The SFS Center for Conservation and Development Studies


In Cambodia, remnants of 12th-century temples share the countryside with wild forests and agricultural villages. Diverse ecosystems from the Bokor Mountains to the mighty Mekong River harbor rare species such as the Asian elephant, sun bear, and endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. The Tonle Sap Lake swells to eight times its size each year, creating a dynamic seasonal shift for the communities of fishers and farmers who call this region home.

Cambodia is extremely vulnerable to climate change. This, along with rapid development, has led to decreased food security, a loss of traditional knowledge, and the destruction of critical habitats. Organized community efforts and ethical governance are needed to reverse these trends. SFS research in Cambodia seeks to inform a viable future that balances human needs and biodiversity conservation.



Conservation, Ethics, and Environmental Change

From the ancient temples of Angkor to the floating villages of the great Tonle Sap Lake, you will learn about threats to biodiversity, environmental governance, and the ways in which conservation efforts and community livelihoods are intertwined. Traveling extensively, you will spend time in the elephant-inhabited forests of Mondulkiri, the mountain and coastal ecosystems of Kampot, the Mekong Delta, and at key sites along the Mekong River.
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15 Weeks
18 Credits
Fall 2019

Sep 2 - Dec 11


Spring 2020

Jan 27 - May 6


summer session I

Elephants of the Cambodian Highlands

Spend your summer in the lush Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, studying the behavior and ecology of the endangered Asian elephant. Examine human-wildlife conflict and conservation pressures, and discuss elephant welfare and management practices. Visit the vibrant city of Phnom Penh and the ancient temples of Angkor to explore the history and culture of Cambodia.
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04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2019

Jun 3 - Jul 3

In The Field

Summer 2020

Jun 1 - Jul 1


Life In The Field

Our most urban Center lies on the outskirts of Siem Reap, near the famed temples of Angkor. Campus is a breezy, modern complex nestled in a quiet neighborhood minutes away from the bustling downtown area where you will find restaurants, shops, and markets with unique Cambodian flair.

  • Dorm living with 4-person bunkrooms
  • Classroom building includes library, study spaces, and balcony
  • Student lounge with open loft and beanbag chairs
  • Expansive open-air dining area, on-site cooking staff
  • Gyms and running routes in surrounding neighborhood
  • Swimming pool, volleyball court, and hammock bungalow
Click here to read stories from students, staff and faculty in the field

It still amazes me how you won’t see anything coming, and then the wall of the jungle will shake slightly, and you’ll realize a huge elephant is just a few meters away from you.

Camille Morales
University of San Diego


Research at the SFS Center for Conservation and Development Studies focuses on the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and livelihoods in a rapidly developing country. Students and faculty work with government partners, community members, Indigenous groups, NGOs, and other key stakeholders. Our faculty and students seek to analyze and develop strategies to preserve the health of the Mekong River – one of the world’s most important water systems – and the wildlife and communities that depend on it.

Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

  • Climate change impacts
  • Elephant ecology
  • Traditional ecological and medicinal knowledge
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Environmental justice
  • Environmental anthropology

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 Cambodia, we’re currently investigating the following issues:

Climate Change
Biodiversity Conservation
Community Resource Management
Environmental Policy
Environmental Ethics & Justice
Sustainable Livelihoods
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The Local Community

SFS is an active part of the Siem Reap community. Locally known as the Center for Environmental Research in Conservation and Development Studies, students collaborate with local students at the Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia (PUC), take a short homestay in a floating village, visit bustling markets, and attend festivals. SFS research data is shared with the community and used to establish local environmental policies.


Meet Our Team

Lisa Arensen, Ph.D.

Resident Lecturer in Ecosystems and Livelihoods
Meet Lisa

Megan English, Ph.D.

Resident Lecturer in Conservation Science
Meet Megan

Phanna Sok, M.L.

Resident Lecturer in Environmental Ethics and Development
Meet Phanna

Malay So

Program Manager
Meet Malay

Tony Yon

Program Assistant
Meet Tony