Tropical Ecology and Ecopsychology

Tropical Ecology and Ecopsychology

Course Description

Tropical Ecology is the study of the biotic and abiotic interactions that shape the origin, maintenance, and consequences of species diversity in tropical ecosystems. Ecopsychology argues that the deep and enduring questions – who we are, how we grow, why we suffer, how we heal – are inseparable from our relationships with the physical world, and similarly, that the overriding environmental questions – the sources of, consequences of, and solutions to environmental destruction – are deeply rooted in the psyche, our images of self and nature, and our behaviors. Lectures on tropical ecology and ecopsychology will be interspersed with discussion, and students will be asked to maintain a journal with one entry due for each week (from week 1 through week 10), reflecting on their understanding of the material assigned for that week. The aim of the course is thus for each student to come to a deeper understanding of the course themes of biodiversity, habitat and biome characteristics, human-environment interactions, and ecological concepts such as species interactions through reading and reflection of authors such as Jane Goodall, Wade Davis, Ralph Metzner, Jacob von Uexküll, and Christopher Uhl. Formative assessments by means of quizzes and exams allow for students to evaluate their knowledge of biological material paired with the journals serving as a weekly ritual in which students demonstrate their own way of incorporating course themes and readings into their daily lives. In this way, the two disciplinary portions of the course are designed to become mutually implicative and complementary in the students’ experience. This is in keeping with the Cowan’s original vision of the Core as interdisciplinary and mutually beneficial among the disciplines offered at UD. This course can satisfy the core life science requirement. Prerequisites: BIO 1311 and 1312 OR BIO 2360 OR instructor approval.

Course Materials

A recent version of the syllabus can be found here for the lecture and here for the lab.  Please note: The lab requires travel.  We have visited many different tropical habitats and location will vary depending on circumstances.  Past labs were: Spring 2018 - Costa Rica, Interterm 2019 - Belize, Spring 2021 - Big Bend National Park, Texas, Spring 2023 - Costa Rica. The course is expected to run every odd year in the Spring. 

Dr. Churchill & Dr. Soper, Costa Rica 2018

"Nature is our classroom." Meet the professors: Dr. Churchill (Professor, Psychology) & Dr. Soper (Assistant Professor, Biology)


Costa Rica - March 2018


Ziplining in Costa Rica 2018

Flower in the cloud forest in Costa Rica

group picture Costa Rica 2018


Belize January 2019

Jaguar Reef, Belize

On the reef in Belize 2019

Lecture on the beach

A walk through the forest, Belize


Big Bend National Park, January 2021

Lecture in the desert

Canoes, Santa Elena Canyon

Dr. Churchill on the Rio Grande

group photo Big Bend

A trail ride through the mountains