This program is organized by DukeEngage faculty/staff in collaboration with DukeEngage. This is a new program for the summer of 2017.

Chile Program Dates

May 21 - July 14

Service Focus

Participating in efforts to collect community input regarding this temperate forest region’s transition from logging to ecotourism; supporting conservation activities including limnology of glacial lakes, re-forestation of native trees, and location of endangered species.

Program Leader(s)

  • , Guest Lecturer, Sanford School of Public Policy, Program Director
  • Veronica Toledo, Huilo Huilo Foundation Conservation Director


During their stay in Chile, students will work with the Huilo Huilo Foundation, the local organization based in Santiago and the town of Neltume that focuses on conservation of native plants and animal species endemic to the Huilo Huilo area. Students will participate in two main projects.

First, a set of activities aimed at providing the local community with information regarding its economic and social transition from a traditional logging economy to one based on ecotourism. These activities will involve direct contact with community members through Community Fora where students will interact with local residents (some of whom are of indigenous Mapuche origin), together with administration of a short household survey measuring the families’ labor force transition. The students also will actively participate in study dissemination meetings with the communities and local schools, where findings will be presented and discussed.

A second set of activities is designed to add to the community partner’s knowledge base of the resources existing in the reserve. Students will assist in assessing water quality in five of the reserve’s glacial lakes Students will also measure and assess the presence of native trees in areas identified by the Reserve for future planting. Time permitting, students will participate in measuring the presence of an endangered species (Pudu Puda) and help to create a database of sightings of this elusive mammal.

While at Huilo Huilo, Duke students will engage in activities such as:

  • Orientation with Huilo Huilo Foundation’s Program Director and the Program Coordinator. Students will learn about the Foundation’s projects, mission, history, and future projects. Students will also receive guidance on how to cope with working in a remote, less developed, and rainy region of Northern Patagonia.
  • In Neltume, help to design and administer a household survey of 240 (local) dwellings. This work involves using Digipoint 3 to identify each dwelling. The students will test and administer the survey using computer/tablet platforms. They will participate in four Community Fora where they will meet with a random sample of residents and engage them in conversations regarding their personal experiences of the transition to ecotourism. Students will process survey results using Stata and prepare electronic, text, and graphic materials for dissemination of the findings.  
  • Travel to five glacial lakes to measure water characteristics and presence of subaquatic life, and collect information on the fauna in the adjacent environment.
  • Work with the scientist in charge of identifying and locating Pudu Puda using trap cameras. Contribute to building a database of sightings. Engage with the scientist to evaluate alternative areas of measurement.
  • Engage in other activities during the program, including cultural excursions, discussion groups, writing blogs, and final debriefing.
  • Travel to areas identified by the Huilo Huilo Forestry Reserve for replanting of native trees and document the presence of invasive trees and bushes using photography. Students will engage with staff scientists at the Reserve to evaluate findings after each field visit.

Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes

Students will be exposed to field work in the social and natural sciences. During half of the project students will acquire practical knowledge on sampling design, administration of a survey in the field, data analysis and reporting. They also will learn to interact in meaningful dialogue with the local population including the indigenous communities, on topics of high importance for the region at large. During the second half of the project, students will develop skills in limnology and flora and fauna identification. At the end of the period, students will dedicate time for preparation of materials for dissemination to the community and two middle schools.

Service Opportunities

Students will actively participate in ongoing activities of the Huilo Huilo Foundation. At least four main themes will be addressed (and potential activities include:

  • “Improvement of labor skills.” The household survey will be the first and only instrument aimed at understanding the community’s transition from logging to ecotourism. This instrument will measure the characteristics of the community’s workforce involvement in ecotourism, and will provide insight into areas for future development of labor skills. It will also allow an assessment of the Foundation’s effort in developing new skills among community members in areas such as handicrafts, marketing and design of business models.
  • “Measuring Water Characteristics of the Reserve Lakes.” Students may conduct preliminary limnological research which will enrich the available information on about a third of all lakes in the Reserve. Currently, information about these lakes is mostly anecdotal and privy to only a small group of community members. For the first time, a knowledge base about the lakes will be made available to the community at large. Students will report on characteristics of the lakes through comparisons of their water quality, location, depth and support of animal life.
  • “Supporting the Re-Forestation Effort.” This service activity is essential to establishing a link between the community and the Forestry Reserve. Students may serve the community by learning and later reporting on reforestation efforts. The reforestation project has developed a large nursery of native trees which need to be planted. Students will serve as “first responders” in the reforestation effort. Areas known to be cleared of native trees will be assessed, photographed, and inventoried. The Forestry Reserve will use this information to plan their re-planting efforts. The effort will also serve as a pilot project to assess the effectiveness of using volunteers to support reforestation in Huilo Huilo.
  • “Preventing the Extinction of the Smallest Deer on Earth” is an important component of the conservation project. The information obtained in this project will contribute to a better understanding of the presence of Pudu Puda in the Huilo Huilo Reserve. Only anecdotal information is available about this elusive small deer. Using a scientific approach at measuring its presence and location will contribute to construction of a new data base. The community will gain knowledge about this animal through dissemination efforts in schools and other community gatherings. 

