Tod Swanson directed ASU's Center for Latin American Studies as a Title VI National Resource Center, 1997-2007. In 1999 Swanson founded the Andes and Amazon Field School at Santu Urku (an Amazonian Kichwa community in Napo Province, Ecuador). During the summer months he resides at this site with his wife and four children where he manages an Amazonian forest preserve. Swanson serves the Santu Urku community in an elected capacity as councilman for environmental affairs. Swanson's work comes out of a lifelong interest in the Ecuadorian Amazon where he grew up as the son of evangelical missionaries.
Swanson's work on Amazonian Kichwa and Shuar religion seeks to understand how heightened empathy with plant and animals species is believed to mediate emotional relations to family and community. His approach uses linguistic analysis of native discourse to uncover implicit assumptions underlying Amazonian thinking. Swanson is currently working on two articles: "I am the Mountain Toucan's Wife" : How birds mediate social relations in the Ecuadorian Amazon;" and "Earth as Memory: Andean Kichwa thinking on the accumulation of history in the soil."
Swanson teaches undergraduate courses on South American Indian Religion and Nature as well as a graduate course on Religion in Latin America. Every summer he brings faculty and students from various disciplines together for the Andes and Amazon Field Schoolheld in Napo Province Ecuador. In that context he teaches courses on Kichwa language (eligible for graduate FLAS Fellowship) and Amazonian Ethnobiology.