Summer course in Ecuador will put theory into practice  

January 18, 2013 11:00 AM

Ryan Rivet

Some courses are suited to a classroom environment, while others are best out in the field, where hands can be dirtied and theories put into practice. Jordan Karubian, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Tulane University, tends to subscribe to the latter school. He will be taking a group of students to Ecuador for an intensive field course this summer.

Lizards in Ecuador

“Where we’re going is a biodiversity hotspot. It has the highest densities of species anywhere on the planet,” says Jordan Karubian, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. (Photo from Jordan Karubian)

The course, Tropical Field Biology and Conservation, requires that students design and implement a research project related to tropical ecology in one of three sites in Ecuador, an area where Karubian has been conducting research since 2002. Having used this type of learning-by-doing approach before, Karubian says he’s seen “the light go on” when students are immersed in field-based research.
“Experiential learning is a very powerful approach,” says Karubian. “Students are faced with a challenge where they have to think on their own two feet and solve problems as they encounter them in real time.”
Students will also have an opportunity for community engagement and service as they work on projects that respond to local needs alongside local Ecuadorian residents who have been trained as “parabiologists” and “environmental ambassadors.”
“One of the real strengths of this course is the fact that it is based on strong, existing relationships with local residents,” Karubian says. “We will be working in a true collaboration with these Ecuadorian residents. So there are huge opportunities for mutual enrichment.”
Karubian says he hopes that students with a “wide range of interests” will consider signing up for the course, and says the group will be small enough that the class can be changed to fit those who sign up.
“This is something that is suitable for people who are not just interested in ecology and evolutionary biology, but also people who are interested in sustainable development, international development and social or public health.”

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu