Final Week

This past month I studied in the Amazon. I traveled to Limoncocha in order to study fish. It was an experience that really scared me at first, but I grew so much during this time. From Quito to Coca, it takes about 6 hours by bus. Then, you have to travel on a different bus or by canoe in order to get to Limoncocha. Limoncocha is such an incredible and beautiful place. I cannot describe the amazing sunset, so I am going to include a photo. I studied at the Limoncocha Biological Reserve, and within this reserve is Limoncocha Lagoon. This lagoon is about 3km long (big!). It has a lot of different animals and birds. This reserve also functions as a place that reintroduces animals into the wild. Because of this, I saw some animals at the reserve, like a sloth, monkeys, birds, and a boa. I love all these animals, but I focused most of my time on fish. I researched the diets of 3 specific species of fish. These species were the White Piranha, the Red Piranha, and the Bocachico. A Bocachico is really similar to a catfish. Every morning, I woke up at 5 in the morning to measure and weigh fish from fishermen that were exiting the lagoon. I got to know a lot of the fishermen, and I began to play soccer with them through the weeks. Obviously I lost every game, but it was really fun. After weighing and measuring fish every morning, I dissected some of them to see their reproduction status and diets. Because I didn’t want to waste fish after I dissected them, in one month of my life, I think that I ate more fish than I have through the rest of my life. At the end of the study, I wrote a 20 page single-spaced paper on my findings. This was a really big struggle for me because I had to analize data, research other sources of data, and write all of it in one week. The experiences that I gained from this place were all so important to me. All the employees of the reserve were so nice and helpful. In Ecuador, they don’t celebrate thanksgiving, but the workers at the reserve and I bought french fries and chicken to celebrate while I was away from my family. I cannot thank these people enough. There was only one annoying thing about the stay, and that was the humidity. Sometimes it rained really hard. When my clothes became wet and it wasn’t sunny afterwards, mold began to grow on them! I am really excited for the future, and I am super thankful to the reserve employees. I am thankful to my girlfriend and all my friends back home for showing that they care while I have been away and checking in. I am also really thankful to my family, without whom this opportunity would not have been possible.


Week 9

This week, we went to a small community northwest of Quito named Yunguilla. Yunguilla is a community that serves as a model of ecotourism in Ecuador. After arriving at the community, we learned about its history…

Originally, Yunguilla was a community where people cut trees in order to burn this. With the burned trees, they made coal to sell in the city of Quito. At this time in Quito, there was no gas to warm houses or cook food. Also, at this time people in the community made alcohol illegally to sell in the city as well. This went on for many years, but after the introduction of gas and road (which made alcohol transport from other places easier), the community had to find other options for making money. A conservation group approached the community at this time and suggested that the allow reforestation. This would help to bring tourists and money into the community. At first, many people didn’t want to work with foreigners, but 18 families decided to try it. These families had to learn about what the tourists liked and didn’t like. There were workshops on tourism, and each of these families began to earn money. After seeing that other families were earning money, the ecotourism business in Yunguilla took off with other families.

The first day in Yunguilla, we toured the property of the community. We learned so much about the organic garden there and varios native plants to the region. After orientation, we played on two huge rope swings. They both were located at the top of steep drop offs,  and we could see the whole valley from them. It was a really incredible view, and we laughed a lot while playing on the swings. After this, we met our new host families and played soccer against the community. Obviously, we lost by a lot, but it was really fun and everyone had a great time.

The second day we worked in the community. Two other students and I learned to make cheese. We really weren’t able to do it that great, but we were super impressed with how talented the people that worked there were. Afterwards, we planted grass on a community trail to prevent erosion. At night, we played soccer again and won! But…we won agains mostly children from the community. Still, it was really fun and the kids were super curious about the world outside of the community.

The third day, another student from the program and I helped our host dad build a fence on his property. We used branches from a tree called “The Dairy Tree” to make it. This tree has branches that can grow after being cut. So, the sticks that we put in the ground for the fence will grow after the fence is finished, and the branches from these poles can be used to make more fences. It’s a fence that makes other fences! It was a really hard job and we hurt our hands a lot. At night, there was a goodbye celebration for us and we danced a lot with the community.

