Earth Expeditions
Young eco-leaders collaborating
Chacoan peccaries trotting across a plain
Flamingos wading in blue waters
Close up of white flower with yellow center
Burrowing owls perched on a limb
Woman planting seeds

Course Overview

Students in this course co-develop an Eco-Leadership program in Paraguay with our partner, Para La Tierra.

Nestled in the heart of South America, Paraguay is home to the beautifully delicate Cerrado, the lush Atlantic Forest, the challenging Gran Chaco, and other rare and secluded ecosystems that have received little study and deserve far more attention. Some of Paraguay’s rather unusual fauna include the Chacoan peccary (first discovered in fossil form and thought to be long extinct, but as it turns out they are quite alive as seen in one of the banner photos above), owl monkeys, giant anteaters, guanacos, white-winged nightjars, and more than half the world’s species of armadillo, including such representatives as the greater fairy and the screaming hairy armadillo.

Environmental awareness is on the rise in Paraguay, but contends with increasingly strong pressure from population growth, agriculture, cattle ranching, hunting, and construction. The presence of conservation organizations in Paraguay is quite limited, and there is a critical need to better understand and to build on the traditionally close relationship between local people and the land on which they depend.

Students in this course will have the unique opportunity to co-develop an Eco-Leadership program for Paraguay, working in partnership with Para La Tierra (PLT), a nonprofit conservation organization devoted to scientific research, conservation, and community engagement. The founding Director of PLT, Karina Atkinson, is a Global Conservation Fellow with Project Dragonfly. Her work has earned a Rolex Award, and she and the PLT team are deeply committed to supporting the next generation of conservation and education leaders.  Students will learn with Paraguayan youth and others the diverse skills required for effective eco-leadership, including methods for assessing wildlife populations; how to develop public exhibits, participatory media, and community events celebrating local biota; how to evaluate both educational and ecological outcomes, and how to support the ingenuity of local teams to foster local knowledge creation and informed environmental action.

Course Themes

  • Collaborative leadership
  • Natural history of Paraguay
  • Guarani socio-ecology
  • Public engagement in science
  • Inquiry and participatory education
  • Community-based conservation

A typical Earth Expeditions day in Paraguay is likely to include:

  • Study at field conservation sites
  • Team-based strategic planning and program development
  • Interactions with experienced and emerging eco-leaders of all ages
  • Student-led discussions on key course topics
  • Journal writing
  • Open inquiries
  • Projects supporting the mission of Para La Tierra (e.g. environmental education, primates, reptiles and amphibians)

Planned Sites in Paraguay


Students will fly into Asunción, the capital of Paraguay and a historic South American city. Here, shaded streets and local squares, where Guarani vendors sell exquisite needlework and hand-crafted leather, exist alongside more industrial zones and upscale malls. Asunción is the transportation hub of Paraguay and a gateway to the country’s diverse biological and cultural landscapes.

San Rafael 'Designated' National Park

Located in Eastern Paraguay, San Rafael is the country's largest remaining fragment of the once extensice Atlantic Forest. Still under threat from poachers, loggers, and agriculture development, the region is critically important for conservation in South America. This biodiversity hotspot boasts more than 430 species of bird - 60% of all the birds registered in Paraguay are found in this expansive forest reserve. Para La Tierra's primate team is currently working with ProCosara to study the behavior and range of Hooded Capuchins.

Pilar, Neembucu

Also known as 'The City of Birds,' Pilar is a quaint town on the coast of the mighty Paraguay River. Surrounded by a network of marshes, streams, and lakes, there is a deep tradition of nature appreciation in this area. Howler monkeys coexist with people in the city, using power-lines and rooftops to travel from fruit tree to fruit tree in the city's squares and plazas. Pilar is also home to Para La Tierra's Center for Investigation, Development, Environmental Education and Leadership (Centro IDEAL). In addition to wildlife research, the Center oversees a community-wide program that engages children in the conservation of local forest and wetland ecosystems. 

Dragonfly Workshops Web-Based Learning Community

Upon acceptance into the program, students will join instructors and classmates in Dragonfly Workshops' collaborative Web community to complete pre-trip assignments. After returning home, students will continue to work in their Web-based community through early December to develop projects initiated in the field, discuss assignments, and exchange ideas. All students should expect to spend two to three hours a week contributing to their Web-Based Learning Community from their home or school computer. Navigating the Web platform is easy--it's designed for people with no prior computer experience. To learn more about this unique Web experience, visit

More Information

For more information on the admissions process, physical requirements, and more, please visit Admissions and/or FAQs.

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Course Details

Notes from the Field


Exploring with young investigators

Lisa Rivera and Jeanne Salchli

from Pilar, Ñeembucú, Paraguay

Dragonfly graduate students (center, facing) investigate the leaves of local plants and trees with young eco-leaders at an environmental eco-fair at a local park. Students in the Paraguay course design investigations to engage with local young people at this culminating event toward the end of their field experience.

Rivera is a volunteer coordinator at a conservancy in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Salchli is an elementary school science teacher in Brooklyn, New York

Program Costs