Brazilian Ecosystems: The Protection and Management of Biodiversity
Explore Brazil’s rainforests and coastal regions through hands-on field studies.
Fall Semester (late-August to late-November)
Established in 1989, the Brazilian Ecosystems program engages students in field studies across a variety of biomes in Brazil. Following an orientation, students compare the flora, fauna, and ecological characteristics of the Amazon Rainforest, Atlantic Coastal Rainforest, coastal marine systems, and Pantanal wetland ecosystem, and learn how environmental factors contribute to patterns of species and habitat diversity.
Portuguese Language and Independent Field Research
In addition, students engage in a Portuguese language intensive course and live with a homestay family in Curitiba for a short interval between studies in the field. In-depth studies of the impact of human activities on biodiversity and ecosystem function, as well as protection and management practices, culminate in immersive field-research projects in ecology and conservation during the final four weeks of the program.
Leadership and Support
This program is affiliated with the Universidade Federal do Paraná, Universidade do Mato Grosso, and the National Institute of Amazonian Research. Director Suzanne Kolb, PhD, leads the program and is assisted by Brazilian professors, research scientists and activists, who provide local expertise on current environmental issues facing each region.
Contact Us to speak with past participants of the program directly!
The Brazilian Ecosystems curriculum consists of four courses (16 semester credits) for fall semester students.
AEA is not offering the 2015 summer term in Brazil.
Contact AEA for course syllabi.
Fall Semester Required Courses
ENVS 341 Ecology and Biodiversity of Brazil
ENVS 342 Protective Management of Brazil’s Biodiversity
LLCP 158 Introductory Portuguese Language
LLCP 258 Intermediate Portuguese Language
LLCP 296 Advanced Portuguese Language
In these intensive language courses, students are evaluated and placed in Introductory, Intermediate, or Advanced Portuguese Language with emphasis placed on oral proficiency. Additional language practice is obtained through conversation and interactions with homestay families and independent field research team.
- Development of social and professional 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 Independent Field Research/Practicum
- 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.
- Sea Turtle and Dolphin Ecology and Conservation
- Artificial Coral Reefs
- Nesting Behavior of Endangered Bird Species
- Tropical Plant-Pollinator Relationships
- Forest Fragmentation and Wildlife Corridors
- Ecological Effects of Climate Change
- Forest Habitat Restoration
- Management of National and State Parks
- Wildlife Rehabilitation
- Environmental Law
Sample of Required Readings for the Fall Semester program:
- Armenteras D. et al. (2013) Forest fragmentation and edge influence on fire occurrence and intensity under different management types in Amazon forests. Biological Conservation 159: 73-79.
- Coe M. (2013) Deforestation and climate feedbacks threaten the ecological integrity of south-southeastern Amazonia. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 368(1619): 1-9.
- Da Silva F. et al. (2012) Humidity levels drive reproductive modes and phylogenetic diversity of amphibians in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Journal of Biogeography 39: 720-732.
- Ferraz S. (2014) How good are tropical forest patches for ecosystem services provisioning? Landscape Ecology 29:187-200.
- Guariguata M. and Osterag R. (2001) Neotropical secondary forest succession: Changes in structural and functional characteristics. Forest Ecology and Management 148:185-206.
- Heckman, G. (1998) The Pantanal of Poconé: Biota and Ecology in the Northern Section of the World’s Largest Pristine Wetland. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
- Lira P. et al. (2012) Evaluating the legacy of landscape history: extinction debt and species credit in bird and small mammal assemblages in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Journal of Applied Ecology 49:1325-1333.
- Morellato L. and Haddad C. (2000) Introduction: The Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Biotropica 32:786-792.
- Ribeiro M. et al. (2011) The Brazilian Atlantic Forest: A Shrinking Biodiversity Hotspot. Chapter 21 in Zachos F and Habel J, eds. Biodiversity Hotspots. Springer Verlag.
- Wittman F. et al. (2010) Phytogeography, species diversity, community structure and dynamics of Central Amazonian floodplain forests. Chapter 4 in Junk W et al. Amazonian Floodplain Forests. Springer.
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.
