Students learn about wood turtle sampling and conservation biology with Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation faculty. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Exploring the conservation world beyond classrooms and books

Learn about conservation biology within the social, economic, and political context with emphasis on problem solving, critical thinking and hands-on experiential learning through programs offered by the Smithsonian-Mason Semester for Conservation Studies.

Our undergraduate programs consist of three undergraduate semester programs, which can be taken individually or consecutively.

Conservation, Biodiversity and Society is a 16 credit semester, offered both in the spring and fall, that explores the ways that science, management and policy address current conservation issues in and out of the field.

Wildlife Ecology and Conservation is a 15 credit semester, offered every fall, that helps students apply cutting-edge field techniques to survey species in the wild and investigate ecological patterns and processes from local to global scales.

Endangered Species Conservation is a 15 credit semester, offered every spring, that enables students to evaluate vulnerabilities of small populations and develop successful conservation actions to save them from extinction.

All three programs are appropriate for upper-level students from any accredited college or university and from any major who have demonstrated a commitment to conservation.


Like a “study abroad” program, students live at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia, close to Shenandoah National Park and learn from prominent conservationists, researchers, and educators. ¬†Through academically intense, hands-on curricula, students will emerge from their Semester experience prepared for conservation-related internships, graduate study or professions.

  • Each program is limited to 20 students. Placement into a specific program is made according to the date your deposit is received at George Mason University. There can be a short delay, so deposit does NOT guarantee there is an opening in your preferred program. You will be notified upon receipt of deposit.
  • Because SCBI is a closed federal research facility, final acceptance into the program is contingent on passing a federal security background check. ¬†