California Ecology and Conservation

California Ecology and Conservation offers the experience of hands-on field ecology research to undergraduates from across the UC system. Students will spend the entire seven weeks of the course living and studying at several of the 39 reserves of the UC Natural Reserve System. Students will attend lectures, participate in discussions, design and implement research projects, write reports, and present their work to the group while immersed in California ecosystems.

How to apply
Applications for Spring 2016 open September 1, 2015 with an application deadline of October 16, 2015.

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.

The course will focus on field methods, ecology, and conservation. Students will gain a functional understanding of the following topics:

  1. fundamental concepts in ecology
  2. principles of conservation biology
  3. geomorphology and climate
  4. field research techniques
  5. statistics
  6. experimental design
A sample course syllabus can be found here. Actual course syllabi may vary.

In Fall 2015, two experienced field biologists will teach the course, UC Santa Cruz Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Don Croll, and Director of the UC Santa Cruz Natural Reserves Gage Dayton, with assistance from an additional instructor.

California Ecology and Conservation is an intensive program of study with a workload equivalent to four on-campus courses. Students will earn 19 quarter units or 15 semester units; semester students will be required to complete an extra project to be completed after the field portion of the course. 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.

Class size
A total of 27 students will be accepted, ideally three from each of the nine general campuses.

Additional fees
A course fee of approximately $3,500 is required to cover the costs of course transportation, food, lodging, and research equipment. The total cost of the course, including required gear, will be factored into the calculation of each student's financial aid package.

Course prerequisites
All students must pass an introductory ecology or biology course prior to acceptance. A minimum GPA of 2.5 is required.

The course will start and end at or near one of the NRS reseves. 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.


Course Dates
Packing List
Course Homepage

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