The Brazil Course Companion:

On-line Information for Columbia University's SEE-U Course
in Brazil's Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest)

Summer Ecosystem Experiences for Undergraduates (SEE-U)
An introductory ecology and conservation biology lecture, field, and digital laboratory course

This page supplements the main SEE-U website with an emphasis on the Brazil course, in particular sessions taught by Prof. Kittel.

Most of the material here was last updated for the Summer 2011 course - Apologies for broken links

Instructors 2018 (June 1 - July 5, 2018)
Timothy Kittel, PhD (University of Colorado, Boulder), Lead Instructor <> HOME PAGE
Juliana Shimabukuro, Assistant Instructor

Links to Course & Host Institution Websites
        SEE-U Course sites, Example schedule 
        Required Texts 

Words from Previous Years' Students to Incoming Students
  On the experience
  On what this class is and is not
  On what to expect
  On what to bring
        – More re: Pre-course Planning – Personal Gear List, 
               Travel Health & Safety, and other  Info: 
        – FAQ on arrivals, departures 
  Other advice
       – More re: Brazil's Culture 

       Previous Year's Class Photos: 

The Instructors
        The Lead Instructor's Goal: 
        A Bit about the Instructors: 
        Instructors' Websites: 

What is the Atlantic Forest & Why is it Important?
  What is the Atlantic Forest and why is it at risk?
  * Course Preparatory Reading Material*:
  Conservation solutions
  Regional and local conservation projects
  Natural history
  Other resources
  Ecological goings-on


Course Pages:

Sponsoring Institution:

Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability (EICES), Columbia University, New York.

Host Institution for the Brazil course:
Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (IPÊ), Nazaré Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil.
IPÊ’s website <>.

There are two required texts -
  1. "The Atlantic Forest of South America: Biodiversity Status, Threats, and Outlook" by Carlos Galindo-Leal & Ibsen de Gusmao. 2003.  Island Press. ISBN-10: 155963989X.
  2. "Sooretama: The Atlantic Forest of Brazil" by Francis dov Por.  1992.  ISBN-10: 9051030770
    • While this small book is out of print, but we have permission from the publisher to make copies.  PDF's will be made available through CERC (or hardcopy on site for a small charge to cover printing).
    " The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.” 
    - Voltaire

Hotspot cover   Sooretama cover
Hardware -
  • Laptop (PC or Mac) - will be used extensively through course, including projects.  If you don't have one, please make arrangements with another student to use theirs.  
    • There are no course computers available.
Software -
  • Older versions of MS Excel have a critical add-in "Data Analysis Toolkit" which will be used heavily in exercises & your project! --

Lead Instructor's Goal
About the Instructors

Lead Instructor's Goal
“A personal goal for me, as an instructor, [is] to foster familiarity with the nature of science.  There are many facets to understanding the world of science.  One is experiencing the process of accumulation and evaluation of scientific understanding – how do new ideas arise and how are they tested?  Another is developing the ability for independent thought, to be able to generate innovative ideas and [to] critically assess the results of others.  And finally, gaining what is often called a ‘sense of place,’ which is to say in this context, to start on the road to develop an intuitive, personal sense of how natural systems work.”

                                                                                                                               – T. Kittel, CERC Notes, Fall 2000

Photo: Clarice Bassi
 I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.

           - Lord Tennyson (Ulysses, 1842)

A Bit About the Instructors

Dr. Timothy Kittel has taught in the SEE-U program since its inception in 2000.  He has been the Instructor for SEE-U courses in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, the Dominican Republic's Caribbean Coastal Ecosystems, Puerto Rico's Caribbean Tropical Forest, and 9 years in Brazil.  

Tim is a research ecologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he also teaches Winter Field Ecology.  He is a biogeographer and climatologist – pursuing this, he's travelled and worked throughout much of the world, including South America, Africa, Asia, Australasia, and Europe.  In 2006, he taught on Semester At Sea for the Institute for Shipboard Education, traveling and teaching through East, Southeast, and South Asia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean.  Tim is an avid telemark skier and, when that’s not possible, settles for mountain and road biking.


