Biocultural Diversity Conservation in Peru

Winter 2017 and Spring 2017 quarters

Taught by

Photo of Steven Scheuerell
ecology, botany, plant pathology
  • UG


One year of AP or college-level Spanish language study is a recommended prerequisite to optimize learning from site visits and community life in Peru. At least one quarter of Spanish language study is required for participation. Extensive hiking over uneven terrain and some camping are an integral part of the program. If you are a student with a disability and would like to request accommodations, please contact faculty or Access Services at L2153 or call (360)867-6348; TTY (360)867-6834) prior to the start of the program.

Peru offers a dynamic setting for students seeking a field-based program to study the opportunities and tensions in preserving biological and cultural diversity in the 21 st century. Peru is recognized for its geographic and climatic extremes, biodiversity, cultural diversity, and knowledge systems that have been shaped over thousands of years by coastal deserts, temperate valleys, glaciated mountains, subtropical cloud forests, and Amazonia. Appreciating this diversity firsthand and experiencing the theory and practice of biocultural diversity conservation is the focus of this two-quarter program.

Winter quarter will begin on the Olympia campus by studying Peruvian geography, climate, cultures, and conquests that have driven the use of biodiversity and modification of local environments. While learning how to access and review scientific literature, we will examine trends and links between Peru’s changing land cover, biodiversity, climate, cultures and languages, traditional agricultural diversity, natural resource extraction, tourism industry, glaciers, and water supplies. Ecological and ethnographic field research methods and case studies will also be introduced. Halfway through winter quarter students will travel to Peru where we will visit cultural landscapes such as Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon, Machu Picchu, and highland communities to learn how traditional knowledge is being combined with conservation science in initiatives to preserve biocultural diversity via national parks, community conservation areas, agricultural gene banks, ecotourism, and cultural tourism projects.

Studies in Peru will continue through spring break and spring quarter, with the majority of time in the Cusco region, from the highland Quechua communities’ International Potato Park to the subtropical Machu Picchu biocultural reserve. Students will experience remnant wildlands, Incan sites that modified topography and hydrology to increase productivity of diverse domesticated species, and Quechua communities that maintain immense agricultural diversity, medicinal plants and healing practices, and dye plants, sheep and alpaca for weaving. Field research practice will be gained through activities with traditional knowledge holders and field surveys of important species and habitats. Cultural understanding and Spanish or Quechua language learning will be supported with four weeks of language study, homestays, and faculty-led outings to biocultural diversity projects in local communities. During the last five weeks faculty will assist students to complete and present independent research projects integrating scientific literature and experience with a Peruvian project focused on conservation of wild and/or domesticated biodiversity and its associated cultural knowledge. The program in Peru will conclude with students free to return home, continue studying, or travel.

Program Details

Fields of Study

agriculture cultural studies environmental studies language studies sustainability studies

Preparatory For

environmental studies, conservation science, agriculture, ethnobotany, cultural studies, and tourism.



Winter Signature Spring Closed

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Off-Campus Location


Study Abroad

Total expenses beyond tuition for 16 weeks of study abroad in Peru (midwinter through spring) are approximately $6,200.  This estimate includes all travel, in-country expenses, $300 for passport/health preparation, and $500 for personal expenses.  $2500 will be paid as a student fee with winter quarter tuition to cover a portion of the overall expenses such as regional travel, community stays, language school, and lodging arranged by faculty. For additional details on study abroad, visit or contact Michael Clifthorne at .

Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First class meeting: Tuesday, January 10th at 9am (Sem II A3107)

Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online


2016-11-16Study abroad fee updated ($6200).