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On the River: Experiencing the Brazilian Amazon

On the River: Experiencing the Brazilian Amazon (EVST3014) is a spring 2018 honors seminar with a study tour to Brazil!

Meeting time: TuTh 3:30-4:50PM                BoK: SE, NS

Boat on the Amazon River


The sustainability of endangered tropical ecosystems may depend on the action of individuals who have a realistic appreciation of their structure, function, beauty, people, and problems.

Students completing this course will be among those with the potential to influence the future, as they will have personally experienced the Amazon River basin and investigated the issues challenging it today. Students taking On the River come from diverse backgrounds (we've had students from CCM, A&S STEM and non-STEM, engineering, education, DAAP, nursing, allied health, and business; all disciplines encouraged and welcome!). The goal is to elevate everyone’s conceptual understanding through readings, media, instructor/guest/ student-­‐led lectures and discussions. We will spend the first 8 weeks of the semester on this.

Come spring break, we will travel to Brazil to see just how well that academic understanding matches the real world. The Amazon River basin is one of the largest, intact, tropical rain forests in the world. The Amazon River system is equally impressive, running from the Peruvian Andes to the Atlantic Ocean – well over 4000 miles. Our trip will explore two segments of this extensive river system, the Amazon River itself (part of which is called the Rio Solimões in Brazil) and the Rio Negro. These rivers come together at a “wedding of the waters” just outside Manaus, Brazil.

Our trip will start in Manaus. We typically spend around five days on the white water of the Amazon River/Rio Solimões and another five on the black water of the Rio Negro. Students, instructors, and crew live on a river boat that will carry us over 600 nautical miles along the rivers. We will use the boat as our home base as we explore the flooded forests by canoe and the upland and villages on foot. During the study tour, students will conduct independent academic projects developed earlier in the semester.

Participants will see first-hand the breadth of plant diversity and wildlife present in the Amazon River basin. The most common type of wildlife will be birds, followed by insects and fish. Please keep this in mind so that your expectations are accurate. While you will hopefully see monkeys swinging through the trees at least once, it will not be common. We will spend a good amount of time observing the hundreds of bird species, including colorful parrots (including macaws), toucans, and others.

Course Information

Course Details:

  • Course number: EVST3014
  • Class meeting time: TuTh 3:30-4:50PM
  • Course attributes: CM, KI, SR
  • BoK: SE, NS
  • Credit hours: 3
  • Honors seminar
Banana bundle on the boat

Course Instructor(s)/Program leaders:

  • Dr. Steve Matter - Bio coming soon! This will be Dr. Matter's 2nd study tour to the Brazilian Amazon with UC students. 
  • Dr. Jodi Shann - Dr. Shann's research interests include environmental chemistry, biodegration and phytoremediation and ecological restoration, as well as plants, microorganisms and soil. She received her Ph.D in Botany and Plan Biochemistry from North Carolina State University and has taught at UC since 1988. Dr. Shann has traveled to the Brazilian Amazon 3 times with UC students. 
  • Debbie Brawn - Debbie Brawn is the Administrative Director for the University Honors Program. Debbie is charged with strategic planning and implementation of the UHP mission and vision. Debbie has a B.A. from Xavier University and a M.A. in Higher Education and Student Affairs from The Ohio State University. Debbie has traveled to the Brazilian Amazon 3 times with UC students and 2 times with a University of Houston Clear Lake program. 

Tentative Itinerary

The group will be departing on Friday, March 9th, 2018 from Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport to Eduardo Gomes International Airport in Manaus (via Miami International Airport). On Monday, March 19th, 2018 the group will depart Eduardo Gomes International Airport in Manaus for Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Below is a sample itinerary, to provide prospective participants with an idea of what you will see and do. It is subject to change, depending on the length of the trip, needs of the group and flooding conditions at the time of travel.

We will be traveling with Amazonia Expeditions, an expedition company based in Manaus, Brazil. Amazonia Expeditions has been taking groups into the Amazon basin for over 35 years and is led by Moacir Fortes and his son, Moacir Fortes, Jr, known to all as "Junior". Junior will be our captain and is an expert naturalist who will lead us through the Amazon basin. 

View off the back of the boat. The canoes are used to explore the rivers and flooded forest.
Exploring the Amazon River.
The Victoria Amazonica, an Amazonian river boat. The class will travel on a boat just like this.

Course and Study Tour Expectations

Please pay close attention to the following:

Participants must be able to swim in order to participate.

A high level of maturity is required of participants in this program. You will be living and learning together in tight accommodations aboard a houseboat. There is no room, literally and figuratively, for lack of maturity or misbehavior.  

Most of our time will be spent exploring the flooded forest on canoes and watching for wildlife (primarily birds). This requires quiet and patience while sitting in canoes, sometimes for long periods of time. If this does not sound like a good fit for you, please do not apply to participate.

The study tour is alcohol and smoke free. Please keep this in mind as you decide whether this program is a good fit for you. If not consuming alcohol or smoking for the duration of the travel component is not acceptable to you, please do not apply to participate.

In addition, we will be in a remote area far (in miles and time) from medical care. As a result, students with severe allergies or medical conditions that could require acute care should thoughtfully consider whether it is in their best interest to participate; students should consult with their personal physician.

