In Bhutan—a Himalayan country with towering mountains, lush forests, and a distinct cultural heritage—progress is measured not just by economic growth, but also through good governance, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation. Sustainable management of natural resources—including soil, water, biodiversity, and minerals—is critical for Bhutan, as these resources are fundamental to the national identity, as well as the local and national economies. Through their research, students contribute to the advancement of SFS’ joint research agenda with the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER) and the Bhutan Ecological Society (BES) in areas including biodiversity and conservation, sustainable forestry, resource management, and development.
Trekking across valleys and ridges and through villages, students learn about culture, Buddhist philosophy, and environmental issues, and gain an intimate knowledge of the local ecosystems and rural livelihoods. Students develop skills in assessing environmental problems, defining research questions, conducting field research, and communicating results.
Coursework is taught in English
One semester of college-level ecology, biology, or environmental studies/science
Center for Himalayan Environment and Development Studies
Students attending this program will be based at the SFS Center for Himalayan Environment and Development Studies in Paro, Bhutan. Click here to find out more about the Center and life at the field station.
Week 5: Expedition to western regions (Punakha, Wangdue, Phobjikha valleys )
Week 6: Expedition to Jakar (central Bhutan) and Lingmethang (Eastern Bhutan)
Week 7: Return to Paro
Week 8: Courses
Week 9: Course wrap up
Week 10: Directed Research field work begins
Week 11: Directed Research field work continues
Week 12: Data analysis and DR writing
Week 13: Individual and community research presentations
Week 14: Closing activities
Itinerary subject to change.
A Note about Program Costs
Includes all pre-program advising services, room and board at the field station and on excursions, park entrance and research fees, program-related transportation, emergency evacuation insurance, and official transcript processing.
Does not include international airfare, international medical insurance, medical costs, and personal non-program related expenses.
SFS 2010 Religion and Culture of Bhutan (2 credits)
This course allows students to develop a conceptual and practical understanding of religious principles that underlie Bhutanese attitudes and approaches to environment. Students learn the basic principles of Buddhism and other religions practiced in the region and look for religion in the landscape and in society. Students look at religion and environment, culture and environment, and Bhutanese attitudes toward environment, and get some language training in Dzongkha.
SFS 3040 Political and Socioeconomic Dimensions of Environment (4 credits)
This course focuses on the dynamics among people, society, and environment. We explore this dynamic through the interdisciplinary lens of political ecology, examining the political, economic, and social factors of environmental issues and changes. The course provides a conceptual framework for understanding how nature-society interactions—such as agriculture, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and rural development—shape both the natural landscape and the social and economic conditions in Bhutan. Students also gain the practical skills and tools to critically examine and assess the human-environment nexus in the field.
SFS 3050 Land Use, Natural Resources, and Conservation (4 credits)
This course considers the suite of natural resources that are tied to both local livelihoods and the national economy— including arable soils, water, timber, non-timber forest products, and grasslands. Students study the livestock and agriculture systems of Bhutan, both historical and current, and understand why and how these are changing, and what the implications are for household economies, the environment, and national issues. Students consider the important topic of food security, at both the household and national levels. By integrating field and classroom approaches, students explore the science behind current local and global issues in natural resource management, food production, biodiversity, and climate change.
This course provides a theoretical and practical understanding of the ecology of the Eastern Himalaya region. Students explore the physical features influencing mountain ecosystems, including the geology and hydrology, elevation, climate, and weather. The course highlights the unique characteristics of the flora and fauna found in these ecosystems, and the threats to these species. Students are exposed to an array of ecosystems—some in natural states, some heavily modified by people. Rivers, forests, and farmland are examined in various locations and along different altitude gradients, showcasing the ecological diversity within this small mountain state.
This course prepares students to distinguish hidden assumptions in scientific approaches and separate fact from interpretation, cause from correlation, and advocacy from objectivity. Students learn specific tools including: experimental design; field techniques; basic descriptive statistics; and parametric and non-parametric quantitative analysis. Emphasis is placed on succinct scientific writing, graphic and tabular presentation of results, and effective delivery of oral presentations.