Our classroom, in Patagonia (Photo: Will Tyson)

“I can say without a doubt that Round River was the best program I could have chosen, as I continue to reap benefits from my experience to this day.”

- Tripp Burwell, Middlebury College, Namibia Program 2007

Round River study abroad programs in Africa, North and South America are field-based experiences that offer small groups of students the opportunities to contribute to and learn from participating in wildlife conservation efforts in big, wild landscapes.  While earning college credit, students from diverse backgrounds study and immerse themselves in the ecology and culture of unique wild landscapes. 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. Round River is entrenched in these places, and dedicated to fulfilling obligations to our local partners. While on a study abroad program, students become part of this effort, working alongside our local partners with Round River researchers and instructors.

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. As a student you will work and interact 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.

Field Research

Ultimately, these programs are about getting your hands dirty, and offering you the satisfaction of knowing that the projects you are working on are contributing to actual 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 from Biology to English majors.

Academic Credit

On our semester programs you will take 5 courses and receive 15 semester hours of college credit, which is accredited through Utah State University. The summer program offers 3 courses for 9 semester hours of credit. 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 one of the research stations. 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 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 walking and 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 8 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 all three of our programs. They revel in the flexibility to explore opportunities such as spending the day at a Tlingit grave house recording the oral history of a Taku River Tlingit elder or documenting feeding habits of rare Golden-plumed parakeets in the cloud forest canopy of Ecuador.


Semester Student Programs

Southern Africa - Kunene, Namibia

The Kunene Region of northwestern Namibia is a rugged and vast desert ecosystem representing one of the last true wildernesses in southern Africa. This seemingly inhospitable ecosystem supports free-roaming wildlife such as the mountain zebra, black-faced impala, desert adapted elephant, black rhino, lion, and much more. For over 15 years Round River and our students have worked in Namibia. Today Round River students are helping local communities with monitoring important wildlife populations and conducting habitat assessments.  This research project and study program offers unique opportunities learn from this wild landscape while interacting intimately with local people from various ethnic backgrounds.

Kunene, Namibia Student Program

Southern Africa - Okavango Delta, Botswana

Botswana is home to some of the world’s most abundant and diverse wildlife populations. The Okavango Delta, an immense wetland, supports some of Africa’s largest concentrations of carnivores and elephants. Students assist with conservation research in the Delta on projects ranging from habitat and vegetation mapping, to wildlife studies, to outreach in local communities.

Okavango Delta, Botswana Student Program

South America - Patagonia, Chile

Explore the Chacabuco Valley, the spectacular heart of the future Patagonia National Park, as well as the remote O’Higgins National Park, an area few humans venture to visit. Students assist Conservation Patagonica with bird and small mammal surveys, while camped in the future National Park, located in a transitional zone between the semi-arid Patagonian steppe and temperate beech forests, thereby boasting amazing scenery and a span of habitats, from grasslands and wetlands to high alpine peaks. Further south, students will arrive by boat in Fiordo Bernardo, a remote protected area, and based here, tucked in glaciated valleys, students will explore the area in search of the endangered huemul deer. Students will learn from local park guards how to track the local wildlife and will assist them in documenting the biodiversity of this ecologically rich and important region, all while learning about their culture.

Patagonia, Chile Student Program

Summer Semester Student Programs

North America - Taku River, British Columbia, Canada

The Taku River is the largest intact salmon-bearing watershed in North America. It is a vast wilderness of glacial rivers, boreal forest and snow-packed peaks harboring many charismatic species such as grizzly bear, moose, wolf, lynx, stone sheep, mountain goats, caribou, wolverine, and all five species of Pacific salmon. Since 1998, Round River has worked with the Taku River Tlingit First Nation to conduct research and develop community-based land and resource management plans. Students take part in a backpacking trip into the Taku Watershed along a traditional Tlingit trail, conduct habitat studies, climate change research, and wildlife surveys, as well as spend time with Tlingit elders and other community members in this stunning landscape.

Taku River, British Columbia Student Program