2011-I TAr

2011-I TA




– From SEE-U Brazil 2003-Sessions I & II, 2004-I, and 2005-II Student Course Evaluations

Bromeliad and forest butterfly
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
- Mark Twain
On the experience –
  • “I really appreciate the experience I had here.  I was never the outdoors type but now I think I have a new found understanding and love for nature.” (2003-I)
  • “On this program you don’t only learn about ecology.  You also learn about a new country, about yourself, and you bond with your classmates and instructors in a way that is impossible to do in a formal classroom setting.  You gain a much wider perspective on the world and on your life, no matter where you are in your college career.  I would recommend this program to everybody.  It is a lot of hard work.  It isn’t an easy A or an easy six credits.  I worked harder over those five weeks than I have in any other classes I’ve taken at Columbia – and I’m a senior.  You put 24 hrs a day and 7 days a week into this course, but you get even more out of it.  Keep an open [mind] and know that you’re here to be an ecologist, not a tourist.  I would definitely recommend traveling with friends before or after the class.” (2003-II)
  • "I came to SEE-U as someone already interested in environmental studies and conservation issues, but didn't know quite where I wanted my interests to take me. I had been working in a chemistry lab for a bit and was convinced that being a scientist consisted of dry and tedious calculations. SEE-U introduced me to the world of field biology and made me passionate about studying science again. During the program, we were exposed to a myriad of professionals and scientists working in conservation, each of whom gave us a taste of the work they were doing. I learned a lot about their work and about the state of the Atlantic Forest, but mostly I learned about myself and where I wanted my studies to take me. SEE-U is a great program because it's built on an experiential learning model--it's not just about the reading and the lectures; it is about doing and seeing. I couldn't have asked for more and am extremely grateful for the experience." (2008-I) 


Picinguaba Field Trip
Photo: Aleksei Chmura

On the field trip – 

“An intense experience of getting in touch with nature.”  (2005-II)

“We learned ... to look at the restinga [coastal woodland], forest, and mangrove with a critical eye.”  (2005-II)

  • “This program is an amazing opportunity to learn about the local environment as well as the Brazilian people. You will see a lot of incredible, perspective things – both in ecological and cultural terms.  Living and learning with your group as a community is a huge part of the program – you will learn about yourself in working with lots of groups, both large and small.  Although a lot of time is spent in the field (if you want to spend time in the field), there is a lot of work with powerpoint, statistics, and research online with computers.  It is colder and dryer in during July-August in Brazil because it’s wintertime.  The field trips we take are awesome.  I have learned so much about myself and the world through this program – it’s an experience I will never forget.”  (2003-II)
  • From a Brazilian student:  “It was a great experience to live a month with different people, from another country and to speak English all the time. The diversity of culture is fantastic!!!  I'll remember this experience for all my life.”  (2005-II)
  • “IPÊ is greatly staffed and the facilities are very nice.  Days are long but when you’re learning on the beach or in the forest, a 9-to-9 day seems ok. ... Take the chance to be part of SEE-U.  It will change the way you look at science, but more importantly it will change the way you look at the world.  Live and learn great things with great people in a great place!  This program beats Gen Chem, Calculus, Physics for Poets, or Dinosaurs hands down!” (2004-I)
IPÊ Coordination Staff

Patrícia Paranaguá (left) - previous Course Coordinator
Eduardinho (right) - Transporation


On what this class is and is not –
  • “This course is not about the culture of Brazil.  I feel I realized this before coming, but some of my classmates seemed surprised to find this to be a science course.” (2003-II)
  • “Expect a science class, not a cultural anthropology course.” (2003-II)
  • “I have been most impressed with the schedule of the classes, how it starts off with basic info, and gets more detailed.” (2004-I)
  • [Fieldwork] made the vital link between theory and application. ...  I learned the most from the development and research of my final project.” (2005-II)

