Bio-Cultural Diversity and Community-Based Conservation in Oaxaca

Photo of students and professor in Oaxaca

Program Quick Facts

Location: Mexico City and Oaxaca, Mexico

Faculty Leader: Rodolfo Dirzo

Arrival Date in Mexico City (tentative): August 2, 2016

Departure Date from Mexico City (tentative): August 27, 2016

Information Session: Monday, November 9, 2015 | 12:30pm-1:30pm | Sweet Hall, Ground Floor, Room 020

Application Opens: November 1, 2015

Application Deadline: January 17, 2016

Missed the information session? Watch the recorded version now!


This is an interdisciplinary program in which two major areas of study will be emphasized: biological sciences (ecology) and traditional knowledge and culture (the human dimensions of conservation and use of natural resources based on indigenous traditional knowledge).

The program is based on two different but complementary experiences in Mexico: i) A short (two-days) component at the beginning and end of the trip, visiting Mexico’s National Commission of Biodiversity (CONABIO) and UNAM in Mexico City (at the beginning of the program), and the Anthropology Museum (a the end of the program); ii) the largest component, the City of Oaxaca and the (nearby) indigenous communities of Ixtlán/Calpulalpan, Arrazola and San Juan Jayacatlán (Zapotec indigenous communities) in Oaxaca. In addition, there will be opportunities to interact with students, from local universities, studying and working on related topics.

The program will help participants understand 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.

Students will conduct three group-research projects led by instructor and TA (one at the Oaxaca Market, one at San Juan Jayacatlán; one at Ixtlán), and will develop an independent project on a topic of their choosing within the area of bio-cultural diversity.



UNAM ( One of the finest universities in Latin America, with international recognition in a variety of academic areas including ecology, conservation biology and the social sciences. UNAM holds the national collections of most organisms and its botanical gardens are renowned for their educational and research programs on biological resource management, ethnobotany and conservation.

CONABIO ( A world-class institution dedicated to synthesize and compile, in sophisticated and state-of-the-art data bases, information on the biodiversity of this country (with an emphasis on biodiversity-rich areas, such as Oaxaca) and to apply this information repository to address a variety of demand-driven needs presented by different sectors of society (e.g., predictions of species distribution, priority areas for conservation, distribution of vectors of disease, distribution of indigenous lands set aside for conservation, etc.).

Anthropology Museum: An amazing museum with spectacular exhibits covering from the arrival of humans in Mesoamerica, as well as the major cultural groups of pre-hispanic Mexico (and Mesoamerica).


Ixtlán and San Juan Jayacatlan represent ongoing examples of how rural communities are successfully addressing the challenges of extractive forest‐resource management, community conserved areas, and ecotourism by trying to reconcile biodiversity conservation with local economic benefit and social well-being. These Oaxacan localities represent unique venues for the study of bio-cultural diversity and community-based conservation and management of natural resources.

Living and Travel Conditions

Students should understand that the conditions in certain overseas 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 having less privacy and personal space than they are used to at the home campus.

While in Mexico City, students will be housed in a hotel with double occupancy and private bathrooms. Once in Oaxaca, students will be placed in homestays located throughout the city in the same general proximity of the language school. Students may have to share rooms with other students. All host families will be arranged and screened through the Becari Language School. Food varies from homestay to homestay. Dietary selections may be limited, thus students with severe dietary restrictions should carefully evaluate their ability to participate comfortably.

There will be three field trips involving hiking, field data collection and interactions with indigenous communities. These activities will be intense but not particularly strenuous.

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

Cost and Travel

Students will pay a program fee of $800. The program fee covers lodging from the arrival date through the night prior to departure, 19 meals per week, and all program activities. Students must arrange and pay for their own round-trip transportation to Mexico City, Mexico, paying for any extra food beyond the meals included in the program and will also be responsible for some minimal local transportation costs (in Oaxaca) and all personal and incidental expenses. Some financial assistance towards the $800 program fee may be available from BOSP for students with demonstrated financial need as determined by the Financial Aid Office. Students who are eligible for this program fee waiver will be notified by BOSP after they get accepted or waitlisted for this program.  There is no direct assistance available from the Financial Aid Office for travel expenses as students are not enrolled full time.  Please contact the Financial Aid Office directly if you wish to discuss the possibility of student loans.


Rodolfo Dirzo is a Professor in the Biology Department, and Director of Stanford’s Center for Latin American Studies. He teaches Ecology, Field Biology, and Conservation Science. His research centers on the study of the ecology of tropical ecosystems and on traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous cultures, and on the impact of human activities on the biological and cultural diversity of Latin America. He is involved in teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels both in the USA and Latin America and he is committed to science education among children and the general public.

  • He has experience in research and teaching in Oaxaca, in the areas of ecology, and conservation of bio-cultural diversity

Seminars/Special Programs he has led in the past:

  • BOSP Overseas Seminar: Ecological interactions in tropical dry forest (Chamela Tropical Research Station, Jalisco, Mexico)
  • BOSP Special Program: Bio-cultural Diversity and Community-Based Conservation in Oaxaca, Mexico

Enrollment Capacity

15 Undergraduate Students

Eligibility and Application

Students who have participated in an Overseas Seminar in the past or are participating in an Overseas Seminar in the summer of 2016 ARE eligible to apply for and participate in this BOSP Special Program.

