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Student Programs

Round River is dedicated to conservation strategies that preserve and restore wild places; to that end, we strive to develop and support traditions that sustain wildness. These efforts are anchored in the principles of conservation biology, supported by field research and community planning.

“Natural objects have a concrete reality that the abstractions of textbooks and lectures do not and cannot have…”

– David Orr

Round River semester and summer student study abroad programs are entirely field-based, authentic experiences that offer the opportunity for small groups of students to contribute to actual conservation efforts in big, wild landscapes. And while students earn college credit in an Environmental Studies-based curriculum, nothing is done solely for academic reasons. We are not about show and tell. Students from diverse backgrounds from the sciences to Humanities study and work hard to immerse themselves in the ecology and culture of a place. Round River is entrenched in the places we work, dedicated to fulfill obligations to our friends and local colleagues. While on a program our students become part of this effort, and work alongside Round River researchers and instructors and members of our local partners.

We blessedly live on a planet that is diverse in life; a world of salmon rivers and cloud forests and red rock deserts. A lot of us know about these creatures and places having fed our curiosities in school, but few of us get to go out and do things like investigating foraging habits of Spectacled Bears and surveying unstudied frogs for three months in the high Andes. That is what we do: Put our faith in the belief that exposing curious, adventurous, and enthusiastic students to good work in wild places will benefit all of our futures.

Round River believes landscapes are powerful educators. Our student programs are designed to involve small groups of students with inspiring people and actual research projects that are finding and implementing solutions to real conservation issues. The student programs contribute significantly to the larger conservation initiatives of Round River and our local partners.


What you can expect to experience on a Round River program

Working with Local People:

We understand that people living in the areas we work are the long-term stewards of that 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. On many of our programs, students will interact and work closely with these people, and not only get first hand experience with their culture, but also be exposed to the complexities of achieving conservation objectives in communities with diverse needs and interests. Our Namibia and Taku programs offer the most in depth cultural exposure.

Field Research:

Ultimately, these programs are about getting your hands dirty, and offering you the satisfaction of knowing that you are contributing to actual conservation initiatives. You should expect to spend most of your time in the field, conducting research and collecting data. You will gain valuable field skills and may also learn how to design research studies. Round River feels that it is essential for anyone interested in conservation and the environment, whether in science or the humanities, to get out and walk on the land. We strive to attract students from all backgrounds, from Biology to English majors, and from across the country. Whether it is conducting habitat surveys, wildlife studies, game counts, or grassland inventories, you can plan on taking an active role in the field and going home with an understanding on how research and conservation work is carried out at a local level.

Academic Credit:

Our courses are accredited through Utah State University. On our semester programs you will take 5 courses and receive 15 semester hours of college credit. The summer program offers 3 courses for 9 semester hours of credit. Our academics are an extension of our research. Readings, discussions, student-led seminars, and lectures supplement hands-on learning. Lectures are offered by our instructors, senior staff (if schedules allow) and/or visiting researchers or local experts. Discussions on relevant topics and issues are as likely to take place in the field, on a hike, or around the campfire in the evening. During the program you will work with other participants, instructors, and researchers to ultimately compile and analyze the data you have collected, produce a scientific, written report, and, if the possible, present your findings to our local partner.


Why Round River is Different:

Round River is more than just an outdoor classroom, and students quickly realize they are part of something dynamic. People may come with the simple expectation that they will be better prepared for graduate school by doing fieldwork, and after working in a place like the deserts of Namibia find the inspiration for what they want their education and lives to be. Some of our students have participated in similar programs, and offer that being part of a group that is only 5 to 12 people allowed them to see more, do more, and know that their input was needed and appreciated. Some of our students come back to do two or even three of our programs. They revel in the flexibility to explore diverse opportunities in each place where we work, and meet some of the people who are integral in our conservation efforts.