extends from campus into the rainforest
Traditional thatched-roof classroom
Swimming pool, soccer field, volleyball court, and hammock huts
Click on the icons below to learn more about our Center in Peru.