Despite being one of the smallest countries in South America, Ecuador harbors the richest assemblage of naturally occurring orchids with more than 4,000 species (compare that to ca. 250 species in the United States and Canada combined!) In 2014, we began a research collaboration with the University of Cuenca
in Ecuador aimed at conserving orchids in the Andean cloud forests. Thus far, two Illinois College students have worked in orchid research labs in Cuenca learning techniques for growing Andean orchids from seed with mycorrhizal fungi. While doing so, our students have gained a greater appreciation for tropical orchid diversity, as well as the culture associated with this beautiful South American country. Students who want to carry out research in Ecuador are welcome to do so provided they can speak Spanish or are willing to learn.