On what to expect –
  • “Tell students how intense the hiking is.”  (2003-II)
  • “It was not clear to me just how cold it gets.” (2003-II)
  • “Field experiences are intense!  Come very prepared.” (2003-I)
  • “Lots of hiking.  Tell students they should be in shape before coming here.” (2003-I)
  • “Try to learn Portuguese (take one semester).  Remember freshman year dorms?  Be prepared to loose all privacy.   It will be the time of your life!  Amazing country, people...  Swim with the [bioluminescent] zooplankton – you’ll be happy you did.” (2004-I)





Brazil SEE-U students with instructor Mariana Vale (2003 Session I)
On what to bring –
  • “Believe me it really does get cold at night.  I didn’t really think it could; bring a fleece and sweatpants.  Also, change a lot of cash at the airport (maybe $300-$400), because you won’t have many chances to later and you will be spending it at IPÊ.” (2004-I)
  • “Packing is tough – check the weather reports the week you are leaving – and bring a mixture of warm and cold (not cool) clothing.  Cards, frisbees, or other games will be used and appreciated on afternoons off or late evenings.  A few power bars are a good thing to pack also.” (2004-I)
  • “Weather – bring warm clothes.  Food – bring snackes/power bars for the munches.  Computer – bring it!!!” (2004-I)
  • “Nice clothes for going out” (2003-II)
  • “Something to read, a camera, a laptop, a VISA card, a Portuguese/English dictionary.” (2003-II)
  • “Bring an alarm clock.” (2003-I)
  • “Change all money at the airport.” (2003-II)
For Pre-course Planning, refer to —

Required Course Personal Gear:  SEE-U Brazil packing list

Orientation Information for the Site: 

Travel Health Information:  CDC site for -

Traveling Abroad Safely: 

  • Univ of Colorado's "Guide to Living Abroad"  [web; pdf, 440k]

FAQ about arrivals, departures:
  • Can I arrive late? - Not advised: 
    • Sunday arrival means you'll miss critical information and activities -
      • Course orientation - about goals, grading, exams, project requirements (n.b. - first project deadline is early in the week)
      • Site orientation - how things work, campus cautions & rules.
      • Local orientations hike which will help establish your ideas for projects
      • First lecture and exercise - covered by Monday morning quiz
    • Note that the host institution will likely ask you for a charge for gas and driver ($50-$100) if you're not arriving on the specified dates

  • Can I arrive at the site (IPE) on my own? - Yes, but:
    • It is an option if you want to get yourself to IPÊ or the nearby town of Nazaré Paulista.  However, IPÊ is in a rural location about 15 min from Nazaré, with no easy bus service.  If you're coming from Rio or São Paulo you may find it easier to get a bus to the relatively closeby city of Atibaia.
    • If you arrive into Nazaré or Atibaia, IPÊ can arrange for you to be picked up.  Please be aware that they may ask you to cover a reasonable charge for gas and the driver, depending time of day and their other planned trips.
    • Be sure to tell us your plans early in the week before the class starts so we can facilitate arrangements for you.

  • Can I leave early? - No:
    • We ask folks not to depart on the last evening of the course.  This is out of courtesy to our host institution (IPÊ) and the local community who will be putting on a traditional festa (party) for you and classmates.
    • Early departures require permission of the instructor.
    • Note that the host institution will likely ask you for a charge for gas and driver (est. $50-$100) for departures on other than the specified dates.



