Skip to Main Content
project dragonfly icon

Brazil: Saving Golden Lion Tamarins

Join a world-class effort to save tamarins from the brink of extinction in Brazil’s most critically important forest.

Course Overview

Seeing a family of golden lion tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia) in the mystical Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil is quite an experience. These diminutive orange primates, with their shaggy manes, intense stares, and bird-like vocalizations, live in only one small region of Brazil, where they face seemingly insurmountable odds. Habitat destruction (about 87% of the Atlantic Rainforest has been cleared) and severe forest fragmentation almost wiped them out. By 1969, fewer than 200 individuals remained in the wild, basically one catastrophe short of extinction. The details of their recovery and the continued fight for their future is, for now, one of the world’s most hopeful conservation stories.

While the wild population was declining, zoos carefully managed the captive population around the globe, ecologists studied habitat and population requirements, and educators worked with local schools and communities to increase knowledge of tamarins and their forest. Government and non-governmental organizations worked together to reintroduce golden lion tamarins to the wild and to begin a large-scale reforestation effort to increase the area and connectivity of tamarin habitat. Since 1969, the number of wild golden lion tamarins has increased nearly tenfold, and there is a much more credible path for their long-term survival. Golden lion tamarins went from a little-known and under-studied primate to a national symbol in Brazil, featured on a postage stamp and on the R$20 bill.

This course focuses on multi-faceted species conservation, including biological issues relevant to species reintroductions and translocations, management of wild and zoo-based populations, community-based habitat restoration, and participatory conservation education. We are particularly interested in the next generation of learning programs and public engagement campaigns through zoos and schools in Brazil, the U.S., and other countries. There may also be the opportunity to support the development of a golden lion tamarin park and educational facility in the heart of their range. We will examine the strengths and weaknesses of the “flagship species” approach so well represented by the golden lion tamarins and explore next steps.

We are delighted to be working with primary course partner Associação Mico-Leão Dourado (AMLD), a Brazilian non-profit organization that has played a central role in golden lion tamarin conservation. Associação Mico-Leão Dourado is supported in the U.S. by the non-profit organization Save the Golden Lion Tamarin. This course is also designed to strengthen relationships among zoos in Brazil, the U.S., and other countries.

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

Logo for Associação Mico-Levo Dourado (AMLD)

Course Details
In-person travel dates:

June 17-26, 2024

Plan to arrive at least one day before course begins. Add 1-2 days travel time. Students arrive at least one day before the course begins.

This course is open to first year GFP master’s students, any interested current students, or can be taken as a stand-alone 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 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
* $3,550 calculated as = $455 per credit tuition x 5 graduate credits + $1100 program fee + $175 Miami global fee

Course Themes

  • Behavioral and spatial ecology of golden lion tamarins
  • Role of zoos in global conservation
  • Population management of rare and endangered species
  • Landscape ecology
  • Agroforestry and ecological restoration
  • Inquiry and participatory education
  • Community-based conservation

A typical day is likely to include:

  • Study at field conservation sites
  • Open inquiries
  • Interactions with Brazilian scientists, educators, and community members
  • Student-led discussions of key course topics
  • Journal writing
John Scott on an Earth Expeditions trip to Brazil

Planned Sites

Google Earth map of South America with three marked locations, as well as an enlarged section of map where the three highlighted marked locations are. Those location being Rio de Janeiro, Uniao Villa Nova, and Poco das Antas

Atlantic Forest

Cited as one of the top five “hottest hotspots” for conservation, the Atlantic Forest is older than forests of the Amazon basin. The isolation of this ancient forest has contributed to the evolution of species found nowhere else. About half of the roughly 2,000 Atlantic Forest plant species are endemic. Roughly 90% of the Atlantic Forest amphibians are endemic.

The Atlantic Forest has suffered greatly since Europeans arrived, mainly due to (in rough and overlapping historical order) sugarcane, coffee, cattle ranching, cocoa, Eucalyptus forest, and urbanization. Two of the three largest cities in South America were built on and are growing at the expense of the Atlantic Forest. Only about 12.5% of the Atlantic Forest remains, and only about half of that occurs in protected areas. There is an urgent need to build on the success of the golden lion tamarin and other conservation initiatives in this region to reverse the decline. We will study at Poço das Antas and União, two federal biological reserves in golden lion tamarin territory and critical to their conservation, as well as in private lands that have been voluntarily contributed to conservation.

Rio de Janeiro

The course will depart from and end in Rio de Janeiro, known as the “Cidade Maravilhosa” and home of the 2016 Olympics. Students wishing to visit this world-class city should plan to arrive before the course start date or plan to stay after.

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.

Check out another EE!

A marine landscape in Baja

Baja: Field Methods

Experience the spectacular desert and marine landscapes of two richly diverse biosphere reserves through ecological and social field methods.
Galápagos giant tortoise

Galápagos: Islands of Change

Visit the realm of giant tortoises; study the forces of evolutionary, geologic, and social change; contribute to sustainable solutions for this astounding archipelago.

Apply to Earth Expeditions