The SFS Center for Conservation and Development Studies


Here, remnants of 12th-century temples share the landscape with wild forests, Buddhist monasteries, and small villages. Diverse ecosystems, from the mighty Mekong River to the Bokor Mountains, harbor rare species like the Asian elephant, sun bear, and Irrawaddy dolphin. The Tonle Sap Lake swells exponentially each year with the flood pulse and creates a dramatic seasonal shift for the wildlife and fishing and farming communities that call this region home.

Already experiencing severe impacts from climate change, Cambodia is a case study in resilience. Adaptation and collaborative conservation efforts are necessary for the people of Cambodia to ensure food security and limit biodiversity loss in a time of rapid development. Our research here examines these efforts on the ground and provides data to support a path toward a more sustainable future for Cambodia.



Climate Change, Ethics, and Conservation

Spend the semester exploring Cambodia’s diverse ecosystems – from the great Tonle Sap Lake to the Gulf of Thailand. You’ll visit the ancient Angkor temples, study threats to biodiversity, learn about environmental justice and policy, and discuss traditional medicines with iIndigenous communities. Embark on a country-wide expedition, spending time in an elephant sanctuary in Mondulkiri, the mountain and coastal ecosystems of Kampot, and conservation sites along the Mekong River.
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15 Weeks
18 Credits
Spring 2020

Jan 27 - May 8


Fall 2020

Aug 31 - Dec 11


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 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. The Center is a breezy, modern campus 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, and 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 covers a diverse array of topics – from the impacts of climate change on local communities and ecosystems to the transfer of traditional ecological knowledge. 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 assess species richness and support conservation initiatives in Cambodia.

Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

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

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 contributes to conservation projects and environmental policies.

Meet Our Team

Lisa Arensen, Ph.D.

Lead Faculty and Lecturer in Ecosystems and Livelihoods
Meet Lisa

Megan English, Ph.D.

Lecturer in Conservation Science
Meet Megan

Ming Li Yong, Ph.D.

Lecturer in Environmental Ethics and Development
Meet Ming Li

Karen Obertubbesing

Student Affairs Manager
Meet Karen

Tony Yon

Program Assistant
Meet Tony