Last week I spent a couple of days teaching a "mini-course" on Ecological Parasitology at the Universidad Ricardo Palma. Even though classes had not started officially, students from various universities can enroll in short courses for a certain number of credit hours; they pay a fee, participate in the course and then receive a certificate at the end. There are no exams, etc. (good for me), so my sense is that it's mainly for the experience and the diversity of topics to which they can be exposed.
I had a mixed group of students, i.e., they came from various backgrounds, had different goals and varying levels of experience. I was under the impression that most of the students would be comfortable with english, but that was not to be. My spanish is not good enough to teach a course (far from it!), so my colleague Jorge Cardenas had to translate, which as you might imagine slows things down a bit.
Nevertheless, I covered some basic life history work in addition to a smattering of population and community ecology of parasites. I wanted them to have some practical lab experience as well, so the first afternoon the university provided a bus to take us to the Pantanos de Villa wetland to collect snails in hopes of finding some parasites.
The next morning we spent time examining these hosts for trematode parasites and were fortunate to find a healthy number of infections. Several of the students are interested in continuing work in this area and have been working on this project, as well as helping with another pilot project in Pamplona Alta, one of the very poor communities I've described in previous posts. There is great potential to work with some NGO groups in this area.
I'm currently in the Puno region (south-central Peru, in the Andes) meeting with another group that works in a large, multi-disciplinary project in poor mountain communities. Levels of anemia (related to parasite infection) are alarmingly high; among other things they contribute to a frightening level of neonatal mortality. More on this soon.