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Paraguay: Eco-Leadership

Immerse yourself in scientific research, youth education, eco-leadership methods, and community engagement, while exploring the diverse ecology and people of Paraguay.

Course Overview

Nestled in the heart of South America, Paraguay is home to unique habitats, including the critically endangered Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest and other rare ecosystems that have received little study and deserve far more attention. Some of Paraguay’s spectacular fauna include the hooded capuchin monkey, the endemic Pilar tuco-tuco, the black and gold howler monkey, and more than 720 species of birds.

Environmental awareness is on the rise in Paraguay but contends with increasingly strong pressure from industrial agriculture – Paraguay is the fourth largest exporter of soybeans globally - and cattle ranching. The presence of conservation organizations in Paraguay is quite limited and there is a critical need to understand better how eco-leadership can support the relationships between local people, local lands, and local species that depend on these important places.

To offer this course, Dragonfly partners with Para La Tierra (PLT), a nonprofit conservation organization devoted to conserving Paraguay’s natural habitats through scientific research, environmental education, and community engagement in indigenous, rural, and urban communities. PLT was founded in 2010 by Karina Atkinson, a GFP graduate and Dragonfly Global Conservation Fellow alumna. The entire PLT team is deeply committed to supporting the next generation of conservation and education leaders. Students in this course will look at eco-leadership broadly and in many relevant contexts to understand the skills we need to approach conservation in Paraguay and their own communities. We will focus on gaining the diverse skills required for effective eco-leadership, including 1) assessing wildlife populations, 2) developing public exhibits, engaging in participatory media, and community events celebrating local biota, 3) evaluating  of both educational and ecological outcomes, and 4) supporting the ingenuity of local teams to foster local knowledge creation and informed environmental action.

Course Details
In-person travel dates:

July 21-30, 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 Asunción, Paraguay
* $3,550 calculated as = $455 per credit tuition x 5 graduate credits + $1100 program fee + $175 Miami global fee

Course Themes

  • Collaborative leadership
  • Natural history of Paraguay
  • Public engagement in science
  • Inquiry and participatory education
  • Community-based conservation
  • Social and political aspect of conservation

A typical day is likely to include:

  • Study at field conservation sites
  • Team-based strategic planning and program development
  • Interactions with experienced and emerging eco-leaders of all ages
  • Student-led discussions on key course topics
  • Journal writing
  • Open inquiries

Paraguay Student Reflection:

"The more I learn about conservation and the more I travel, I have come to realize that conservation is less about plants and animals and more about people and our relationships" -Christina Thompson

Christina Thompson on an Earth Expeditions trip to Paraguay

Planned Sites

google Earth map of Paraguay with three locations marked. A second image shows the marked locations zoomed in and labeled Asuncion, Pilar, and ProCosara in San RafaelAsunción

Students will fly into Asunción, the capital of Paraguay and a historic South American city. Here, shaded streets and local squares, where Guaraní vendors sell exquisite needlework and hand-crafted leather, exist alongside more industrial zones and upscale malls. Asunción is the transportation hub of Paraguay and a gateway to the country’s diverse biological and cultural landscapes.

San Rafael (Nueva Gambach and PRO COSARA)

Located in Eastern Paraguay, San Rafael is the country’s largest remaining fragment of the once extensive Atlantic Forest. Still under threat from agriculture development among other threats, the region is critically important for conservation in South America. This biodiversity hotspot boasts more than 430 species of bird – 60% of all the birds registered in Paraguay are found in this expansive forest reserve. Para La Tierra’s primate team studies the hooded capuchin monkey and work with several rural Paraguayan and indigenous Mbya Guaraní communities surrounding the forest.


Also known as ‘The City of Birds,’ Pilar is a quaint town on the coast of the mighty Paraguay River. Surrounded by a network of marshes, streams, and lakes, there is a deep tradition of nature appreciation in this area. Howler monkeys coexist with people in the city, using power-lines and rooftops to travel from fruit tree to fruit tree in the city’s squares and plazas. Pilar is also home to Para La Tierra’s Center for Investigation, Development, Environmental Education and Leadership (Centro IDEAL). In addition to wildlife research, the Center oversees a community-wide program that engages children in the conservation of local forest and wetland ecosystems.

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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