Other advice –
  • “Read and do research on Brazil and the culture before you come, plan on staying a few weeks later.” (2004-I)
  • “Arrive here with much energy to work, respect another kind of culture, and don’t complain about stuff.” (2004-I)
  • “Start your field work on time.  You won’t be allowed to go to São Paulo during the duration of the program.  Do travel before or after the program.  Bring your laptop, it will be come in handy.” (2003-II)
  • “Have fun above all else.” (2003-II)
Notes on Brazil & Its Culture —
  • Collection of articles
    • Gilberto Gil - 'Music legend' & Brazil's Minister of Culture - 
      • (Manchester) Guardian Weekly, 23 Dec 05 (pdf)
    • (more pending)
  • Natural Heritage 




– Selected Readings and Websites

Course Preparatory Reading
IPÊ, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, 
Worldwatch Institute, Smithsonian Institution
Birds, Amphibians, Beetles, Plants
Brazil Databases
Hemisphere and Global Databases & Assessments
Biological glossary & language dictionaries
Tools (Statistics)
Ecological goings-on

Course Preparatory Reading –

What is the Atlantic Forest?  Why is it important?  Why is it at risk?

  • “Rio's Backyard Rain Forest,” by Virginia Morell and Mark Moffett.  National Geographic Magazine, March 2004 (pp. 3-27)

Intervales State Park (State of São Paulo) - Field trip site 2000-2003

Atibainha Reservoir and adjacent converted lands, near IPÊ.


Pasture converted from Atlantic Forest

Photo: Ali Hartman (2004-I)
Additional Reading –

What is being done to preserve it?: Conservation solutions

  • “Agroforestry Benefit Zones: A Tool for the Conservation and Management of Atlantic Forest Fragments, São Paulo, Brazil,” by Laury Cullen, Jr., et al.  2001.  Natural Areas Journal, 21(4):346-356.
  • Atlantic Forest Biodiversity Hotspot, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Conservation International:
    • “The Restoration of a Hotspot Begins,” by Chris Bright and Ashley Mattoon.  2001.  World Watch (November/December 1991: p. 7-16).   pdf file download 
    • “Chocolate Could Bring the Forest Back,” by Chris Bright.  2001.  World Watch (November/December 1991: p. 17-28).  Worldwatch Institute.  pdf file download 

Regional and local conservation projects
  • Paraná Atlantic Forest conservation action by Organic Soy Farmers: (Manchester) Guardian Weekly, 13 April 2007 (pdf, 1M) 

Palmito seedling (center) – A source of palm hearts, Palmito is an endangered indicator species in the Atlantic Rain Forest

- Photo: Aleksei Chmura

Jardin Biológico de Brasília
-Photo: Erika Geiger


Rhinoceros Beetle
-Photo: A Chmura

Results of a 
Leaf-Mining Insect

Natural history
Other related web resources
  • Spanish language dictionary of biodiversity terms –
    • “Diccionario de la Biodiversidad,” by Maarten Kappelle.  2004.  Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio) & Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional (AECI). INBio Press, Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica. <
Conservation goings-on

Black-footed Titi Monkey

Red & gray crustose bark lichen (Crytothecia rubrocinta) - a common element of the Atlantic Forest
-Photo: Elian Maritz (2004-I)

SEE-U 2002 Brazil Session II
2002 Session
                  II Class Photo
SEE-U 2003 Brazil Session I
SEE-U 2003 Brazil Session II
SEE-U 2004 Brazil Session I

SEE-U 2005 Brazil Session II
SEE-U 2007 Brazil Session I

SEE-U 2008 Brazil Session I
SEE-U 2008 Brazil Session II

SEE-U 2009 Brazil Session I
SEE-U 2009 Brazil Session II
                        Class pix

SEE-U 2010 Brazil Session I
10-I Class
SEE-U 2011 Brazil Session I

SEE-U 2014 Brazil Session I
14 class pic
SEE-U 2018 Brazil Session I

Professor Kittel's classes at other SEE-U sites

SEE-U 2000 Arizona Session I

SEE-U 2001 Arizona Session I

SEE-U 2005 Dominican Republic Session I
05-I DR
                    Class Photo
SEE-U 2010 Puerto Rico Session II
                        PR class
SEE-U 2012 Dominican Republic Session II



Tim Kittel's Website Links

This page © 2018 T. Kittel.  Photos property of CERC, Columbia University, except as credits indicate.   All rights reserved.
rev.  26 Sp 18