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Maximo Nivel > Study Abroad Programs > University Courses > Natural History of the Peruvian Tropical Coastal Marine System

Natural History of the Peruvian Tropical Coastal Marine System

This is a residential field-based course on the geology, climatology, oceanography and ecology of the Tropical Eastern Pacific at the Northern coast of Peru and its ecotone with the Humboldt Current System.

Program Description

Students gain comprehensive knowledge on the natural history of Peru’s Tropical Eastern Pacific region. This particular area is a biodiversity hotspot and participants learn about both natural climate change as well as anthropic stressors (e.g. changes in land use, non-sustainable fishing, etc.), which impact the local marine and coastal ecosystems; in addition the course touches on the human population in the area, and the current challenges for ecosystem-based adaptation.

Field work and excursions allow students to explore the field and observe landforms, sedimentary environments, and the main environmental biotopes. Field work at sea gives participants the opportunity to observe sub tidal environments, traditional fishing activities and/or cetaceans watching. Note that only those course participants with scuba diving certification can participate in the underwater evaluations.

Students also engage in lab work and make reports, where they review, classify, and quantify material collected on field trips. Practical work also includes data analysis and students are expected to organize and provide periodic reports to complement information received in class.

This course is open to students worldwide. Participants should be enthusiastic and keenly interested in marine conservation—they should be ready to learn from experts in the field about the geology, paleontology, oceanography and marine ecology of this particular region of Peru.

The 4 credit course in Natural History of the Peruvian Tropical Coastal Marine System includes:

– Lectures and small group work
– Fieldwork including data collection and analysis of field conditions
– Identify the geological, climatological and oceanographical framework under which the main marine coastal biotopes of Northern Peru have evolved
– Identify the marine ecosystems associated with the tropical system and the challenges their sustainable use presents in the framework of global change
– Survey and summarize historical natural data of the region


Students are constantly evaluated during field activities. Seminars are graded according to the students’ clarity during presentations, comprehension of the different topics and discussion points.
– Homework and fieldwork (20%)
– Seminars (20%)
– Field reports (40%)
– Final exam (20%)


Dr. Luc Ortlieb
Dr. Luc Ortlieb is a senior scientist of IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) and he is a Visiting Professor at UPCH. As a geologist, Dr. Ortlieb specializes in quaternary geology, and he has worked along the coastlines of the former Spanish Sahara, Gulf of California, Peru, and northern Chile. His research has focused on neotectonic, paleontological, paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic topics.

Yuri Hooker
Yuri Hooker is the Director of the Laboratory of Marine Biology at UPCH, and he is a specialist in the submarine biodiversity of Peru’s Tropical Northern Coast. Yuri is particularly knowledgeable of the area’s fish, sponges, echinoderms, opistobranchs, and gorgonians species. He is an expert scientific scuba diver and underwater cameraman. Yuri has led or participated in several international marine biodiversity projects, sponsored by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Museum d’Histoire naturelles de Genève, Museu Nacional Rio de Janeiro, Universidad Autónoma de México, Die Zoologische Staatssammlung München, Germany, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, among others.