The safety and well being of all of our students and staff is the highest priority on any Round River Conservation Studies program. We work in remote areas and include our students in actual conservation work, but those efforts never take precedence over the welfare of students. While we cannot guarantee absolute safety anywhere, we can minimize risk to the best of our ability. We have developed extraordinary programs that offer the opportunity for personal and professional growth while still keeping the safety and health of our students as our top priority.

Risk Management Plans

Round River has comprehensive risk management plans in place for each program. We review these plans on a regular basis. Remote Medical International, an industry leader in risk management, has reviewed our plans and has developed medical guidelines for our staff. Global Rescue has also reviewed our safety and communication protocols.

On-site Orientation for Students

Upon arriving on-site, students are provided with a thorough safety orientation and training from program instructors. This orientation covers environmental conditions, wildlife concerns, social and cultural considerations, and emergency protocols. Students are encouraged to ask questions until all participants achieve complete understanding of each topic. The orientation also includes a private conversation between instructors and each student to address individual medical histories and special needs.

Our small group sizes allow us to pay special attention to present or evolving risks, and we revisit safety issues and procedures on a regular basis with students throughout each program to ensure the safety and comfort of everyone. We rely heavily on our local staff, especially in Africa, to advise our safety protocols.

Staff Training

All of our American instructors possess current Wilderness First Responder certification (an 80-hour first aid course), with some staff certified as Wilderness Emergency Medical Technicians (W-EMT). Local instructors also possess first aid certifications. The Wilderness First Responder training focuses on first aid scenarios particular to remote or backcountry environments. Round River worked with Remote Medical International to develop our medical guidelines and currently has a medical advisor specializing in wilderness medicine overseeing procedures and medications. Program instructors carry first aid kits with them at all times.

External Support

All students and instructors are enrolled with Global Rescue for medical evacuation services during the program through Round River. Through this company, Round River staff and students have 24-hour access to their medical advisory team. The medical condition is evaluated remotely, and if a situation warrants medical evacuation, Global Rescue will coordinate the evacuation, working with local health care facilities and transportation providers.

Communication

During any program, students will have limited access to internet and phone communications. This is due to the remote nature of our research sites. Students can expect to have access to email approximately every two to five weeks, depending on the program location.

Our instructors carry satellite phones and satellite communication devices (inReach units) with them at all times. Our support staff in the USA and Canada are on-call during programs and available to respond quickly and efficiently to any issues that may arise, either at our field sites or to communicate emergencies from home.

COVID-19 Philosophy and Program Modifications

With 30 years of experience leading study afield programs in remote international locations, we know that prevention is the key to keeping participants safe and healthy.  As with any risk, we cannot guarantee that COVID-19 will not appear on our programs.  However, we strongly believe that our risk management measures will both 1) significantly reduce the risk of infection of any program participants or local partners, and 2) will allow our field staff to quickly identify, isolate, and provide supportive care of transfer to definitive treatment if any cases do arise.  

Vaccinations are widely available in the United States, and we require that our students get vaccinated before joining us in the field. Not only is this necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19 within our group but it’s also vital for keeping our local partners safe and healthy. For further protection, we will use testing and distancing before and at the initiation of a semester while we welcome students into our “bubble”. Our field protocols ensure that we can monitor the health and well-being of staff and students during the term, and we have options for assessment and treatment if someone should exhibit symptoms. 

By their nature, our programs are relatively safe from pandemic illness because of our small group size and remote and rural locations.  Our small programs have 10 students on average each and an average staff to student ratio of 1:3 or less. We are committed to keeping our staff to student ratio low because it enables us to provide one-on-one care as may be required in the event of a medical emergency. 

Our COVID-19 policies may be modified to ensure that we remain in full compliance with current best practices.

For students with increased risk of severe disease, we recommend consulting with your primary care provider to determine if a Round River program makes sense for you at this time. 

COVID-19 Health and Safety Policies

Our COVID19 policies have been developed with three primary objectives:

We require that all students receive a COVID-19 vaccination and may require students to be tested prior to initiating our program.  If you have medical considerations that preclude you from receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, please contact Round River Student Program staff. While traveling to the program start location, we may ask students to minimize potential exposure by isolating, practicing good hand hygiene, wearing a mask, and avoiding risky locations. All students may be required to show a negative PCR test from within 48 hours of the program start. 

Once the group assembles at the program meeting point, the field semester may operate as an independent “pod”. Groups will be camping, researching, and studying together at our basecamp or in wilderness situations, will make infrequent town trips for supplies, and may have to physically distance from project partners or other community members with whom we may be working.

We have PPE to assist in isolating any suspected cases, thermometers for temperature checks, and additional masks and hygiene supplies. Students will be required to bring disposable masks and personal hand sanitizer, in addition to our standard equipment list. 

If a student exhibits symptoms, they may be isolated from the group, and we will seek medical advice and potential treatment.  We are prepared for the possibility of isolating and caring for students with mild cases of COVID-19, and in the event of a sever ore protracted case,  definitive medical care may be necessary.  We will make determinations on a case by case basis, but it is possible a student would be unable to return to their program.  While we can assist in the arrangement of isolation accommodations, expenses related to this will be the responsibility of the student.  Travel arrangements home would also be the responsibility of the student.  

We are sensitive to the health and safety of the communities where we have been invited to work, and may be limiting our contact with local community members on our programs.

Some of the program modifications that we will undertake are discussed here, but our field staff may choose to make even more conservative decisions based on new information or particular circumstances when working with vulnerable partners. As always, it is Round River’s goal to promote community and conservation for generations, and we take the long view on these community relationships.