Earth Expeditions

Guyana: Local Wisdom & Conservation

Experience one of the greatest examples of primary rain forest in the world. Learn how indigenous Makushi communities are building a sustainable future.

Course Details
In Guyana: May 25-June 3, 2020
Add 1-2 days travel time. Students arrive at least one day before the course begins.
On the Web: April – December
Credits: 7 graduate credits from Miami University; course can be applied to the Global Field Program.
Course Cost: Field course (in-country + web): $2,750
(price includes tuition for 5 graduate credits and in-country costs) + airfare to Georgetown, Guyana + $500 in additional course support costs.

Fall project course (web, required): $600
(price includes tuition for 2 graduate credits)

Course Overview

Guyana is a lush and remarkably intact country in northeastern South America. Covering an extraordinary 80% of the country, Guyana’s rain forests are part of the Guiana Shield considered one of the last four Frontier Forests in the world. Guyana is famous for its relative abundance of iconic Amazonian species such as jaguars, arapaima (a “living fossil” and one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world), harpy eagles, giant anteaters, giant river otter, and the giant water lily.

Guyana is also culturally and ethnically diverse and includes indigenous peoples such as the Arawak, Wai Wai, Carib, Akawaio, Arecuna, Patamona, Wapishana, Makushi, and Warao. We will be spending most of our time with the Makushi, the dominant group in the North Rupununi area, a group that has lived in these forests and savannas for thousands of years.

The Makushi and their lands face a striking transition as the forces of development provide new opportunities and challenges. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the rapid extinction of traditional knowledge and practices. Local Makushi leaders believe that both indigenous and outside perspectives must be considered to ensure a sustainable future that protects the ecology of their lands and the social integrity of their communities.

Building on a partnership with the Chicago Zoological Society – Brookfield Zoo, this course focuses on the traditional ecological knowledge of the Makushi and the potential of local wisdom to guide conservation initiatives. The Makushi have a long tradition of managing their resources creatively by proudly embracing their traditional culture. Conscious of the value of indigenous and non-indigenous knowledge, Guyana’s Makushi people are becoming masters of straddling both worlds.

The concept of local knowledge and wisdom applies to every community, a point we will explore as we consider our own role in place-based conservation and participatory education.

Prior to and following the field experience in Guyana, students will complete coursework via Dragonfly Workshops’ Web-Based Learning Community as they apply experiences to their home institutions.