Vegan and vegetarian diets can be challenging to accommodate on this program (these diets are very uncommon in the part of Brazil we are visiting). Please talk with one of the program leaders if you are vegan or vegetarian to learn more and decide if you would like to participate. 

Please keep in mind that the climate is very hot. We will be close to the equator in a tropical rain forest. You must be able to tolerate the heat. There is no air conditioning during the day. There is typically air conditioning in the bedrooms at night, but that is not guaranteed. 

This is not the program to apply for because your friends are applying. You must have your own clear and specific reasons for participating. The conditions can be difficult and you must be motivated to be there for the right reasons, not because you think it would be "cool" to go to the Amazon with friends. 

Students are expected to meet the instructors' academic and behavioral expectations during the class time leading up to the travel component and during the travel component. Students who do not meet academic and/or behavioral expectations leading up to travel will not be permitted to travel. Students in this situation will not receive a refund. Students who do not meet academic and/or behavioral expectations during travel will be sent home at their expense and/or subject to judicial referral upon return under the UC Student Code of Conduct.


The priority deadline for this study tour was September 8th, 2017 but the application is still open. Apply here. An interview with the faculty may be required as part of the application process. 

Participants must be able to swim in order to participate.

Participants will be required to submit a medical clearance form from their physician in order to participate. We will be in a remote area far (in miles and time) from medical care. As a result, students with severe allergies or medical conditions that could require acute care should thoughtfully consider whether it is in their best interest to participate; students should consult with their personal physician.

UC undergraduates who are not in the University Honors Program are welcome and encouraged to apply to participate, provided the student has a cumulative university GPA of 3.2 or above. Graduate students are not eligible to enroll. Although priority is given to University Honors students, we are often able to offer spaces to other students as well.

Sunset on the Rio Negro, taken at the start of an evening exploration.

2018 Program Cost: $4000 

Included in Program Cost:

  • Airfare
  • Accommodations on a houseboat -- double rooms, bunk beds, with a very small private bath
  • Bottled water
  • CISI insurance
  • Meals on the boat
  • Guides 
  • Crew tips
  • Admission fees
  • Group ground transportation 

Not Included in Program Cost:

  • Meals at airports
  • Soda (may be purchased on the boat)
  • Vaccinations -- Yellow Fever strongly recommended
  • Baggage fees
  • Passports
  • Visas
  • Personal expenses
  • Souvenirs

The program fee for this study tour is $4000. However, the program has been awarded a $400 UC International Scholarship (matriculated, UC degree-seeking students only) and a $800 University Honors Grant. This brings the posted financial liability of the program down to $2800. 

Note that both program charges and UC International scholarship will be posted separately on a student’s OneStop bill on the semester in which the course for the study abroad experience is given.  Program charges are posted shortly after students commit to the program through the online application process. Scholarships are posted after all students 1) register for the course connected to the study abroad experience, and 2) complete all study abroad online paperwork.

Visa and vaccine costs are very expensive; please budget $600-800 to cover these costs. There is more information below in the "Travel Documents" and "Health" sections. 

What to bring? 

Please see the packing list to learn about what to bring. Packing list will be added soon. 

Victoria Amazonia water lilies.
Feeding a Boto Cor de Rosa Dolphin (Amazon River Pink Dolphin). These beautiful dolphins are part of Amazon River folklore and legend.

Travel Documents

In order to travel outside the United States, you will need to have passport that is valid for at least six months after your return. To find the forms you need to apply for or renew your passport, go to the Passport page on the US State Department's website.  New passports regularly cost $135 while renewals cost $110.

In order to travel to Brazil, you need a tourist visa.  The visa cost is high - $200-$300 for visa and consular fees, $50-75 for mailing, and $60 or higher fee to use a visa agency.  We will give you more information regarding visas after you are accepted into the class. You are responsible for this cost, in addition to fees paid to UC for participation.


UC faculty, students and staff are responsible for their own health and safety abroad. The US Department of StateCenters for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) and International SOS are excellent resources for country specific information.

Vaccinations and Health Precautions for the Brazilian Amazon
Contact your physician to discuss what vaccinations and heath precautions (like malaria prevention and taking antibiotics with you) are recommended. Vaccinations such as yellow fever and others are recommended by the CDC and can be costly. Please plan for this additional cost.

Yellow fever vaccination is strongly recommended. Yellow fever vaccination will cost well over $100 and is NOT included in the costs that you are paying to UC.

All participants should carefully read the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage on Brazil and, specifically, the Amazon region.

Other Health and Safety Information 
UC partners with International SOS medical and security advice. UC code is 11BCAS000010

UC students, faculty and staff can utilize International SOS in the following ways:

  • Sign up to receive email alerts for medical and security information, customizable to various locations abroad
  • Read about travel health information with medical advice, food and water safety, and cultural tips
  • Explore travel security with personal safety tips and travel risk ratings for locations abroad

UC faculty, students and staff traveling abroad should register their travel abroad through the US Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of an emergency abroad.

All UC students participating in a University of Cincinnati sanctioned or funded international travel program are required to purchase and maintain insurance while abroad. UC International partners with CISI to provide insurance for UC students.


Please contact faculty leader Dr. Steve Matter, program leader Debbie Brawn, or Neil Choudhury of the University Honors Program.

Return to main University Honors travel page.

Flooded waters of the Rio Negro.