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Amazon: Avian & Tropical Ecology

Journey to the Amazon and learn how communities are working to save this astonishing and irreplaceable ecosystem.

Course Overview

In this region of the Neotropics, reality has attained mythic proportions: More than 400 species of mammal, 1,300 bird species, 3,000 fish, 40,000 plants, and 2.5 million insect species. And still counting. The staggering diversity of the lush Amazon rainforest remains, in many ways, a mystery. Why is this area of South America the most diverse on the planet? How did such diversity—greater even than the species-rich rainforests of Africa and Asia—arise, and how is it maintained? How have the varied human groups that inhabit this region adapted to their unique environments? And perhaps the most relevant question for life on Earth, what is the future of the Amazon?

Travel to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest and work with educators, researchers, and local communities to better understand the evolution and maintenance of biodiversity in this region, and to experience firsthand the effects of human interventions in the Amazon, from deforestation and urbanization to restoration efforts by local groups. Our field sites provide an exceptional opportunity to investigate methods of avian research, and the vital roles that birds play in forest systems. We will explore how we are all linked to this magnificent rainforest, sometimes called the “lungs of the planet,” and how to develop effective actions to engage public audiences in rainforest conservation.

Prior to and following the field experience in the Amazon, students will complete coursework via Dragonfly Workshops’ web-based learning community as they apply experiences to their home institutions.

Course Details
In person travel dates:

June 17-26, 2024

Students arrive at least one day before and depart on last day of course
On the Web:

Pre-travel preparations: February-March
Login to online course: April
Summer course: May 16-August 9
Fall course: Late August- early December

Credits: Summer course: 5 graduate credits

Follow-on Fall course: 2 graduate credits

All Miami University credits can be applied to the GFP or AIP (or other programs if approved)
Costs: Summer course: $3,550* + your own airfare to Puerto Maldonado, Peru
* $3,550 calculated as = $455 per credit tuition x 5 graduate credits + $1100 program fee + $175 Miami global fee


Course Themes

  • Tropical rainforest ecology
  • Avian ecology and conservation
  • Community-based environmental education
  • Sustainability, ecological footprints, and low-impact practices
  • Inquiry-driven learning
  • Participatory education
  • Traditional ecological knowledge

A typical day is likely to include:

  • Study at field conservation sites
  • Lectures
  • Student-led discussions of key course topics
  • Engagement with local communities
  • Open inquiries
  • Journal writing
Fiorella Gardella on an Earth Expeditions trip to the Amazon

Planned Sites

Google Earth map of Amazon with one location marked. A seconds image shows the marked location zoomed in and labeled Tambopata Center for Conservation Science and Education

Center for Conservation Science and Education, Tambopata

The Center is situated on a scenic bend in the Tambopata River, a few miles from the town of Puerto Maldonado in southeastern Peru. Much of the area around the town has been transformed by development, but the bend still includes extensive native forest linked by green corridors along the Tambopata River to the unbroken virgin forest that stretches south for hundreds of miles.

The Center’s long-term goal is to document the area’s rich fauna and flora and to track changes in species composition and abundance as urban development encroaches in the southwestern Amazon region. As part of this goal, the Center conducts an extensive bird monitoring research project using mist nets (ground/canopy) to capture, color-band and release species, while Bal-chatri traps are used to capture raptors.

(Course locations are subject to change.)

2024 Costs Include:

In addition to covering the price for five graduate credits of Miami University tuition, field course costs cover all basic expenses, including:

  • Meals (incidental snacks and drinks not included)
  • Lodging
  • Field station fees
  • Course activities (optional activities are not included)
  • Ground transportation (van, boat, train, etc., as needed)
  • Park entrance and guide fees

Course costs do not cover personal expenses, such as airfare to the course, personal gifts, or ancillary costs, such as passport fees, country entry fees, required course readers, and any additional course texts.

Airfare: To estimate fares applicants may wish to visit an online fare finder or call a travel agent. Bear in mind that airlines have seasonal fluctuations in fares.

Miami University also requires all international workshop participants to purchase travel health insurance for about $40. (Successful applicants will receive more details in their web-based learning community course workshop.) In some classes an additional textbook is required. In some countries, you may have to pay entrance and departure taxes/fees at the airport.


Because of support from Miami University, the course costs listed above are a fraction of actual program costs. Earth Expeditions recommends that accepted applicants to the program check with their school district or employer to see if professional development funds are available to further offset costs.

We offer some further ideas on Helping to Fund your Degree and Scholarships for Current Dragonfly Students


U.S. Students and Students Living Abroad

To support involvement by a broad range of professionals nationally and globally, Miami University discounts tuition for participants accepted to an Earth Expeditions graduate course. Applicants must be over the age of 18 and hold bachelor’s degrees. Upon successful completion of both the field and Web-based components of the Earth Expeditions course, participants earn seven graduate credit hours.

Students Seeking Undergraduate Credit

Undergraduate students at Miami University or elsewhere may apply for an Earth Expeditions course and earn five credits for the field component, with the option to complete two additional credits for the fall Web component. Normal Miami tuition rates apply, as do eligible summer tuition waivers and scholarships. Contact Project Dragonfly for more information.

Course Options for Miami Students

Are you a current Miami University undergrad or grad student interested in participating? Check out our Miami Students page to learn more about program requirements.

*Note that costs shown above are for graduate students only. Course costs for undergraduate students are based on each student’s tuition rate. If you have questions regarding your tuition promise rate, please contact the Bursar.

Inquiry & Action Follow-on Course

The 2-credit follow-on course, Inquiry & Action, puts the Earth Expeditions course ideas and concepts into practice. Students in this course will choose a research topic and construct a multidisciplinary semester-long project of their choice that includes inquiry-driven learning, participatory education, and community-based conservation to experience and promote action in real-world contexts. Students will connect and collaborate with peers and their instructional team throughout the semester working to make a positive difference in their local communities. This class is a required part of the Global Field Program (GFP) master's course sequence. Inquiry & Action is recommended though optional for non-GFP students.

Course cost: $910 (2 credits)


Do you have questions? Go to our Frequently Asked Questions page for some answers.

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