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Bio-Cultural Diversity and Community-Based Conservation in Oaxaca

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Program Quick Facts

  • Location: Mexico City and Oaxaca, Mexico
  • Stanford Faculty Leader: Rodolfo Dirzo, Biological Sciences 
  • Program Dates: June 20, 2023 - July 14, 2023
  • Program Cost: $600
  • Academic Prerequisites: Clear interest for interdisciplinary education and willingness to interact with students, faculty, and indigenous people from Oaxaca and the National University in Mexico City.
  • Activity Level
    • Moderate/Strenuous. Participants should expect to spend multiple hours engaging in physical activity such as hiking. Some days might require more physical activity such as a full day of hiking.
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Information for Travelers to Mexico
  • US State Department Country Information: Mexico
  • Visa Information: Consulate General of Mexico
  • Application Deadline: Sunday, January 29, 2023 at 11:59 pm PT

General Description

This is an interdisciplinary seminar in which two major areas of study will be emphasized: biological sciences (ecology) and culture (the human dimensions of conservation and use of natural resources based on indigenous traditional knowledge). The seminar will expose participants to the challenges and opportunities of interacting with researchers and students from other cultures, and will analyze the ways in which academic institutions and rural, indigenous institutions are, jointly, undertaking the challenge of sustainably managing biological resources. The program is based on two different but complementary experiences in Mexico: i) a short (two-day) component at the beginning, visiting Mexico’s National Commission of Biodiversity (CONABIO) and UNAM in Mexico City, and ii) the largest component, the City of Oaxaca and the (nearby) indigenous communities of Ixtlán and San Juan Jayacatlán (both Zapotec indigenous cultures) in Oaxaca. 

Upon completion of the program, students are able to

  1.  understand and appreciate biological and cultural diversity, and their interactions, namely Bio-Cultural Diversity
  2. gain ‘on-the-ground’ experience of how bio-cultural diversity develops and evolves and leads to community-based natural resource management
  3.  use state-of the-art analytical tools developed to process and manage information on bio-cultural diversity.

The weekly onsite program will generally include

The weekly onsite program depends on the theme, focus and locality. In general, the course will consist of two major components. The first one, focusing on UNAM and CONABIO will take place in Mexico City, in the facilities of both institutions. It will include presentations by scientists from these institutions, describing the conceptual bases, philosophy, technical operation, data management examples and mechanisms of making information available to all interested, including government institutions and the general public. Scientists and technicians from CONABIO and invited faculty from UNAM will lead planned discussions and practical activities.

The second component will be organized around an on-site visit to the City of Oaxaca, and the communities of Ixtlán and San Juan Jayacatlán (65 and 60 km from Oaxaca, respectively).  This component will include a series of lectures in Oaxaca’s CIIDIR by course leader R. Dirzo and faculty from the local university, as well as presentations and round table discussions with local indigenous authorities, and extension workers associated with these communities. As part of the work in Oaxaca, we will visit rural markets, field sites, museums and rural villages.

Living and Travel Conditions

We will fly from the USA (SFO) to Mexico City, where we will spend 2.5 days. After this, we will fly from Mexico City to the City of Oaxaca, where we will be staying most of the time. After Oaxaca, we will return to Mexico City, where we will stay for another day to visit Frida Kahlo's home/museum and the amazing Anthropology Museum. We fly back from Mexico City to the USA.
Students will stay at a high-quality hotel in Mexico City (two days at the start of the course, and one day at the end of the course). During the time in Oaxaca, we will use homestays with local families in the capital City, Oaxaca. When we travel to the communities of Ixtlán and San Juan Jayacatlán, we will be staying in a lodge located on the outskirts of a temperate forest, some 5 km from the town of Ixtlan. 
Students should understand that the conditions in certain locations can present difficulties and challenges not encountered here at Stanford University. Students should be prepared for a varying level of lodging, lack of amenities, new climate, new foods, and less privacy and personal space than they are used to at the home campus.

Students who have concerns about specific living and traveling conditions should consult with the Bing Overseas Studies Program before submitting their application.


Prof. Rodolfo Dirzo, Departments of Biology and Earth Systems Science

Prerequisites and Expectations 

Prerequisites: NA

Expectations: Although there will be plenty of opportunities to do hikes, enjoy nature, experience performances by local artists, visit museums, and enjoy the amazing local cuisine, this is a fully-academic program. It is expected for students to be engaged in lectures and fieldwork. 

Grading Basis

Credit/no credit