Wild Rockies Field Institute

Baja Peninsula: Coastal Ecology & Culture

Dates: This course has been cancelled for the 2008-2009 year.

Cost: $2750 (Compare Costs Here)

Semester Credits: 2

Environmental Studies 311: Field Studies in Human/Ecological Communities & Public Lands Issues; Section: Baja Peninsula: Coastal Ecology & Culture (2 credits)


The clear blue waters and red sandstone mountains of the Sea of Cortez are home to an amazing diversity of ocean species – there are 17 species of dolphin and whales alone, including the largest mammal on Earth, the blue whale – and a fascinating array of Sonoran Desert plants. You are invited to experience a sea kayak-based exploration of the natural history of Baja California emphasizing marine and desert ecology and local culture.

We begin our expedition at the northern tip of La Paz Bay near Isla San Jose, one of the Gulf's largest mountainous islands. Over the course of 9 days we will paddle amongst dolphins, whales and large schools of fish as well as study firsthand the breathtaking diversity of ocean life during periodic snorkeling and intertidal exploration sessions. Short hikes into the rugged nearshore environment provide opportunities to study the various adaptations of Sonoran plants and animals in a region where rain may not fall for several years. Students will also learn firsthand from discussions with inhabitants of close-knit, remote coastal villages about modern forces impacting their way of life that revolves around small-scale fishing businesses. Assignments will include daily field observations, in-depth study of local flora and fauna, and an integrative final project.

Additional readings include socio-political essays by Eduardo Galeano and Octavio Paz comparing Mexican and American history and culture, as well as Barry Lopez's thought provoking The Rediscovery of North America. Steinbeck's classic travelogue from his exploration of the region, Log from The Sea of Cortez, serves as a guide to students in developing an increased understanding of their place in the world, specifically as travelers in an unfamiliar culture in a remote region of the world. In addition to our academic goals, students will also develop solid kayaking and low impact expeditionary skills. The course begins and ends in La Paz, a compact, friendly, intriguing city. We urge students to plan several free days in the area to further explore local history and culture.


The number of students will be limited to ten (10). Our courses are multidisciplinary and our students come from all majors. There are no academic prerequisites for any of our courses. The best background is a sense of curiosity, a willingness to take responsibility for your academic growth, and a love of adventure. No prior backcountry experience is necessary, but you will have more fun if you arrive in good physical condition. Early applications will be accepted through October 10, 2008; final application deadline is November 10, 2008. First half of tuition payment will be due three weeks after acceptance. Remaining tuition will be due by November 28, 2008.

Students going to Mexico will need a passport! Please plan in advance.

Apply Here!


$2750 per student includes tuition and instruction; use of sea kayaks and related equipment; group camping and cooking gear; dinner, and incidental supplies like maps and field guides. Students will be expected to provide their own breakfast and lunch meals, and to buy the course text that is provided by WRFI. An additional $135 filing fee is required to receive academic credit for the course from the University of Montana.


Angie Moline and Eric Boggs

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