Ecuador Field School: Sustainable Livelihoods and Global Environmental Change

The Ecuador Field School explores 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. This course explores 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 will gain firsthand experiences and insights about the ways in which alternative models of sustainable development may be adopted in practice. 


This international field school is open to students from all disciplines at the University of Guelph, but may be of particular interest to undergraduate and graduate students in International Development Studies, Environmental Governance, Environmental Sciences, Food and Resource Economics, Rural Studies, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, Geography and other programs with a focus on resources, livelihoods, sustainability and the environment.

Field School Details

Instructor: Dr. Craig Johnson, Political Science

Offered: Summer 2021

Prerequisite: 7.5 credits or permission of the instructor, 70% cumulative average,

If you have any questions about the program, please contact Dr. Johnson.

Program Dates

3 weeks in May 2021


Students will be registered in 1.0 credits at the third-year level. 

The school will commence with a pre-departure seminar series that examines the politics, history and cultural meaning of sustainability, Indigenous identity and experiential learning in the Andean context.  This will be followed by an 18-day field visit, in which students will live and engage in local case studies in Quito (the national capital), Chimborazo (a highland area), and Amazonia (one of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet).  Through lectures, seminars, readings, and participatory field visits, the course will provide 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 will offer critical insights into the challenge of understanding and sustaining livelihoods in this rapidly changing socio-ecological context. 


Students should budget for the following:

  • Round-trip airfare to Ecuador
  • Tuition and fees at the University of Guelph for 1.0 credits
  • The Ecuador Field School fee: approximately $4200 which covers the following in Ecuador - accommodations, some meals, all transportation in-country, admission fees for venues. This amount is subject to change based on the fluctuating exchange rate.
  • Mandatory travel health and emergency insurance through the company Guard Me ($1.65 / day)
  • Personal expenses (food, additional personal travel, etc) 


Students applying for the program must have completed a total of 7.5 undergraduate credits by the time the program begins in May 2020 (or permission from the instructor) and must have a 70% cumulative average. (Students with a 67 - 69% cumulative average may be considered if there are extenuating circumstances that affected their marks which are described on their application.)

The program is open to students from all disciplines at the University of Guelph, with a maximum of 20 students being accepted to the program. 

Apply to the Ecuador Field School

Students interested in applying to the Ecuador Field School must apply using the online application. To receive access to the online application you must first attend a Study Abroad Information Session through the Centre for International Programs. You will then receive access to the online application by early December.

Application deadline: January 29th, 2021