All Stanford undergraduates in good academic standing with 45 credits by the end of Spring Quarter prior to the program are eligible to participate. Seniors or Co-Terms are eligible as long as they do not have their undergraduate degrees conferred before the end of Summer Quarter. International students should check with the Bechtel International Center whether or not their status will allow them to be enrolled for a course over the summer.

The application deadline for the Bio-Cultural Diversity and Community-Based Conservation in Oaxaca is January 17th, 2016. Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee. To determine an applicant’s qualifications, standing at the University, and readiness to participate in the program, the following offices may be consulted:

  • Residential Education
  • Office of Accessible Education
  • Undergraduate Advising and Research
  • Office of Judicial Affairs
  • Vaden Health Center/Counseling and Psychological Services

NOTE: Vaden will not share confidential health information with the program, but may identify a concern with an applicant’s readiness to participate, to be further addressed with the applicant.

BOSP reserves the right to revoke admission at any point prior to the program should there be any changes to student’s qualifications, standing at the University, and readiness to participate in the program. BOSP will notify the student should there be any concerns, if the student is no longer eligible to participate in the program.

Prerequisites and Expectations

  • BIO 144 is recommended but not a pre-requisite to enroll in this class
  • Reasonable knowledge of Spanish is highly recommended
  • There will be on-campus required meetings prior to departure
  • Required readings or films:

- Brandon, K. et al. (2005). “Reconciling Biodiversity Conservation, People, Protected Areas, and Agricultural Suitability in Mexico.” World Development, 33(9): 1403-1418.

- Bray, D.B. et al. (2006). “The Mexican model of community forest management: The role of agrarian policy, forest policy and entrepreneurial organization. Forest Policy and Economics,    8: 470-484.

- Hernández-Apolinar, M., T. Valverde, and S. Purata. 2006. Demography of Bursera glabrifolia, a tropical tree used for folk woodcrafting in Southern Mexico: An evaluation of its management plant. Forest Ecology and Management 223: 139–51.

Grading Basis

Satisfactory/No Credit

Participation Requirements

Participants must adhere to the BOSP participation requirements set forth in the Bing Overseas Studies Program (“BOSP”) Participation and Assumption of Risk, Release of Claims, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement (“BOSP Agreement”). In addition, participants must adhere to the program ground rules that will be discussed in details during the Spring Quarter. 

All students are required to meet all prerequisites, attend all mandatory orientations and turn in all required materials by the designated deadlines in order to remain eligible to participate in the program. Failure to turn in required materials by the designated deadlines, attend the mandatory orientation session and complete mandatory orientation activities will result in your removal from the program. This will enable us to better prepare students for studying abroad, and will ensure fairness to students on the waitlist who have completed all of these items. All program participants are required to attend the entire program, from the scheduled arrival date/time through the scheduled departure date/time. Late arrival and/or early departure is not permitted under any circumstance.

Passport and Visa

Students are solely responsible for obtaining their passport and visa. Every BOSP participant MUST have a signed passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the scheduled RETURN date from the overseas program. Students who do not have a valid passport must apply for a new or renewed passport immediately. For information on obtaining or renewing a U.S. passport please visit the State Department website.

VisaCentral San Francisco

Visa Central by CIBT offers online Stanford rates, or contact the local office:

  • In person: 555 Montgomery St. Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94111
  • By phone: (877) 535-0688

Travisa San Francisco

Travisa for Stanford Travel Program offers online Stanford rates, or contact the local office:

  • In person: 220 Montgomery St. Suite 991, San Francisco, CA 94104
  • By phone: (415) 837-0771

Health and Safety

Students on international programs should be aware that attitudes toward medical conditions, disabilities, and psychological conditions vary by culture and under the laws of the host countries. These differences impact the level of treatment and accommodation available abroad. Students should give serious consideration to their health and personal circumstances when accepting a place in a program and should consult with their physicians.

Students must be aware that certain immunizations are required to protect their health in overseas locations. Students must review the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website for complete information on health conditions and vaccinations at their specific location. Students must also consult the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic. Students are expected to make an appointment with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic as soon as they are accepted to the program at (650) 498-2336 ext. 1 to discuss any health concerns, pre-departure immunizations, and any personal prescriptions before going abroad.

Students must review the U.S. State Department’s consular information website for complete information on safe and security in this specific location.

While overseas, students are advised to be alert to their surroundings, and be particularly aware of any health and safety advisories for the areas they will be visiting. As with any foreign travel, emphasis will be placed on staying away from questionable situations, avoiding injury, and preventing infectious disease. Students will be expected to travel in groups, avoid travel at night, and stay with the group unless prior approval is obtained. Additional issues of personal health and safety and precautions will be discussed in detail during the pre-seminar preparation and upon arriving in country.

If you are uncomfortable traveling under the conditions presented on the website, you should not apply to this program.

Program Modification and Cancellation

Stanford reserves the right to make alterations to this published website description or cancel the program before or during its operation for any reason, including natural disasters, emergencies, low enrollment, or unavailability of facilities or personnel or in compliance with the University’s travel policies. The specific dates, facilities and activities are subject to change depending on available resources at the time and other important considerations that may arise for a successful implementation of the program.