Students on the Brazilian Ecosystems Fall Semester program engage in environmental field studies and coursework at the following program sites in Brazil:
- Amazon Rainforest – Manaus, Amazonas
- Atlantic Coastal Forest – Morretes, Southwestern Brazil
- Marine and Coastal Biomes – Marine Research Center, Federal University of Paraná
- Curitiba, Paraná – Portuguese Language Intensive and Homestays
- Pantanal Wetland – Mato Grosso
Amazon Rainforest – Adolpho Ducke Reserve, Manaus
Manaus is the capital of the state of Amazonas, a state with a population of perhaps 1.2 million inhabitants, and yet represents some 20% of Brazil’s national territory. Manaus grew up on the hilly left bank of the Rio Negro, which is carved by an endless chain of creeks called igarapes, where water enters or recedes depending on the time of year. We will stay at a research field station in the Ducke Reserve, which is owned and managed by the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA). This reserve protects 100km2 of old-growth Amazon Rainforest. INPA researchers direct the students’ work here. For example, they will demonstrate that this rainforest is not as environmentally homogeneous as commonly thought, and discuss the corresponding implication that factor into decisions regarding establishment of new areas of protection.
Atlantic Coastal Forest – Hummingbird Mountain Reserve, Morretes
At this site, we are based at the Montanha Beija-Flor Reserve within the Atlantic Coastal Rainforest, a highly endangered tropical rainforest ecosystem that formerly stretched along the Brazilian coast from the far northeast to the far south. The severe threat posed to biodiversity here is a result of a very high level of species endemism coupled with the fact that the original coverage of this forest has been reduced by an astounding ninety-five percent. A team of conservation biologists will guide our exploration of the fundamental patterns of biodiversity along the steep inclines of this rainforest-covered coastal mountain chain. We will also visit a case study of sustainable development for small rural communities, and discuss the political, economic and social considerations that factor into environmental protection.
Marine and Coastal Biomes – Marine Research Center (UFPR)
The Centro De Estudos Do Mar is a marine field station belonging to the Federal University of Paraná. It is located on the Atlantic coast, and gives access to the exploration of estuary, mangrove, and sandy beach environments. Research ecologists will also focus your attention on endangered dolphin and sea turtle species, and benthic marine fauna. Local environmental impacts will be discussed, along with new approaches to protecting marine life.
Curitiba– Portuguese Intensives and Homestays
Curitiba, the capital of the state of Paraná, is a medium-size city of 1.5 million inhabitants. It is home to three universities-Pontifical Catholic University, the University of Paraná, and Tuiuti University of Paraná-and is known for its environmentally progressive urban planning and resource management policies. Professional language instruction from local professors is coupled with short-term homestays with Brazilian families, providing a warm introduction to Brazilian culture and social traditions.
Pantanal Wetland Habitat – Mato Grosso
The Pantanal is a wetland that covers an area the size of South Dakota, spanning southwestern Brazil, and bordering Bolivia and Paraguay. This vast, nutrient-rich system supports an abundance of wildlife. The integrity of the ecosystem is threatened by a host of human activities, and the complex water cycles are destined to be disrupted by a planned shipping channel. Biologists from the University of Mato Grosso conduct class activities that underscore the wetland’s functional significance, and direct discussions on protection and management.
(Note: Each year, specific activities and locations may vary.)
“I LOVE this program. It perfectly reflects my own interests and I still felt that my knowledge about the subject matters grew exponentially on the program. I would recommend it to anyone with scientific curiosity.” –Zephyr, St. Olaf College
Suzanne Kolb, PhD – Program Director
Associate Professor of Environmental Science, Antioch University
PhD in Ecology, The University of Georgia’s Institute of Ecology; BS in Biology, State University of New York at Stony Brook
Dr. Suzanne Kolb has served as program director of Brazilian Ecosystems: The Protection and Management of Biodiversity since 1999. She has conducted field research on habitat restoration in Brazil and Costa Rica, which has been funded by the World Wildlife Fund, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Science Foundation. Her work in this area has been cited in graduate level textbooks published by both Cambridge University Press and John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Her research interests include: seed dispersal, patch dynamics, restoration ecology, and ecosystem management. Before coming to Antioch Education Abroad, Dr. Kolb taught ecology and environmental studies for four years as a full-time faculty member at universities in the U.S.
The program director conducts the orientation session, leads seminars, facilitates discussion, guides independent research projects, and evaluates students’ work.
Program faculty include biologists from the Universidade Federal do Paraná, Universidade do Mato Grosso, and the National Institute for Research in the Amazon, as well as directors of Brazilian conservation organizations and park systems.
Tatiana Gadda has a Ph.D. in Earth and Human Environmental Studies. She organizes program logistics for the Brazilian Ecosystems program.
Portuguese Language Coordinator
Gisele Soares is a Universidade Federal do Paraná professor, teaching Portuguese to foreigners. She organizes the language courses for the Brazilian Ecosystems program.