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Fact Sheet:
Cristina Cox Fernandes,
Who Can Apply?:
Fields of Study:
Biology, Ecology, Environmental Sciences
Language(s) of Instruction:
Program Type:
Experiential Learning, Faculty-Led, UMass Faculty-led
Minimum Class Standing:
Application Includes:
personal interview
Minimum GPA:
Program Description:

Information about the 2017 program coming soon!

Amazon Aquatic Biology (BIOL 596Z, 4 credits)
Dr. Cristina Cox Fernandes
May 14-May 25, 2016 (Exact dates TBD)

Watch a video about the program, or come to the Winter Information Session on Thursday, January 28 at 6:30pm in 215 Morrill III!

Program Overview
Amazon Aquatic Biology (BIOL 596Z, 4 credits) will provide an on-site introduction to the world’s epicenter for aquatic and terrestrial diversity – the Amazon Basin of South America. We will examine the Amazon’s fauna, flora and people within the vicinity of the Amazon’s largest city, Manaus, Brazil. We'll stay and travel on a riverboat, exploring the seasonal floodplains, channels and lakes of Careiro Island in the Amazon River, and compare these "white waters" with the flooded igapó forest of the Negro river, and the terra firme forest, minor watercourses, and lakes of Novo Airão.

Manaus, Brazil

In this course, students have a practical opportunity to apply concepts and skills from other courses in ecology and evolution in the Biology department.
Download Bio 596Z Syllabus.

Prior to travel, the course will meet approximately 6 times beginning after spring break, at 6PM on a day agreed upon by the group, to discuss assigned readings from “A Neotropical Companion” by John Kricher. Students may also attend an Honors 391 seminar series focusing on this book during the spring semester. Meetings and seminars help students to build background about the Amazon. Before departure, students will identify topics of interest and design their research projects.  For example, students might be interested in comparing the bird diversity between the Amazon and Negro rivers or what different species of fishes are eating at that time of the year.

During the 11 days on the Amazon, students will research and make observations, and then share their findings in presentations in the final days on the river. Upon return, students must submit a polished research paper based on their data.

Aquatic Ecology canoeIn Amazonas state, Brazil, our group is hosted by the National Institute of Research in the Amazonia (INPA) through Dr. José Alves Gomes. We will spend one day at the INPA campus, visiting the Science Grove, the Manatee Research Center and the Biological Collections Department.  In 2015, we were joined by the following INPA scientists for guest lectures on the boat:   Dr. Mario Cohn-Haft (bird curator) and Dr. Tatiana Schor (Universidade do Amazonas, human ecologist).

In addition, in Manaus, we will visit Museum Amazonia/Botanic Garden situated at the Ducke Reserve, see the exhibits and walk on one of the rail forest trail to observe the vegetation. In Novo Airão, Negro river, (see map above), we will visit the National Park of Anavilhanas, the Fundação Almerinda Malaquias, a NGO training locals sustainable skills to live in harmony with the park, and look at the River Dolphin Floating House. Back to Manaus, on our last day we will get a tour to the Teatro Amazonas (Renaissance opera house) and the Mercado Municipal Adolpho Lisboa (local market), both founded during the rubber boom time (1879- 1912) with their parts and walls imported from England, France and Italy.

The Boat
Our group will travel, eat and sleep on the Victoria Amazonica, the riverboat below, owned by a family business called Amazonia Expeditions. Aquatic Ecology DorinhaMr. Moacir Fortes or his son, owners of the company, will captain the boat  and serve as our primary field guide. The boat, crewed by a team of 6, has double occupancy cabins with bathrooms, and a spacious dining and teaching space. All food is cooked on our boat and bottled water is provided. During the day and night we spend most of the time in wooden canoes exploring the fauna and flora on the floodplains, side channels, island and lakes.

Tentative Dates
May 14 – May 25, 2016. The program cost is $3800, including and a deposit of $500 is due within 2 weeks of acceptance.  Students will be accepted on a rolling basis, and information about the group flight will be made available to all accepted students.

Passport and Visa
All participants must apply for a visa to visit Brazil. A group visa application will be coordinated by IPO in April, so all participants must have a valid passport in hand by March 15, 2016.

Dr. Fernandes has been teaching in the Department of Biology at UMass Amherst for more than 10 years. She is an expert in Amazonian fishes, and been affiliated with the National Institute of Research in the Amazonia (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia - INPA) since 1984.

Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year UMass/IPO Application Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2018 03/01/2018 ** Rolling Admission TBA TBA

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Students will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.