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Liliana Ramirez examines a crayfish during one of the SMSC cohort’s hikes in nearby Shenandoah National Park.

Liliana Ramirez and Madelyn “Maddie” Lichter know that residence hall life can be a bit like living in a zoo. So these University of Mary Washington students felt prepared for all the wildlife sounds and smells they’ve experienced over the last several months.

Both pursuing UMW’s new conservation biology major, Ramirez and Lichter are pioneer participants in a new partnership between Mary Washington and the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. The pair has spent the last semester engaged in a new kind of “domestic study abroad experience,” conducting hands-on research on endangered animal and plant species at Front Royal’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains on 3,200 acres of forest, grasslands and pasture along the Shenandoah River.

“We hear wolves howling, and whooping cranes going at it. Last night, I heard something that sounded very zebra-like,” said Ramirez, mimicking the noise she heard while falling asleep in the residence hall. The building is one of three on campus, which also includes a dining common area and an academic center with state-of-the-art classrooms and research labs.

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About SMSC

We offer hands-on conservation training in the latest research and field techniques at the Smithsonian’s endangered species facility in Front Royal, Virginia.

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Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation