Center for Himalayan Environment and Development Studies


High in the Himalayas sits Bhutan, a small country defined by towering mountains, lush forests, and flowing rivers. Bhutan is home to endemic species like the snow leopard, tiger, golden langur, takin, and black-necked crane. The country’s unique and well-known philosophy of Gross National Happiness integrates governance with rich cultural traditions, Buddhist principles, and environmental conservation.

As the country begins to modernize rapidly, the people of Bhutan are challenged to sustainably manage their wealth of natural resources in order to preserve biodiversity and secure their own economic futures. SFS works in partnership with the Bhutanese government and the Bhutan Ecological Society to provide much-needed data that informs sustainable conservation and development policies.



Himalayan Environment and Society in Transition

Spend a semester in a corner of the Himalayas where few foreigners ever step foot. Trek through remote villages and high mountain passes to experience Bhutan’s vibrant culture, Buddhist philosophy, and environmental issues firsthand. Learn about the challenges of maintaining biodiversity and traditional rural lifestyles in a time of transition. Develop skills in field research and data collection, and apply them to a research project on conservation and development issues...
Explore More
15 Weeks
18 Credits
Fall 2020

Aug 31 - Dec 11


Spring 2021

Jan 25 - May 7

Filling Fast

Fall 2021

Aug 30 - Dec 10


summer session I

Forests in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

In this summer study abroad program, explore the rich culture, biodiversity, and dramatic mountain views of the Bhutanese Himalayas and learn how forests are integral to achieving the goals of Gross National Happiness. Spend four weeks surveying forests – which cover more than 70% of the landscape, visiting ancient shrines, and studying issues of conservation and development in one of the most fascinating countries in the world.
Explore More
04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2021

May 31 - Jun 30


summer session II

Big Cats of the Himalayas: Tracking and Conservation

In Bhutan, a deep cultural and spiritual reverence for life has aided in the preservation of the country’s tigers, snow leopards, and other wild cats. During this summer study abroad program, learn to use camera traps and radio telemetry, study the conservation of these elusive creatures, and learn how adaptation and management strategies can ensure their survival in a changing world.
Explore More
04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2020

Jul 6 - Aug 5


Summer 2021

Jul 5 - Aug 4


Life In The Field

The Center is located at one end of the stunning Paro Valley, at the base of a towering ridgeline dotted with Buddhist monasteries. Campus is a small cluster of buildings designed in the traditional Bhutanese architectural style. A pleasant 10-minute walk brings you to the markets, shops, and cultural events of Paro Town.

  • Dorm living with 2-4 bunks per room
  • Classroom and dedicated student study spaces
  • Kitchen and dining hall, on-site cooking staff
  • Student lounge and ping-pong tables
  • Verandas with scenic views of the valley
  • Hiking trails and local roads for running
Click here to read stories and tips from students, staff, and faculty on our blog

Each delicate painting on the wall of a dzong, each colorful flower dotting the landscape – we beg our minds to absorb each detail and memorize each intricacy, we cannot get enough of the magical world around us.

Amanda Soled
Haverford College


In collaboration with our in-country partners, UWICER and BES, our research at the SFS Center for Himalayan Environmental and Development Studies focuses on enhancing the condition of forest, river, and mountain ecosystems while balancing modernization and cultural preservation. Students contribute to this collaborative research agenda in several priority areas including sustainable forestry, conservation biology, water resources, socioeconomics, development, human well-being, and policy.

Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

  • Mountain ecology and conservation
  • Climate change
  • River ecosystems
  • Gross National Happiness
  • Forest management
  • River ecosystems
  • Agriculture and urban migration
  • Tourism

Environmental Issues

Our Centers are strategically located in regions facing critical environmental issues. Students and faculty study these issues and collect data to help facilitate sustainable responses. In Bhutan, we’re currently investigating the following issues:

Climate Change
Biodiversity Conservation
Tourism Impacts
Pollution & Waste Management
Natural Resource & Water Management
Sustainable Livelihoods
Learn More About the Issues


The Local Community

SFS is an active part of the community in Bhutan. During the program, students participate in a short homestay, join volunteer projects like stream clean-ups and environmental education programs, attend tsechus (festivals), and play sports with Bhutanese students and monks. SFS research findings are shared with the local community and the Bhutanese government.