Earth Expeditions

India: Species, Deities & Communities

Journey through the stunning ecological, cultural, and spiritual landscapes of the Western Ghats, where people, wildlife, and deities meet in sacred groves and forest temples.

Course Details
Planned dates
in India:

June 21-30, 2022

Plan to arrive at least one day before course begins and depart the day after course ends. Add 1-2 days travel time. Students arrive at least one day before the course begins.
On the Web: May – December
Credits: 7 graduate credits from Miami University; course can be applied to the Global Field Program.
Course Cost:* 2022 Field course (in-country + web): $3,225 (price includes tuition for 5 graduate credits and in-country costs) + airfare to Pune, India.

2022 Fall project course (web, required): $790 (price includes tuition for 2 graduate credits)

Course Overview

We will journey through the rich ecological, cultural, and spiritual landscapes of the Western Ghats, exploring sacred groves and forest temples where wildlife, people, and deities meet. The Western Ghats region is a biodiversity hotspot, home to diverse local ecosystems with an abundance of plant and animal species found nowhere else. The existence of sacred groves in the Western Ghats predates recorded history. In sacred groves, remnant forest patches are revered and protected by local communities, and these forests provide biological, social, and spiritual benefits.

With more than 13,000 sites documented across India, sacred groves are important at many levels. For conservationists, sacred groves can be seen as essential refuges for plants and animals struggling to survive in the face of rampant development and environmental destruction. For social scientists, sacred groves are valued as centers for community life. For the spiritually inclined, sacred groves transcend earthly bounds, allowing people to commune with gods and other powerful beings that offer protection, enlightenment, absolution, or guidance.

In this course, we seek to better understand the relationship between people and nature and will address specific questions about a sustainable future. What is the cost of misunderstanding or ignoring the spiritual dimension of sacred sites? How can models of sustainability be expanded to include local knowledge and local values? What unique opportunities do sacred sites provide for community participation in environmental stewardship?

The award-winning Applied Environmental Research Foundation (AERF) is our partner and host in India. AERF has worked with communities in the Western Ghats for more than two decades to support groundbreaking work on sacred groves and conservation. 

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

Course Options for Miami Students

Are you a current Miami University undergrad or grad student interested in participating? Check out our Miami Students page to learn more about program requirements.

*Note that costs shown above are for graduate students only. Course costs for undergraduate students are based on each student’s tuition rate. If you have questions regarding your tuition promise rate, please contact the Bursar.