ESCI 498 Peru Expedition


Mountain Research and Ecology in the Peruvian Andes  ESCI 498D (10 Credits)

This course provides students an introduction to research in alpine environments through a field-based course in the Peruvian Andes. Students will participate in field-based research, learn the skills to safely conduct research in mountain environments, engage with the Peruvian landscape through studies of ecology and culture, and consider the work of science through an environmental stewardship lens. Students will have the optional opportunity to climb two 17,000 foot peaks - Maparaju and Ishinca - if conditions allow and specific requirements are met (consult with John All if interested in these climbs).

Learn more about the course for students who have been there - these are videos about the trip made by past students:

Here is the course website - with the syllabus, trip itinerary, and enrollment instructions

Scholarship information can be found here:


Goals and Outcomes of the Course:

  • Students will be introduced to the techniques necessary to safely carry out data collection in rugged environments so that they will be prepared to be active participants in data collection and field projects in alpine environments.
  • Students will learn how to link research questions, methodologies, and field data collection so that they will be prepared to turn in assignments and participate in a research symposium in Bellingham, WA (following the international experience) to share their experience with the greater WWU community.
  • Students will be introduced to the ecology and cultural aspects of place through experience, field journaling, and connecting with a variety of stakeholders and community members so that they will be able to explain the ecological and human aspects of the Peruvian mountain landscape.
  • Students will gain experience backpacking, camping, and traveling in remote and alpine environments so that they have the skills to engage in mountain research.
  • Backcountry and Field Research Skills
    • Traveling and working in a foreign country
    • Backcountry skills: backpacking, camping, and traveling in remote and mountain environments
    • Leadership and collaboration with a research team
    • Data collection protocols and implementation in the field
  • Ecology of the Peruvian Environment
    • Introductions to ecology, plant and animal identification, and current environmental understandings and challenges
    • Study the human influence on the area and seek understanding of culture, local systems, and conservation efforts in Peruvian mountain environments

Course Structure:

Students will focus on a variety of skills and research techniques throughout the field course. The course will begin by focusing on backcountry and field research skills and with an introduction to Andean ecology. The course will culminate with participation in data collection and mountain research in a beautiful alpine environment.  Students can choose to engage in their own research projects but will be required to also participate in the data collection for all course projects and research. There will be an optional climb of two easy peaks over 5000 meters led by professional Peruvian IMGA guides towards the end of the class - if conditions are favorable and students have demonstrated that they are prepared.


Dr. John All is a Research Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and the Director of the Mountain Environments Research Institute. He has been a mountain guide and served on search and rescue teams for over a decade.  His research includes the impact of climate change on endangered species, on subsistence grazing, on fire, and on glacier particulates as they affect water supply. Dr. All works primarily in Peru and Nepal, but has led expeditions on five continents to extreme locations -- from deep caves to tropical rain forests; remote deserts to the great mountain ranges of Asia and South America -- and he summited Mt. Everest in 2010.

Dr. Elizabeth Balgord is a geology professor at Weber State University in Ogden, UT, specializing in sedimentology and tectonics. Her current projects include uplift history of the Rocky Mountains in WY and UT as well as the controls on ore genesis in the Cordillera Blanca. Her PhD came from the University of Arizona where she spent much her time working in the high Andes of central Argentina studying early foreland basin deposits in order to determine the timing of initial mountain uplift. She has summited Aconcagua and numerous other Andean high peaks.

Brief Schedule (See attached longer schedule):

June 18-22 Pre-Departure Classroom meetings – preparation for international travel, preparation for field research, packing and gear essentials, initial safety briefings, Peruvian Andes research background literature reviews and class presentations

June 25th Arrive in Lima

June 26th Bus to Huaraz

June 27th – July 1st Fieldwork preparation and acclimatization – visit to mountain permaculture installations, visit to National Institute for Glaciers and Alpine Ecosystems, visit to pre-Incan ruins, visit to the Huascaran National Park office, visit with the Environmental Science faculty at the local university in Huaraz (UNASAM), background lecture on the geology of the Cordillera Blanca and Negro, Peruvian Andes research background literature reviews and class presentations, day hikes to lakes and grazing areas, daily medical monitoring

July 2nd – July 24th visits to Ulta, Quilcayhuanca, and Ishinca valleys.  Students will engage in research data collection working with the instructors, Peruvian researchers and students, and other US faculty associated with the Mountain Environments Research Institute, American Climber Science Program, and the American Alpine Club. Research projects include: glacier particulates monitoring, water quality, vegetation change, grazing impacts, geologic mapping, macroinvertebrate monitoring, bird monitoring, developing an Andean plant guide, and algae diversity studies.

July 25th and 26th Final class presentations in Huaraz and preparations for departure

July 27th end of the class, arrive in Lima for departure