Bio-Cultural Diversity and Community-Based Conservation in Oaxaca

Program Quick Facts

Location: Mexico City and Oaxaca, Mexico

Faculty Leader: Rodolfo Dirzo, Biological Sciences

BOSP Special Programs Coordinator: Yosefa Gilon

Arrival date in Mexico City, Mexico: June 17, 2019

Departure date from Mexico City, Mexico: July 13, 2019


Additional Program Requirements
1) Vaden Travel Health Orientation
1x1 Appointment with Vaden Travel Clinic
Ground Rules - In order to optimize safety during the program, students will be required to agree to and sign Ground Rules that may restrict behavior throughout the program. These Ground Rules are in addition to the BOSP Participation and Assumption of Risk, Release of Claims, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement that all students sign and agree to at the time of program application. Students’ parents/families will also need to sign these Ground Rules to confirm that they acknowledge the specific dangers of travel to the program location.

Activity Level
Moderate: Participants should expect to spend multiple hours each day engaging in physical activity such as hiking or snorkeling. For a full list of program activity levels refer to the Overview page.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Health Information for Travelers to Mexico

US State Department Country Information

Visa Information
Consulate General of Mexico

General Information: Visit the Overseas Seminars/Faculty-Initiated Program Overview page

Application Deadline: October 28, 2018

General Description

This is an interdisciplinary seminar 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: 1) A short (two-days) component at the beginning and end of the trip, visiting Mexico’s National Commission of Biodiversity (CONABIO) and the National University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City (at the beginning of the program), and the Anthropology Museum (at the end of the program); 2) 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 who are 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 on market biodiversity, one on wood harvesting, one on forestry management), 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 databases, information on the biodiversity of the 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 for 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, to the major cultural groups of pre-Hispanic Mexico (and Mesoamerica).


Ixtlán and San Juan Jayacatlán represent ongoing examples of how rural communities are successful in 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

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


Rodolfo Dirzo is a Professor in the Biology Department. He teaches Ecology, Natural History (at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve), Conservation Science, and the Application of Spanish in 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/Faculty-Initiated Programs he has led in the past:

  • BOSP Overseas Seminar: Ecological interactions in tropical dry forest (Chamela Tropical Research Station, Jalisco, Mexico)
  • BOSP Faculty-Initiated Program: Bio-cultural diversity in Oaxaca, Mexico

Prerequisites and Expectations 

  • BIO 144 is recommended but not a prerequisite 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.
    • Sarukhán, J., Urquiza-Haas, T. Koleff, P.., Carabias, J., Dirzo, R., Ezcurra, E., Cerdeira-Estrada, S., Soberón, J. 2015. Strategic actions to value, conserve, and restore the Natural Capital. BioScience 65: 164-173.

Application Process

Decisions will be based on application materials. There are no interviews. The program capacity is 15 students.

Grading Basis

Satisfactory/no credit

Passport and Visa

Students are solely responsible for obtaining their passport and visa (if applicable). 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.

To determine whether a visa is necessary for your program, visit the Consulate General of Mexico website. You may also consult with the recommended visa service providers listed below.

VisaCentral by CIBT

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

In person: 555 Montgomery St. Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94111
Walk-in hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
By phone: (877) 535-0688

VisaBy Casto for Stanford Travel Program

VisaBy Casto offers special rates for Stanford online, or through the local office:

Address: 2560 North First Street, Suite 150, San Jose, CA 95131
By phone: (408) 553-4735
By email:

Health and Safety

Students on international programs should be aware that attitudes toward medical conditions, disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression 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 clinician.

While the benefits of international travel can be enormous, it is often associated with certain health and safety risks. Thankfully, a number of interventions exist to mitigate these risks including vaccines, use of certain medications, and specific behavior changes. Health concerns vary by the particular destination, time of year, the health of the individual, type of accommodations, length of stay and specific activities. Participants should be up to date on all their regular immunizations, check the CDC website for vaccinations and immunizations. In addition, specific travel vaccines such as typhoid, yellow fever, or rabies vaccines may be indicated. Various types of medication may also be needed to prevent life-threatening malaria or altitude illness; or to treat traveler’s diarrhea. Finally, students should learn and utilize insect precautions, food and water precautions, and general safety precautions. These can prevent illnesses such as dengue fever, schistosomiasis, HIV; or accidents such as those involving motor vehicles. In spite of all the precautions, occasionally students do become ill or sustain an injury while traveling. Thankfully, most of these are minor. However, it is critical that students have a clear plan of care in case of an emergency on their trip. The travel clinic at the Vaden Health Center has produced an online travel health module that provides comprehensive strategies to help you stay safe and healthy while traveling.

Students must review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for complete information regarding the health concerns and vaccine recommendations specific to Mexico. Students must also discuss with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic or a travel health specialist about the best ways to protect their health.

There will be a mandatory Mexico health orientation in February and all students will also be required to make an appointment with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic by March 1, 2019 to discuss any health concerns, pre-departure immunizations, and any personal prescriptions before going abroad.

Students must review the U. S. State Department’s Country Information for complete information on safety and security in Mexico.

As with any foreign travel, students are advised to be alert to their surroundings, and be particularly aware of any health and safety advisories for the area in which they will be visiting. Students should consult with their health care provider(s) to be prepared for potential illness. Additional issues of personal health and safety and precautions will be discussed in detail during the mandatory pre-program preparation and upon arriving in the country.

If you are uncomfortable traveling under such conditions, you should not apply to this program.

Program Modification and Cancelation

Stanford reserves the right to cancel or modify the Program before or during its operation for any reason, including natural disasters, emergencies, low enrollment, unavailability of facilities or personnel, or compliance with the University travel policy at