On the fourth day, we milked a cow! I couldn’t do it very well but I did it! Then, we returned to Quito to prepare for our last week in the city.

Week 8: Las Galápagos

If you would like to see more photos, please visit www.

I could not upload videos due to file size, but I hope to photos from some videos show just how beautiful this place was.

Unfortunately, I have not written anything for the past couple of weeks because I have had a lot of homework in Quito. However, this week was one of the most incredible weeks of my life. I can’t describe the feeling of calm that this week has brought for me. This week we went to the Galápagos. This is the account of what happened.

The first day, we arrived on the islands in the early afternoon. A group of 12 students left to live on a boat for 4 days. Eleven other students and I went to live in a hotel for 4 days in the island of Santa Cruz. After arriving at the hotel, we went to a site called “the cracks” to do some snorkeling. We saw 2 types of fish , king angelfish parrotfish, that we’re super beautiful. Afterwords, we went to swim at a a different place on Santa Cruz and we saw pufferfish and an eel ray. At night, we got to watch  Galápagos sea lions and sharks from the dock of puerto ayora. The second day, we climbed to the highest point of Santa Cruz and we walked through a forest of miconis. It was really fun and we talked with Charlie (our guide) a lot. After this, we visited “the twins”. These are craters on Santa Cruz formed from collapsed volcanic chambers. They were incredible…super big and beautiful. I have never seen rock formations so beautiful except for Chimborazo. Later, we visited the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about species of tortoise both alive and extinct in the wild. At night, we ate in a small street of local vendors in Puerto Ayora. The third day, we went to Floreana. We learned about the medium tree finch, tortoises, and angel trumpet flowers. We also learned about the history of Floreana, we saw labyrinths of pirates, and we explored a cave. In the cave, Charlie told us about the history of his family and how his grandfather was the first person born in Floreana. After all this, we snorkeled in the ocean. We played with sea lions and saw 2 sea turtles. It was incredible. I have never felt so close to nature before in my life. The fourth day, we visited “cerro punto” on Santa Cruz and we saw “el colapso”. El colapso is a cráter similar to the gímelos, but this time we got to hike down into the crater and stand in it. Here, we learned about plants and different animal species in the crater. After this, we ate lunch on a beach named “Playa Garrapetero”. The water was too cloudy to snorkel, so we all just built sandcastles instead. It was hilarious and really fun. Charlie left our group after this, and we were all bummed about that. The fifth day, we visited Rancho Chato 2 in he morning  and we learned about tortoises and the geology of lava tubes. In the afternoon, we switched places with the other group to live on he boat while they lived in the hotel. On the 6th day, we went to a small island called Plaza Sur to learn about terrestrial iguanas and the behavior of sea lions. We learned about several species of finches, birds and cactuses as well. After this, we went snorkeling off the coast of Santa fe. Here, we saw many large schools of beautiful fish. We landed on the beach after snorkeling to learn about different plant and bird species of the island, like the Galápagos Hawk. We actually got to see a hawk fight with a sea lion! The seventh day, we arrived at an island called Bartolomé. We hiked to the highest point of the island and saw a view Ruth volcanoes, plants, craters, the beach, and very blue water. It was spectacular. Afterwords we snorkeled off of the island and swam with white-tipped reed sharks, a sea turtle, several rays, and a sea lion. I cannot begin to describe how blown away I was. All of these animals were just in one place. I was super lucky to see this. We also saw a Galápagos penguin on the rocks while swimming. When we were done, we traveled to an islands names Sombrero Chino. We snorkeled again at this new island, and we saw two types of sharks! The Galapagos Shark and the White-Tipped Reef Shark. We saw the Galapagos Garden Eel, two penguins, some rays, and an ocean cave. After snorkeling, we walked in the island, learned about the geology of sand in the archipelago, and we watched the sunset. It was a really nice finale to our last boat night. Finally, on the last day we visited an island called Seymour Norte briefly and saw Galápagos Fur Seals. Then, we returned to Isla Balta and waited on the beach for our airplane to arrive.