Environmental Challenges

Course Description

Course Code: ENVR 400/500
Course Name: Environmental Challenges and Approaches in Developing Countries
Term: Summer 2014
Course Instructor: Justin B. Ford, ALM & Andrew Tirrell, JD, MALD
Instructor email: jford@wildlife-institute.com

Pristine WildernessReading Materials: No textbook is required for this course. Readings are circulated by the instructor or posted on the course website.

Course Description: Environmental Challenges and Approaches in Developing Countries is an intensive course which includes a three week field component in Belize. Students are introduced to key international development and conservation issues through lectures, expert guest speakers, and site visits. Topics span social and economic sustainability, environmental management and ecological management issues. This course takes students from Las Cuevas, a remote mountain research to the Belize Barrier Reef. Students are introduced to and participate in both terrestrial and marine ecological monitoring. Students also visit several relevant field sites including the trans-border community of Arenal, the Community Baboon Sanctuary, Zoo, Green Iguana Project, and several Eco-tourism destinations.

Students are also introduced to sustainability management frameworks, and to develop and utilize a sustainability framework during their independent research project. The independent research project requires students to select a relevant topic or issue in sustainable international development. Students engage with organizations or entities working closely on their selected issue. Students analyze the organization’s mitigation approach or goals, and utilize a sustainability framework to improve the organizations efficiency and outcome.  Note this course may be taken with or without assessment.

Learning Objectives
Environmental Challenges and Approaches in Developing Countries introduces and reinforces a diverse range of topics. Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the following topics.

  • Environmental challenges and approaches in developing countries
  • Issues and approaches to sustainable international development
  • Issues and approaches to protected areas management and wildlife conservation
  • Utilizing sustainability frameworks and other management approaches to improve performance
  • The role of community-based conservation
  • The convergence of human rights & natural resources
  • natural resource conflict
  • Indigenous claim to and management of natural resources
  • Tropical forests and their conservation importance
  • Sustainable landscape management approaches
  • Watershed management approach
  • Marine conservation & management
  • The role of ecological research and monitoring
  • Natural resource economics
  • International tourism development
  • Research and applications of sustainability frameworks to improve performance outcomes

Student participation/attendance    20%
Field Journal (s)                            20%
Research Paper 1                          20%
Development Project Proposal        10%
Development Project Report           20%
Development Project Presentation   10%

IMG_2697Student participation and attendance
Students are strongly encouraged to engage in all pre-departure communications, both formal and informal, and at least one meeting in Cambridge. During the trip to Belize, students are expected to maintain professionalism inside and outside of the classroom/field.

The field journal highlights activities and learning experiences while in Belize. Students are expected to submit two entries per week on Mondays and Thursdays. Entries will be posted on the course FB page, or blog (tbd). Students will use prose and photo documentation to summarize and reflect upon their activities and insights. Entries should be approximately 150-200 words and published with pictures.

Paper one is an opportunity for students to explore key sustainable development and conservation issues in the region, and narrow their final project topic. Students are limited to five pages in which they identify and discuss several issues of particular interest to them. Examples include:

Social & Economic Sustainability
-Human rights and indigenous issues
-Topics in human development (gender, education, penal system, etc.)
-Trade imbalance and import substitution
-Economic leakage
-Poverty and social inequality

Environmental Management
-Energy production, health and the environment
-Dams and aquatic ecological integrity
-Transportation & infrastructure
-Waste Management
-Air quality management (agricultural burning, vehicles)
-Water quality management (aquatic & marine)
-Carbon Sequestration and payment schemes
-Tourism development (marine and terrestrial)
-Agricultural land conversion and habitat loss (corporate farms, agricultural expansion into forested areas, community agricultural projects in protected areas)
-Pesticide management

Ecological Management
-Biodiversity Loss
-Forest Fragmentation
-Genetic diversity among wild populations
-Human-wildlife conflict
-Protected areas management
-Community based conservation projects
-Marine degradation (perhaps due to over-use by tourism, degraded aquatic water quality, sedimentation, etc.)

Howler_coverSustainable Development Project: The aim(s) of this project is for students to conduct independent research to better understand specific challenges of Sustainability or Environmental Management in Belize and the region. Prior to departure, students propose a specific sustainable development or conservation topic; ideally explored by the paper 1 assignment. Once the topic is discussed with the professor(s), students may proceed with independent literary research. Then students identify an organization, entity or individual working directly within the proposed topic field. Students engage with their selected organization or entities prior to departure, and spend time on-site while in Belize. Students analyze the organization’s approaches and strategies toward meeting its objective(s). Student then analyze the efficacy of these approaches and strategies to find opportunities for improvement. Students propose plausible and relevant solutions to improving the organization’s approach and outcome. This may be done utilizing a sustainability framework, ISO standards, or other relevant best practice standard resource(s). Ideally students will continue engaging with the organization after course completion to suggest means of implementation.

The proposal is submitted prior to departure to Belize. The proposal should include an introduction to the topic; a description of the organization or entity working on specific sustainable development or conservation issue, a detailed description of their approaches and challenges; and a reference page with at least 10 academic quality resources.
The written report of approximately 12 pages excluding references and cover will be submitted approximately two weeks after returning from Belize. Report guidelines will be circulated.

The presentation is delivered in class summarizing topic, research, findings, and proposed sustainability solutions.

Services and fees included in the cost of your program:

  • Airport transfers (pick-up/drop off
  • All ground transportation Round trip water taxi transfer
  • Accommodations (private with wifi, hot water, kitchenette.)
  • Some meals
  • All activities, entrance fees, tour guides fees
  • Snorkeling trip(s)
  • Fees to support partner conservation projects

Mid-range accommodations include multiple occupancy, private bath, free wifi and breakfast (amenities may vary on Ambergris caye depending on service provider).

Filming and photography
Interns and students are routinely filmed and photographed during Wildlife Institute courses. If you are not willing to be on film or in photographs, you are responsible for informing the film maker and photographer on site at that time.

To apply
Please contact us to request an application package and for more information about the Environmental Challenges in Developing Countries Course:
Justin Ford jford@wildlife-institute.com
Spaces are limited. Secure your seat today.

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