Features Overview

biol 367 - India - May Session

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Conservation and Development in the Indian Tropics explores ways in which conservation and development goals can be reconciled. Conservation and development are often portrayed as at odds with one another. This course challenges those assumptions and explores the creative ways in which conservation and development can go hand-in-hand. Christian practitioners have particularly strong motivation for exploring how to create win-win arrangements to improve the lives of the poor and protect God's creation.

South India provides the perfect backdrop for studying these issues. Students will travel into the Western Ghats, a mountain range in South India that is one of the world's 8 biodiversity hotspots according to the United Nations, and the coastal ecosystems along the Bay of Bengal. Students will encounter the immense biodiversity of the region by visiting high mountain ecosystems, protected areas for tigers, elephants, and other wildlife, and marine ecosystems; engage with Indian culture and society by exploring city life, visiting local villages, and meeting with rural and indigenous peoples; and engage the major issues facing conservation and development around the world: poaching, deforestation, human-animal conflict, indigenous and community land rights, overharvesting, and sustainable resource use.

Students from North America and India (Bishop Heber College) will interact in this cross-cultural course. Mini-buses will transport the group to each site with extensive hiking at each location. Food and lodging will be provided at nearby guesthouses and hotels. The course is co-taught by North American faculty member, Prof. Dieter Bouma and Indian faculty member Dr. A. Relton, Associate Professor and Heath of Social Work at Bishop Heber College, with guest experts in natural and cultural history also participating. (4 credits)

Field, Interdisciplinary.

Professor: Dieter Bouma

Meets: Monday - Friday


knowledge gained

Understanding human-environment systems in a number of ecosystems and contexts, including communal, public, and private lands

Approaches to conservation and development in developing countries from a Christian perspective

Understanding the principles of conservation biology and major ecosystem types in the South Indian tropics

Ability to identify a diverse set of flora and fauna throughout the tropics as well as the role they play within ecosystems (autecology)

Understanding appropriate ways to learn about and enter a new culture

Basic understandings of Indian culture, religion, history, and village life


skills Developed

Ability to analyze human-environment systems for conservation and livelihoods outcomes

Experience with the Grinnell system for field journaling for making detailed field observations

Ability to assess tropical ecosystems in the field to understand their dynamics and function

Ability to enter a new culture appropriately

Ability to communicate cross-culturally and make cultural observations


field experiences

Point Calimere and Muthupet Mangrove Forest:

Estuary, dune, wetland, coastal grassland, dry evergreen forest, and mangrove ecosystems 

Coastal salt mining operations

Coastal fishing communities

Cultural exploration of Tiruchirappalli:

Exploring city life and home visits

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple


Thorn forest ecosystem

Valparai (Western Ghats):

High mountain grassland, wet evergreen forest, and mountain shola ecosystems

Tea and shade-grown coffee plantation communities and operations

Nilgiri Bioreserve: Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and Bandipur Tiger Reserve:

Tropical moist deciduous and tropical dry deciduous forest ecosystems

Adavasi, indigenous tribal communities

Forestry Department conservation programs

Local farm visit

Local village trip