Ecuador Field School: Sustainable Livelihoods and Global Environmental Change

Students in Ecuador posing for group shot with GSO Icons - this field school is eligible for GSO funding

The Ecuador Field School explored the prospects for sustainability and development in Ecuador, one of the world's most biodiverse countries on the planet. Ecuador was the first country in the world to incorporate "rights of nature" into its constitution, and it has received considerable international attention for its commitment to good living or "buen vivir." At the same time, it remains highly dependent upon oil, gas and mineral exports. The course explored the challenges and prospects for diversifying and developing alternative livelihoods that are able to break the cycle of resource dependence in the extractive sector. By visiting local and Indigenous communities in the highlands and the Ecuadorian cloud forest, students gained firsthand experiences and insights about the ways in which alternative models of sustainable development may be adopted in practice. 


The Field School commenced with a 3-day pre-departure seminar series that examines the politics, history and cultural meaning of sustainability, Indigenous identity and experiential learning in the Andean context. This was followed by an 18-day field visit, in which students lived and engaged in local case studies in Quito (the national capital), Intag, Amazonia and Chimborazo, the latter of which are areas that are experiencing profound environmental and socio-economic transformation resulting from processes of urbanization, agricultural intensification, mining, deforestation, and climate change. Through lectures, seminars, readings and participatory field visits, the course provided an opportunity to engage in critical discussions about the nature of sustainability and development in one of the world’s most ecologically-fragile regions. By focusing particularly on highland ecosystems and local/Indigenous perspectives (sumak kawsay), it offered critical insights into the challenge of understanding and sustaining livelihoods in this rapidly changing socio-ecological context.  

Field School Details

  • Instructor: Dr. Craig Johnson, Political Science
  • Offered in Summer 2019 and 2022
  • Students received 1.0 credits at the third-year level. 


Students on the Ecuador Field School