Saturday, August 6, 2016

Tropical Ecology Class for Teachers – Educator Academy Part 1

Flight to Iquitos over Amazon forest & rivers.
I teach tropical ecology classes at UCCC in Haiti, and was fortunate to take a tropical ecology class of my own this summer!  In the Amazon!  I wanted to see in person what it is that I teach my class: the physical structure of the rain forest, the shallow organic layer covering the forest floor, the diversity of birds and other wildlife.  However, to reach Haiti’s remnant tropical forests such as those at Peak Macaya requires a day and a half drive, a day’s walk, camping equipment, hiring a guide, etc.  It all seems complicated.  And financially impossible to take my students.  Then I learned about the Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest that takes teachers from the US to Peru to not only teach basic tropical ecology, but just as importantly, how to convey that information to students.  And I received a partial scholarship to attend the academy!  

Charcoal in Iquitos (like in Haiti)
The following posts highlight the activities we did at each of the ExploramaLodges that we stayed in during this 10 day excursion.  The lodges are located along the Amazon River and its Napo tributary, accessible only by boat from Iquitos, Peru’s port city on the Amazon (and the largest city in the world accessible only by boat or plane).  Who knew that the Amazon River had ports as large as ocean-side ports?  And that ships travel all the way upstream 2200 miles from the Atlantic Ocean? 

The trip consisted of flying to Lima Peru, meeting up with 30 other teachers and the academy faculty, staying overnight in a hotel connected to the airport, flying to Iquitos on a rather large plane, and landing in a decent-sized regional airport (I was expecting dinky plane and airport like in Haiti).  We loaded onto a bus and stopped at a market on the way to the boat dock.  I couldn’t help comparing everything I saw to Haiti, which made me realize I expected Peru to be less developed, and perhaps indicates how undeveloped (or just chaotic) Haiti really is (the crowds, litter, downed electric lines, open manholes, horrible traffic, etc. has all become normal to me). 

Cat at the Iquitos market
At the dock we boarded two boats for a 2 ½ hour ride ON THE AMAZON RIVER!  To our first lodge – located IN THE AMAZON FOREST!  More to come in the next post.

Tapir and caiman skulls?  

Logging ship on the Amazon River.
Large ships at port on the Amazon River.

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