The SFS 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, and home to endemic species such as 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 to provide much-needed data for the creation of 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...
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15 Weeks
18 Credits
Fall 2018

Aug 27 - Dec 5

In The Field

Spring 2019

Jan 28 - May 8


Fall 2019

Sep 2 - Dec 11


summer session I

Forests in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Explore the rich culture, biodiversity, and dramatic mountain views of the Bhutanese Himalayas. Spend six weeks surveying forests, visiting ancient shrines, and studying issues of conservation and development in one of the most fascinating countries in the world. Wrap up the summer by designing and conducting a group research project.
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06 Weeks
06 Credits
Summer 2019

Jun 3 - Jul 11


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 library
  • 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 from students, staff and faculty in the field

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, 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, human well-being, and policy.

Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

  • Mountain ecology and conservation
  • Climate change
  • River ecosystems
  • Forest management
  • Rural-urban migration
  • Agriculture & food security

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 Bhutanese community. During the program, students participate in a short homestay, join community volunteer projects like stream clean-ups and teaching environmental awareness in local schools, attend tsechus (festivals), and play sports with Bhutanese students and monks. SFS research data is made available to the local community and Bhutanese government.

Meet Our Team

Purna Chhetri, Ph.D.

Resident Lecturer in Land Use, Natural Resources, and Conservation
Meet Purna

Kuenga Wangmo, Ph.D.

Resident Lecturer in Political and Socioeconomic Dimensions of Environment
Meet Kuenga

Jesse Lewis, M.S.

Resident Lecturer in Mountain Ecology
Meet Jesse

Kencho Tshering

National Academic Coordinator & Lecturer for Religion & Culture
Meet Kencho

Jeremy Simon

Student Affairs Manager
Meet Jeremy

Steph Benoit

Program Intern
Meet Steph