Maymester Brazil 2023


EES/BSCI 3865: Field Investigations
(AXLE: MNS; Immersion: Experiential Learning Class)

Spend 4 weeks in Brazil, the most biodiverse country the world, and learn hands-on about Brazilian biodiversity and ecosystems, with Vanderbilt Prof. Malu Jorge, a Brazilian field ecologist, with more than 3 decades of experience on Brazilian biodiversity!

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Click here to start your application at GEO (deadline January 31)

Contact us:
Prof. Malu Jorge
Michaela Peterson (TA)

Price: US$ 13,723
(includes tuition and all course related expenses for all 4 weeks)

Apply for Financial Aid at GEO


We are currently amidst a global biodiversity and climate crisis, while demands for natural resources and lands continue to grow. Brazil is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations, and its natural ecosystems provide important ecosystem services, including carbon storage, on a global scale. It is also a country of large social inequalities, and with an economy still based on the exploitation of natural resources and lands. How are Brazilian governments, NGOs and local stakeholders working to reconcile the protection of Brazil’s biodiversity and ecosystem services with economic development and social justice? In this course, students will take advantage of Prof. Jorge’s 20-year expertise on Brazilian biodiversity and environmental issues, and explore those questions while visiting Brazil’s capital, Brasília, and three major Brazilian biomes: the Cerrado, the Atlantic Forest and the Pantanal. Students will visit Environmental Agencies, NGOs, National Parks, ecotourism facilities, and agricultural settlements, to talk to people and learn about Brazil’s biodiversity, ecosystem services, threats, challenges and actions proposed and implemented to reconcile environmental preservation, social justice and economic development.

In this course, students will learn about biodiversity and ecosystems services in one of the most biodiverse countries of the world: Brazil. Students will travel through three of the major Brazilian biomes – Cerrado, Pantanal and Atlantic Forest – where they will visit forests, savannas and wetlands, and learn about biodiversity of species and habitats, and ecosystem processes, functions and services. Students will also learn directly from government officials (local and federal), NGOs, and local stakeholders, and ecological researchers about their decisions and actions to preserve Brazil’s biodiversity and ecosystem services, sustain local livelihoods, and maintain economic viability.

The course will start in Brasília, Brazil’s federal capital, on Tuesday, May 09, 2023, and finish in Campo Grande, the capital of the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, on Friday, June 02.

In the first half of the course (May 09 to May 20), students will in Brasília and Chapada dos Veadeiros (Goiás State).

1. Brasília
Brasília is the capital of Brazil, where the Brazilian Environmental Agency is located and where country-level decisions are made. There, students will:

a. Receive an introduction to Brazilian Biodiversity, Ecosystems, Threats and Challenges

b. Visit Brasília National Park and learn about the Cerrado Ecosystem

c. Visit Brasília National Forest and participate on a Restoration project

d. Visit Ipanema Agroecologia (@ipanemaagroecologia), a private sustainable property, and learn about their activities on Agroforestry

2. Chapada dos Veadeiros (2 hours north of Brasília by road)
Chapada dos Veadeiros is at the heart of the Cerrado biome and holds well-preserved areas with high endemic biodiversity and many freshwater waterfalls. Its main economic activities are centered in ecotourism and subsistence agriculture. There students will:

a. Visit Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, where they will learn about the region’s biodiversity, some of the work that has been done, and challenges that they face to preserve it

b. Participate in a Restoration project (Restaura) where they will help collect seeds, learn how the seeds are processed and stored for use in restoration, and visit a restoration site

c. Participate in a Biodiversity Monitoring program where they will help quantify plants in the Park

In the second half of the course (May 21 to June 02), students will fly to Campo Grande (Mato Grosso do Sul State) and visit the region of Bonito-Bodoquena, Southern Pantanal, and drive back to Campo Grande, where the course will end.

3. Bonito-Bodoquena (3 hours east of Campo Grande by road)
The region of Bonito-Bodoquena is at the transition between the Atlantic forest and the Cerrado biomes, and its biodiversity and ecosystems are unique because of that. The region also lays over large amounts of limestone, and because of that, it has some of the world’s clearest freshwater rivers, filled with local plants and animals, and is an ecotourism hotspot. Other economic activities include large-scale limestone mining, soybean mechanized agriculture, and subsistence agriculture. Furthermore, the region is also where Prof. Malu Jorge has conducted her ecological research for the past decade. There students will:

a. Visit Serra da Bodoquena National Park, where they will learn about the region’s biodiversity, some of the work that has been done, and challenges that they face to preserve it

b. Visit RPPN Rio Sucuri, a preserved private land and also an ecotourism area, where students will learn about their economic and environmental activities and challenges, and participate in one of their main eco-touristic activity, freshwater snorkeling, to appreciate the local biodiversity and have a hands-on experience of their environmentally-friendly activities

c. Visit a smallholders’ agricultural settlement and learn about their economic and environmental activities and challenges

d. Get hands-on field experience relating to Dr. Jorge’s ecological research and learn how it addresses the challenges to biodiversity preservation in agricultural lands

4. Pantanal Sul (2 hours from Bonito-Bodoquena and 3 hours from Campo Grande by road)
The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland and holds an incredible diversity and abundance of wildlife. Its economy is based on cattle ranching and wildlife-centered ecotourism. It is also where Dr. Jorge and PhD student, Michaela Peterson (TA) conduct their ecological research. There the students will:

a. Stay at an eco-lodge (Pousada Aguapé) where they will have hands-on experience about the lodge’s environmental and economic activities and challenges

b. Gain hands-on field experience observing and assisting with Dr. Jorge’s ecological research and learn about other ecological studies conducted at the Eco-lodge, such as Projeto Tamandua, which rehabilitates orphan giant anteaters for release back into the wild

Price: $13,723

What is included
4 weeks abroad
All accommodation from May 09 to June 02
All ground transportation
Air transportation between Brasília (DF) and Campo Grande (MS)
Most program meals (do not include meals during rest days and road stops, when students purchase their own meals)
All activity fees and local guides
Emergency health and safety assistance

What is NOT included
Air ticket US-Brazil-US
Passport fees
Meals, activity fees and transportation in rest days

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