The small South American country of Ecuador is distinguished by diverse ecosystems sprawling across its landscape.
This has made it the perfect destination for a Study Abroad Field School focused on CNC’s Natural Resources and Forest Technology (NRFT) program.
The small country offers students a look into the natural worlds of the lowland mangrove forests, the elevated ecosystems of the Andes Mountains and cloud forests as well as the Amazon rainforest. The coastal climate also brings students to islands with an ecosystem similar to that of the Galapagos.
“Ecuador is very biodiverse,” said Andrea Erwin, NRFT instructor and lead of the Ecuador Field School. “To see all these distinct regions in such a small area and time frame is remarkable.”
Andrea has embarked on two Field School trips to Ecuador as both an observer in 2015 and lead in 2017.
Partnering with the Ecotec University, students begin their Study Abroad experience at its campus Guayaquil, Ecuador, with a number of talks from industry professionals. The remainder of the two week trip involves guided tours of some of Ecuador’s most notable ecosystems.
“The guide explains about the history, ecology and people of the region as we explore it,” she said. “Ecuador has a lot of challenges, such as poverty, population and even religious factors that play into conservation efforts.”
Experiencing the natural beauty of the Amazon left a lasting impression on Andrea.
“Seeing firsthand the impacts deforestation and oil and gas have on the ecosystems and the people of the region we visited, really hit home,” she said. “If you really think about it, we aren't that different here in Canada, particularly with the losses Indigenous peoples have suffered.”
In 2017, Andrea led four students through the Field School. For many, this was their first time travelling. As an instructor, Andrea enjoyed watching them explore and interact with the world around them.
Students keep a journal throughout and produce a report at the end, comparing ecosystem management in Ecuador to Canada
“We encourage students to connect this experience to what they’re learning in the program,” Andrea said.
Going abroad is also an enriching experience for her as an instructor, especially in relation to the natural focus of the Ecuador Field School.
“This trip really gives you a new perspective on the world around you,” she said. “The more ecosystems you experience you the better you understand ecology as a whole.”