This program explores indigenous environmental knowledge, coastal marine ecology, and water resource management through an interdisciplinary approach.
This program is administered by the College of Food, Agricultural & Natural Resource Sciences' Office of International Programs. Applications are processed by the Learning Abroad Center.
|Term||May Session (Spring Semester)|
|Credit Type||Resident Credit|
|Sponsor||College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences|
|Student Type||UofM Students|
|Student Year||Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors|
|Language||No Language Prerequisite|
Spend May term on the sunny shores of the Mexican Riviera learning about sustainable tourism and coastal ecology. Akumal, a small town an hour south of Cancun, means “the place of the turtle” in Mayan, and its bays with crystal clear waters are a favorite spot for sea turtles to nest. The Mexican Caribbean, particularly the Riviera Maya, has experienced 70 times an increase in tourism over the past 30 years. This rapid increase in tourism has disrupted the nesting turtles as well as plants and other animals native to this area.
This program explores the complex problems of the impact of tourism and development on coral reefs, marine life, water quality and other habitats. You will learn about responsible tourism and sustainable development through field based projects and experiencing the water, land, flora and fauna firsthand. You will learn and experience coastal and marine ecology in the context of tourism and development. Observe sea turtles in their nesting and feeding habitat while working on beach habitat restoration. Test the water quality in lagoons and cenotes to understand complex issues surrounding groundwater and freshwater in this region. Snorkel the crystal blue waters to see the coral reef ecology and identify species of fish. Visit mangroves, seagrass communities and hike into lush tropical forests. Experience Mexican history and culture by visiting Mayan ruins and spending time in local communities.
Listen to Ray Newman, program leader, talk more about this program here.
The program will comply with local public health recommendations as well as recommended standards of the University of Minnesota. This may include modifications to the program calendar, weekly schedule, classroom environment, course delivery, housing arrangements, transportation policies, and/or in-country travel restrictions. Below are some of the current program specific changes, but know that these modifications could change at anytime as we get more information:
Students will stay at the Tortuga Escondida Residency Center, located in the jungle several km outside of Akumal. A pool, internet, study areas and air conditioning are provided; housing is dormatory style. All meals are included within the program dates.
January 1, 2021
Depart from Minneapolis-Saint Paul: May 15, 2021
Arrive in Mexico: May 15, 2021
Depart from Mexico: June 5, 2021
These dates are subject to change.
Students are required to take 2 courses as part of this program.
CFAN 3422: Introduction to Sustainable Akumal (1credit; Spring B term 2021).
This is a required prerequisite course. It will introduce students to the literature, concepts, and skills (including snorkeling) needed to thrive in CFAN 3522. The course will be held from 3-5pm starting March 19-May 7, 2021.
CFAN 3522: Sustainable Akumal (3 credits; May 2021)
The aim of this course is to introduce students to coastal systems and coastal ecology, the effects of tourism and development on these systems, and potential strategies to promote sustainable development and tourism and mitigate impacts. Specifically, we will cover the karst geology, underground rivers, and cenotes of the region, their connection to and ecology of lagoons and mangroves. We will assess coastal beaches and sea turtle nesting habitat and the near shore sea grass communities that support juvenile loggerheads and green turtles. We will study near shore and deeper reef systems and how these are affected by increasing development and tourism, directly and via nutrient input and strategies used to reduce and mitigate development and waste impacts. Finally, we will introduce students to ancient Mayan history, ruins and culture, and how these relate to contemporary development in the region that attempts to capitalize on that history; resultant conflicts between established entrepreneurs, ecologically minded ex-pats, local Mestizo worker communities, a long established ecological center and recent tourism developments will be explored. Students will also learn how to conduct projects that address issues of concern to local researchers, managers, and the community. Working in small teams you will tackle a specific topic related to your interests and expertise and present the results to colleagues, and local scientists, managers and community members.
Students interested in sustainable development, responsible tourism, marine biology, conservation, environmental management, water quality, coastal ecology, and/or similar topics will really enjoy this course. Students interested in developing their disciplinary expertise (e.g., water quality, marine biology, GIS/landscape mapping, social science, fisheries) in an interdisciplinary context are especially desired.
Raymond Newman Distinguished Teaching Professor, Marine Biology Undergrad Minor Coordinator, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology
Florencia Pech Cardinas PhD Candidate, Natural Resource Sciences and Management, Department of Forest Resources
Excursions include visits to Xel-Ha National Park, Tulum and Coba archeological sites, Yal Ku Lagoon, Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, several bays and beaches, wetlands and cenotes.
This program is a great fit for students interested in field based learning and requires a moderate level of physical activity. You must feel very comfortable swimming in open water as snorkeling in the ocean and cenotes is a regular part of program activities. Prior snorkelling experience is a plus. Scuba diving is an option for students who are SCUBA certified (at an additional cost).
Cost of Participation Forthcoming
The program fee includes tuition for CFAN 3522, group flight airfare, airport transfers, in-country program related transportation, housing, most meals, entrances to course-related excursions and site visits, program administration, and international health insurance.
The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences offers grants for study abroad programs; learn more here. Students can learn about financial aid and scholarships through the Learning Abroad Center here.
Programs operated by the CFANS Office of International Programs follow the Learning Abroad Center Cancellation Policy. Before you apply to, or confirm your participation on this program, review the cancellation policy to inform yourself of the timeline and financial obligations for canceling.
Be aware: All programs require a $50 application fee. This fee will be charged to your student account upon submission of an online application.
To complete the online application for this program, you will need to select or provide the following information on the online application:
|Center Name||TC Learning Abroad Ctr|
|Education Abroad Term||May Session 2021 (Spring on campus course)|
|Program Name||Sustainable Akumal: Turtles, Tourists, Cenotes, & Coral Reefs|
|Track Name||Sustainable Akumal: Turtles, Tourists, Cenotes, & Coral Reefs|
Detailed descriptions and instructions for submitting each checklist item are included on the application checklist.