Program Requirements

Students must be motivated and willing to work extensively with laptops/tables, cellphones, cameras, limnology testing kits, and their hands and legs (extensive walking is involved). Students must also be motivated to work in close collaboration with others, including personnel of the Huilo Huilo Foundation in Neltume, community members from the towns of Neltume and Puerto Fuy, and local indigenous organizations. Students must be willing to learning new skills and gaining new experiences, while demonstrating patience and flexibility. Some background in biology and/or fieldwork is preferred but not necessary.

Language Requirements: Intermediate-level Spanish is required.

Course Requirements: Coursework in conservation, research methods and biology is preferred but not required.

Other Skills: Working knowledge of photography of natural settings may be helpful. Also, knowledge of fishing from lake shores will be useful.

Personal Qualities:

  • Commitment to honest and ethical behaviors – actively seeks to understand and adhere to the values, policies, procedures, and protocols of DukeEngage and their host organization/community; lives up to commitments and promises they make to others.
  • Ability to work productively on a supervised team – respond to feedback and critique from co-workers and supervisors with maturity and openness to improvement; listen actively and communicate courteously; respond with patience and perseverance to new or unanticipated situations and obstacles; accept responsibility for their actions; balance their personal expectations of the DukeEngage volunteer experience with the realities of working on short-term projects in cultural and workplace settings that are new to them.
  • Self-reliance and self-confidence – understands and meets their own physical and emotional needs in new environments with an age-appropriate mixture of optimism and realism.
  • Empathy and cultural sensitivity – effectively and respectfully communicates and interacts with people of different ages, ethnicity, religions, and traditions; demonstrates curiosity about the lives of others without judgment.

Program Details

Description of Community: The Huilo Huilo Foundation Complex is located in Neltume, a small town in the Panguipulli Province located between two lakes, Panguipulli to the West and Pirihueico to the East. Neltume has a population of around 4,000 people. Five miles to the Southeast, is Puerto Fuy (population 1,000), a port community in Lake Pirihueico. This lake serves as a link to an international pass to Argentina, about 5 miles east of the southern shore. Neltume and Puerto Fuy are small, relatively remote communities with limited infrastructure. The closest airport is in the city of Valdivia, about 100 miles away. In addition to these two small towns, there is a territory to the East of Lake Neltume inhabited by indigenous communities belonging to the Mapuche People. These are indigenous communities, inhabiting the region for over 3,000 years. The project will work with two independent communities located about 3 miles west of Neltume.

Housing and Meals: Students will stay in lodge-style housing that is part of the Huilo Foundation Complex. Housing will consist of multi-person rooms with beds, nightstands, and closets. Each lodge has a kitchen and a living room. One of the lodges includes a computer lab of 6 stations and a printer. One of the lodges will support meal preparation and service for the group. Electricity (220V, outlets have two-pin plugs that are common in central Europe) and wireless Internet are provided. Laundry machines are available on site, although students must provide their own detergent. Bathrooms are located in each lodge and have hot water tanks. All heating in the lodges is provided by wood stoves. The meals and housekeeping services are provided by local staff. Temperatures will vary from 40 to 60 Fahrenheit. Rain occurs frequently.

If you do not eat certain types of food for cultural, religious or personal reasons, please contact the DukeEngage office, , to discuss whether or not your dietary needs can be reasonably accommodated at this program site.

Transportation: Ground transportation will be available between the Araucania Airport (120 miles northwest) and the Huilo Huilo Foundation Complex in Neltume. Local transportation from the Complex to all areas included in the project will be provided locally

Communication: Internet access is available at the Huilo Huilo Foundation Complex. Students should plan on bringing their own laptop/tablet for use during the program. Cell phones with international plans will be provided for each student for the duration of the program.

Opportunities for Reflection: Weekly discussion sessions will be held in the afternoon or evening. Discussion sessions will focus on a theme or topic that will be selected the week before. Students will be expected to write and post at least one blog (more are encouraged). Sample blogs will be provided, and students must get approval from Program Director or Site Coordinator before each blog is posted.

Other Opportunities: Much of the work will be collaborative and in groups, so autonomy and private space may be limited. There are opportunities for walks outdoors where the complex is located. The town of Neltume has a few stores, hostels and restaurants. In the vicinity, there are two hotels serving tourists of the Huilo Huilo Reserve. These hotels are highly ranked and priced accordingly. Students will have access to these facilities as regular tourists. There will be opportunities for autonomy in the evenings and students will behave as expected by the DukeEngage code of conduct. The Huilo Huilo Foundation requires that no outside visitors are allowed in the residences.  

Visits to Areas Outside the Region: A visit to the town of Valdivia is planned after four weeks in Neltume. This is a university town of about 150,000. A visit to the university and a discussion with a local physicist (a glaciologist doing research in Volcano Mocho-Choshuenco, located 5 miles south of Neltume) will be arranged.

Curricular Connections

This project links academically to courses in conservation, education, research methods, limnology, as well as to courses across disciplines that address poverty and economic development in rural communities.

    • Service Theme Environment