California Ecology and Conservation brings together 27 students from across the UC system for seven weeks of intensive learning at NRS reserves. Guided by experienced field instructors, undergraduates transform into scientists by conducting independent research studies. Students learn to notice natural patterns, frame questions into feasible research projects, and practice standard techniques such as surveys of animal and plant populations. At the conclusion of each project, students analyze their data and present their findings to the class in oral presentations, posters, and reports. Students hone their research, public speaking, and scientific writing skills with constant practice and feedback. All the while, students gain a working familiarity with California’s diverse ecosystems while immersed in the NRS’s classrooms without walls.
California Ecology and Conservation is part of the NRS Field Studies Program, which enables students from across the University of California to gain a deeper understanding of the natural world while visiting NRS reserves.
How to apply
California Ecology and Conservation will be offered every Spring, Summer, and Fall term. Application deadlines and other key dates for upcoming course offerings can be found here. There is no fee to apply.
The course will focus on field methods, ecology, and conservation. Students will gain a functional understanding of the following topics:
- fundamental concepts in ecology
- principles of conservation biology
- experimental design
- field research techniques
A sample course description can be found here. Actual course description may vary.
Kenwyn Suttle, Ph.D., and Krikor Andonian, Ph.D., lecturers in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at UC Santa Cruz, are the course instructors. Learn more about the instructors here.
California Ecology and Conservation is an intensive program of study with a workload equivalent to four on-campus courses. For classes held in fall and spring, students will earn 19 quarter units or 15 semester units, and semester students will be required to enroll in an extra course for which they will complete an extra project. For classes held in summer, all students will receive 19 quarter units or 12.7 semester units. Application of credits toward major, minor, and general education requirements is subject to the discretion of each department. Department-specific credit allocations can be found here. Students may need to contact an academic advisor to determine how course credits will be applied toward graduation requirements.
California Ecology and Conservation is open to all University of California undergraduates in good standing with their home campus who have at least a 2.5 GPA and have passed an introductory ecology or biology course prior to applying for the program. International students seeking a degree at the University of California are welcome to apply for the program. Unfortunately international short-term students (one year or less) are not eligible.
A maximum of 27 students will be accepted, ideally three from each of the nine general campuses.
In addition to regular tuition and fees, there is a program fee that covers costs such as transportation, food, lodging, and research equipment. The total cost of the course, including required gear, will be factored into the financial aid package from each student's home campus. Additional scholarship opportunities are available to help defray these expenses. Note that costs for summer classes are different than for the regular academic year, as summer tuition is charged by the unit and non-resident supplemental tuition does not apply. A more detailed explanation is available on our Finances page.
The course will start and end at an NRS reserve near San Jose. Students must provide their own transportation to and from this location; however, all other transportation during the course will be supplied by the University.
What to bring
Research equipment (nets, traps, quadrants, measuring tapes) as well as cooking gear (stoves, coolers, pans, dishes) will be provided by the course. However, students are expected to supply personal gear such as a tent, sleeping bag, boots, and flashlight. A sample packing list can be found here. An actual packing list will be provided to students prior to the course.
Answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) can be found here.