Harvard Summer Program in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
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.
The first half of the course is based in Santo Domingo, with lectures based at Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD). You spend at least two nights away from the city, near the southeast coast close to Bahia de las Aguilas, in a national park known for nesting sea turtles, endemic land iguanas, and cacti in a beautiful desert.
The second three weeks are based at the Pontificial University Madre y Maestra in Santiago, at higher elevation, affording easy access to montane habitats and the north coast, and applying growing knowledge of the diversity of organisms to a variety of ecosystems.
You spend at least two nights at a campsite near the highest road on the island (about 7,000 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 Study Abroad in the Dominican Republic: Biodiversity of the Dominican Republic (32943)
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.
Archaeological fieldwork is physically intense and often rigorous. Students work in the field, excavating under the sun, climbing among excavation units from Monday to Saturday. Since some of the most interesting, little explored, and pristine sites are remote, traveling there requires hiking and even climbing steep hills. 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
The application deadline has passed.
Review How to Apply before submitting your application.
Application materials include:
A statement of interest in the program
Include information about relevant coursework and travel experience abroad (previous travel is not a prerequisite)
Harvard College applicants: You may submit an unofficial transcript accessed from my.harvard.edu
Non-Harvard applicants: Submit an official transcript from your university
A $50 nonrefundable application fee
Note: Interviews may be requested.
All application materials were due January 26, 2017. 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.
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.
- Brian D. Farrell, PhD, Professor of Biology, Harvard University