Course Descriptions

ENVS 341 Comparative Ecology of Brazilian Rainforest Ecosystems (4 semester credits)

This course explores the flora, fauna, and ecological characteristics of two different tropical rainforests: the Amazon Rainforest and the Atlantic Rainforest, which grows along Brazil’s coastal mountain chain and is the most endangered Rainforest in Brazil. In addition, students are also introduced to Coastal Marine systems at the Marine Research Center. Brazilian biologists and ecologists guide students in examining the species and habitat diversity present in each of the two tropical ecosystems, and discuss how different environmental factors contribute to the patterns of diversity observed. Brazilian researchers will also present an overview of the scientific studies currently underway to advance our understanding of how these ecosystems function, and explain the value in gaining this knowledge.

ENVS  342 Ecology and Protective Management of Brazil’s Biodiversity (4 semester credits)

With this course, the impact of human activities on biodiversity and ecosystem function, are directly observed and discussed throughout the course in terms of disturbance ecology. Brazilian ecologists and conservation biologists work with students to understand the scientific approach to advancing our knowledge of unique biological communities that are imperiled by human activity. This treatment includes practicing field techniques for collecting basic ecological data and population monitoring, and working with ecological data sets.

The course also focuses on issues of protective management of species, habitats, and the ecological processes that sustain ecosystem function. The scientific integrity of current environmental policies employed in Brazil will be scrutinized, along with the role of non-governmental organizations in affecting environmental stewardship. This topic further includes consideration of local cultural attitudes in policy development and implementation.


Students choose one of the following language courses:

LLCP  158 Beginning Portuguese Language
LLCP  258 Intermediate Portuguese Language
LLCP  296 Advanced Portuguese Language

(4 semester credits)

In this intensive course, students are evaluated and placed in Beginning, Intermediate, or Advanced Portuguese Language with emphasis placed on oral proficiency. Additional language practice is obtained through conversation and interactions with homestay families and internship team.

Course Objectives

  • Development of social and professional vocabulary and verbal skills in Portuguese to an intermediate/low-intermediate/medium level of proficiency.
  • Acquisition of adequate vocabulary of ecology, environmental science and natural resource management.
  • Active involvement in communication with field consultants and local citizens.
  • Maintenance of a vocabulary notebook, particularly for scientific words.

ENVS  396 Field Research/Independent Internship (4 semester credits)

The final four weeks of the program are devoted to a science internship, working with a faculty supervisor on-site. Internships involve participating in a research team project, assisting in an educational program, or volunteering with an environmental agency project.

For a list of past internships, click here.

Course Objectives

  • To understand the perspectives of Brazilian scientists, conservationists and government officials through direct involvement and interaction.
  • To gain knowledge and understanding of one focused area of scientific research and/or environmental concern.
  • To develop a comprehensive understanding of a particular environmental issue from social and biological science perspectives.
  • To work independently with Brazilian scientists and/or community members in a constructive research or field project.

Sample Readings

Borgerhoff Mulder, M. and P. Coppolillo.  Conservation: Linking Ecology, Economics, and Culture. Princeton University Press, 2005.

Cardoso, C.A..  Extractive Reserves in Brazilian Amazonia: Local Resource Management and the Global Political Economy. Ashgate Publishing, 2002.

Fimbel R.A., Grajal, A. and J.G. Robinson.  The Cutting Edge: Conserving Wildlife in Logged Tropical Forests. Columbia University Press, 2001.

Kricher, J. A. 1997.  Neotropical Companion: An Introduction to the Animals, Plants, and Ecosystems of the New World Tropics. Second ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Meffee, G.K., editor. Special Section: “Brazilian Conservation: Challenges and Opportunities.” Vol. 19:587-761 in  The Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology. Blackwell Publishing, Inc., 2005.

Meffe, G. and C.R. Carroll.  Principles of Conservation Biology. Third ed. Sunderland: Sinauer Associates, 2006.

Oliviera, P.S. and R.J. Marquis, eds.  The Cerrados of Brazil: Ecology and Natural History of a Neotropical Savanna. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Pickett, S., R. et al. eds.  The Ecological Basis of Conservation: Heterogeneity, Ecosystems and Biodiversity. Chapman and Hall, 1997.

A traveling library, composed of over one hundred articles, books, and journals provides further information on the subjects studied, and support the individual research needs of the students.