To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.  

— Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation from Round River

The focus of Round River’s Conservation Student Programs is to encourage and expand the commitments, minds and spirits of future conservationists by cultivating an active, informed and inspired constituency of young scholars, as conservation scientists, artists, activists, and advocates by providing innovative conservation education and leadership training.

Round River believes landscapes are powerful educators. We currently offer wildlife conservation programs in Mongolia, Belize, British Columbia, Chile, Botswana, and the Arizona-Mexico borderlands.

Our student programs are designed to involve small groups of students (10 or fewer) in ongoing research projects that are finding and implementing solutions to real conservation and environmental issues, afford them upper-division academic credit, and provide our students with invaluable personal and professional development opportunities.

The efforts of our students contribute significantly to the larger conservation initiatives of Round River and our local partners.

For an in-depth view of our Student Programs from students themselves, check out our Student Blog. These are stories, photos and videos posted directly by our students about their student program. Many times these posts are sent directly from field locations.


What you will experience

Why Round River is Different

Unlike other field-based study away programs, our groups are very small (5-9 students). Our programs operate more like a tight-knit biological field research crew than an all class field trip. You will be living within the landscapes and communities you study and transforming the knowledge and data collected into meaningful, applicable recommendations for long-term land use management and community-based conservation efforts.

Students will be rewarded with the incredible natural beauty of the landscapes we are privileged to be invited into. Experiencing these landscapes as a Round River student extends far beyond an outdoor classroom and will provide you with an enriching experience incomparable to traveling as a tourist. Students quickly realize they are part of something dynamic; however, students should know that this is not a semester-long backpacking trip – it is an accredited program and priority is placed on experiential learning, research, and academics.

While you will gain experience and be better prepared and more qualified for graduate school by participating in this fieldwork, you may also find in these wild places the tools to navigate a life rooted in deeper respect for the planet and its inhabitants.

Working with Local People

We understand that people living in the areas we work are the long-term stewards of the landscape. Round River forms partnerships with local people and organizations in order to provide scientific expertise and help form conservation strategies that work in accordance with that community’s environmental values. As a student, you will work and interact with these people, and not only get to experience their culture first-hand, but also be exposed to the complexities of achieving conservation objectives in communities with diverse needs and interests.

Field Research

Ultimately, these programs are about getting your hands dirty and earning the satisfaction of knowing that the projects you are working on are contributing to larger conservation initiatives. You will gain field skills and learn how to design research studies. Round River feels that it is essential that anyone interested in conservation and the environment, whether in science or the Humanities, get out and walk on the land. We strive to attract students from all backgrounds and majors, from Biology to English.

Academic Credit

Our courses are accredited through Westminster University. Semester programs include 5 courses at 3 credits each (for 15 total credit hours), while the summer program are 3 courses (9 total credit hours). Lectures are offered by our instructors and researchers or local experts and are as likely to take place around the campfire in the evening as at a research station. During the program, you will work with your fellow students, guided by instructors and other researchers, to compile and analyze the data you have collected. At the end of the program, you will produce a written report and present your findings to our local partners.

Wildlife Monitoring and Conservation Planning

Botswana is the Africa of your imagination. Exotic birds fill infinite skies, elephant herds roam through forests, lions hunt across savannahs, and hippos bob in wide rivers. Round River students are assisting the Okavango Research Institute and the Okavango Community Trusts to monitor these wildlife populations and the landscapes on which they depend.

Wildlife Monitoring and Exploration

The vast taiga of Northern Mongolia is home to an incredible array of carnivores, ungulates and other wildlife and plants.  Come explore Round River’s newest project area in the remote Darhad Valley of the Huvsgul province.  Students assist our partner organizations with wildlife surveys and monitoring, study the ecosystem processes of three newly-formed Protected Areas, and work with local schools and communities.

Adventures in Conservation

Patagonia is a wild landscape of ice fields, fjords, and glacial peaks rising from windswept plains. Round River is working to support species-based conservation and sustainable tourism in Chilean Patagonia, through partnerships with local people and the Chilean government.

Wildlife Monitoring and Climate Change

The Taku River flows from the interior mountain ranges of northern British Columbia to the coastal ranges of Alaska, and is the largest intact salmon-bearing watershed in North America. The Taku is a vast wilderness of glacial rivers, boreal forest and snow-packed peaks harboring many of the charismatic species of this continent. Round River students assist the Taku River Tlingit First Nation with wildlife studies and monitoring climate change in alpine habitat.

Sustainable Livelihoods

Home to tropical wildlife, like the harpy eagle, scarlet macaw, Baird’s tapir, and jaguar, the Ya’axché Conservation Trust works primarily with indigenous communities to preserve the Maya Golden Landscape. Alongside these local communities, Ya’axché fosters sustainable livelihoods, assists with protected area management for biodiversity conservation and provides vital environmental education. Round River is excited to return to Belize and partner with such a significant organization as the Ya’axché Conservation Trust.

Wildlife Monitoring and Climate Change

The Sky Islands is a world biodiversity hotspot in northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States. This ecoregion is named for the 57 pine- and oak-studded mountain “islands” encompassed within and separated by desert and grassland “seas.” These isolated sky island mountains connect the Colorado Plateau and temperate north with the Sierra Madre Occidental and neotropical south. This is where the jaguar and black bear meet, where bromeliads grow in the arms of maple trees, and spicy chiltepin pepper and sweet Arizona canyon grape grow side-by-side.