Harvard Summer Program in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

The Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic program will not run in 2020


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. Classroom instruction balances 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. The program is based in Santo Domingo, with lectures at the oldest university in the Western hemisphere, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), founded in 1538. The program guides you in exploration of 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. You also learn to use digital audio and video equipment to document some of the organisms you encounter.

You study the broad concepts of population biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, speciation, biogeography, and adaptive radiation throughout the entire Caribbean island.  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.


Program Director

Brian Farrell, Monique and Philip Lehner Professor for the Study of Latin America, Professor of Biology

Email: bfarrell@oeb.harvard.edu