Harvard Summer Program in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

June 24, 2018 to July 28, 2018
Apply by: 
January 25, 2018

Explore the basic principles of ecology, evolution, and biogeography throughout the island of Hispaniola.

This program offers you the opportunity to explore the basic principles of ecology, evolution, and island biogeography in the context of the diversity of habitats and organisms on the island of Hispaniola. Lectures balance broad conceptual areas—such as population biology, speciation, or island biogeography—with the diversity and natural history of the main groups of organisms and habitats we see.

You study the broad concepts of population biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, speciation, biogeography, and adaptive radiation throughout the entire Caribbean island. You also explore habitats of lowland and montane forest, as well as estuary and reef, to strengthen your understanding of principles of community structure and diversity through direct observation of nature, and learn to use digital audio and video equipment to document some of the organisms you encounter.

Program Structure

The course is based in Santo Domingo, with lectures at  the oldest university in the hemisphere, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), founded in 1538.

You attend lectures at the beginning of each week and then head out for overnight field trips, spending one or two nights each week away from the city, in habitats ranging from sandy coastal towns near coral reefs to cool pine forests and cloudforests high in the central mountains. On the field trips, you apply your growing knowledge of the diversity of organisms to a variety of ecosystems.

While in Santo Domingo, you take a variety of afternoon visits to local museums, the botanical gardens, and other sites of historical, cultural, or biological interest. There are several overnight snorkeling trips to the eastern and northern coastal parks.

You spend at least two nights at a campsite near the highest road on the island (about 8,000 feet elevation), in a place called Valle Nuevo where pine forests are home to organisms—such as siskins, crossbills, blueberries, and various mushrooms—that one would usually expect in northern climates, such as New England. However, Valle Nuevo is also home to deep cloud forest with tree ferns, bromeliads, orchids, and many endemic birds found nowhere else. Here, you explore the causes and consequences of the origins and diversity of these adjacent habitats and their biota.

Watch Rachel Moon's video about her experiences in Santo Domingo. Watch the video


BIOS S-158 counts as one full-year course (8 credits) of degree credit.

BIOS S-158 Study Abroad in the Dominican Republic: Biodiversity of the Dominican Republic (32943)

Brian D. Farrell
8 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

Students study the biota of the Dominican Republic on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola as a microcosm of the evolution of biodiversity on Earth. This course explores the interplay of ecological niches and evolutionary diversification in the organisms and habitats of a tropical island that is large enough to harbor many remarkable kinds of animals and plants and yet small enough to be understood. Lectures consist of morning presentations on the classification and biology of the major groups of vertebrates and invertebrates of Hispaniola for comparing the ecology and diversity of different animal/plant communities on the island. The skills required for field identification of major groups (e.g., species of birds or lizards, orders of insects and other invertebrates) are emphasized through construction of a field journal used on a series of overnight excursions to biomes such as deserts, rainforests, pine forests, and coral reefs.

Prerequisite: coursework in biology.

Where You Live and Study

The Dominican Republic is on a tropical island large enough to harbor a large diversity of habitats and organisms and also small enough to be understood. You will explore natural and urban areas throughout the island, gaining a multifaceted understanding of the region.


You share double-occupancy hotel rooms.

Physical requirements

Since some of the most interesting, little explored, and pristine sites are remote, traveling often requires light hiking, sometimes on narrow paths in hilly terrain. No special training is required, but a reasonable level of fitness is advisable. However, a lighter schedule can be arranged for those with physical challenges.

How to Apply

Review How to Apply before submitting your application.

Application materials include: 

  1. A statement of interest in the program

    • Include information about relevant coursework and travel experience abroad (previous travel is not a prerequisite) 

  2. Transcripts

    • Harvard College applicants: You may submit an unofficial transcript accessed from my.harvard.edu.

    • Non-Harvard applicants: Submit an official transcript from your university.

  3. A $50 nonrefundable application fee

Note: Interviews may be requested.

Applications are now closed. You will be notified of admission decisions by mid- to late-February.


The program fee includes tuition, accommodation, scheduled excursions and activities, and some meals. 

See Payment and Funding for information on how to submit payments and funding options. 

Student budget

Student budget

In addition to the program fee, you will need to budget for a number of personal expenses: 

  • International airfare ($800 to $1,000)
  • Local transportation ($150)
  • All meals except on excursions ($1,500)
  • Course materials ($50)
  • Personal expenditures, laundry, communications, and miscellaneous ($300)

Note: The amounts are approximate, and you may incur additional expenses not listed here. Your actual expenses will depend on a number of factors, including your personal spending habits and currency exchange rates. If you have specific questions about budgeting, please contact the program directly.

Additional Information