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EcoAdventure students and faculty in Ecuador

SOU students enjoying EcoAdventure in Ecuador

Students and faculty from SOU’s Environmental Science and Policy program are currently in Ecuador, wrapping up the field course “EcoAdventure: Andes to Amazon,” which focuses on tourism’s impact on the culture, environment and biodiversity of that South American country and the region surrounding it.

EcoAdventure student with butterflyThe trip is led by Vincent Smith, director of the university’s Division of Business, Communication and the Environment. Past versions of the annual EcoAdventure excursion have taken students to northern California’s Lassen and Yosemite national parks, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Costa Rica and, last year, to the Bear Creek Greenway to help with restoration efforts from the 2020 Almeda Fire.

Each year’s EcoAdventure courses are intended to connect students with real-world environmental issues and create an atmosphere of investigation and problem-solving. The focus this year is on sustainable development and balancing the benefits of tourism with the cultural values of the Amazon region.

“A large part of our goal is to change the script on how tourism takes place in places like the Amazon,” Smith said. “Rather than passing through a place, our goal is to be in the place with the people there.”

For example, students in this year’s course joined a group in an indigenous Kichwa village, combatting patriarchy and promoting women’s rights. The group has also enjoyed more tourist-related pursuits, including up-close experiences with monkeys, parrots and a boa constrictor.

EcoAdventure with boaParticipants in the SOU course toured the Mindo Wildlife Canopy and Ecuador’s capital Quito, visited the Butterfly and Hummingbird Gardens, rafted in the Napo River, took a Pacmanca cooking class and visited the Papallacta Hot Springs.

The total cost of the course was about $4,000, including six credits of tuition and a trip fee that included airfare, lodging, food and ground transportation. The EcoAdventure courses are open to all SOU students, regardless of their major – and this year’s students come from SOU’s communication, psychology and art programs, along with Environmental Science and Policy.


EcoAdventure with monkey dog EcoAdventure with Ecuadorian music EcoAdventure Ecuador cohort

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, will be one of the stops during an SOU field course

Ecuador adventure awaits SOU’s students in new summer class

SOU’s Environmental Science and Policy program will mix academics with vacation-type fun in a field course next summer, focusing on tourism’s impact on the culture, environment, and biodiversity of Ecuador.

The course, Ecoadventure: Andes to Amazon (ES 408/508), is worth six credits and will take place some time over the summer. It’ll be taught on SOU’s campus, online and in the Republic of Ecuador, as the course includes a 12-day trip to the South American country. Vincent Smith, an associate professor and chair of Environmental Science and Policy, is expected to teach the course.

The course will focus on the impacts of tourism and development on the culture and environment of Ecuador,” Smith said. “Students will further explore tropical ecology and biodiversity in two distinct regions of Ecuador.”

During the course, students will take tours of the Mindo Wildlife Canopy and Ecuador’s capital Quito, raft in the Napo River, visit the Butterfly and Hummingbird Gardens and the Papallacta Hot Springs, take a Pacmanca Cooking Class, and much more.

The total cost is expected to be about $4,000, including six credits of tuition and a trip fee that will include airfare, lodging, food and ground transportation. The course is open to all students, regardless of their major.

Those who are interested in learning more about the field course are asked to fill out an online form to receive emails regarding trip updates, registration deadlines, exact costs and other details. While the exact dates for the course will be set during Winter Term, the trip to Ecuador is expected to leave the Medford airport on about July 13.

Smith has taught a number of classes at SOU, including last summer’s Ecoadventure: Mayan Riviera course, which focused on marine biology, sustainable development and tourism. His research explores the coupled human-environment systems that shape the world. Smith’s work spans from human ecology to agroecology.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer