Climate Change and Caterpillars in Ecuador

Explore the fascinating world of caterpillars to see how they protect themselves and respond to changes in their habitats.

You'll work with Principal Investigator Dr. Lee Dyer and a team of researchers to find and collect caterpillars and their host plants. In the open-air laboratory, you'll help raise caterpillars at all stages of their life cycles and record their relationships with plants and parasites. When you're not unrolling leaves in search of telltale caterpillar signs or labeling specimens in the lab, you can enjoy striking views of the cloud-covered Andes, scan the trees in the neighboring Antisana Reserve for some of Ecuador's over 1,550 bird species, or chat with other researchers staying at the station.

Meals and Accommodations
The Yanayacu Biological Station serves as a base for researchers studying the many plants, birds, spiders, caterpillars and other unique species of the cloud forest. Ecuadorian staff members will prepare typical Latin American fare for you at the station, where you will share a basic room with one to five other team members. The station offers hot water showers, flush toilets, hydroelectric power and a back-up generator, and a computer room with limited internet access.

About the Research Area
Biological diversity is very high in Ecuador. In fact, due to the variety of its ecosystems and species, it is one of the few countries on Earth labeled “megadiverse,” with 320 known species of mammals, 350 species of reptiles, over 375 species of amphibians, more than 1,550 species of birds, and between 22,000 and 25,000 species of plants. Insect diversity is also extremely high but not well studied; butterfly inventories in specific regions of Ecuador have revealed remarkable species diversity.

Yanayacu Biological Station is on the eastern slope of the Andes at about 2,200 meters above sea level, in the Napo Province near the town of Cosanga. Large tracts of good forest here (each 1,000 hectares) and a lot of secondary growth along roadsides make perfect conditions for collecting caterpillars, especially because huge Yanayacu does not have extreme inclines. Behind the private reserve is the Antisana Reserve, an immense wildlife refuge that goes all the way over the Paramo.

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What to Expect?

Perched on the eastern slope of the Andes above the Amazon basin, the cloud forest of Ecuador hosts thousands of different caterpillar species, and an equally impressive diversity of plants. Caterpillars in Ecuador and elsewhere have a variety of strategies designed to break through plant defenses and protect against parasites and predators. Whether they grow stinging "hairs," develop immunity to specific plant toxins, or frantically wiggle their way to freedom, caterpillars must figure out how to keep the food coming without becoming food. At Yanayacu, you can help Dr. Lee Dyer study how the survival strategies of caterpillars, plants, and parasites are affected by a changing climate. Data from this site will be compared with data from sites in Costa Rica, Arizona, and New Orleans, painting an ecological picture that spans the hemisphere.

  • Program ID: # 2321
  • duration:
    1 to 2 Weeks
  • location:
    Quito, Ecuador Quito
    Ecuador
    0° 22' 59.9988" S, 77° 32' 60" W
    EC
  • Fitness level:
    Moderately Fit
  • Closest Airport:
    Mariscal Sucre International Airport
  • Costs From:
    $1500 to $3000
  • Program Type:
    Community Development Projects
    Environmental & Wildlife Programs
    Learn Abroad
  • Click Here for More Info

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