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  • Locations: Can Tho, Vietnam; Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Program Terms: Fall Semester, Spring Semester
  • Homepage: Click to visit
  • Program Sponsor: The School for Field Studies (SFS) 
  • Dates / Deadlines
Program Description:




  • Terms: Fall, Spring
  • Credits: 18 semester-hour credits
  • Prerequisites: One semester of college-level ecology, biology, or environmental studies/science; 18 years of age
  • Application Deadline: Rolling admissions. Early applications encouraged
  • Financial Aid: All accepted students can apply for need-based scholarships, grants, and loans


Students in this program learn about the complexity and fundamental importance of the Mekong River to the region’s ecosystems, livelihoods, and development. Through coursework, field excursions, and Directed Research, students focus on conservation, environmental ethics, and rural development.

Students follow the Mekong River during a month of travel across rural and urban Cambodia. While on the road, students visit key conservation sites along the Mekong, gain appreciation for Cambodia’s recent history in Phnom Penh, and discover coastal ecosystems and development pressures in Kampot Province.

The program then travels overland to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, where students experience a contrasting political, social, and economic system from Cambodia. Students explore the environmental issues in the Mekong Delta including climate change, water resource use, and agricultural development.


  • Spend almost a month traveling within Cambodia and Vietnam, studying the diverse habitats and livelihoods that are supported by the Mekong River system
  • Evaluate opportunities and challenges in tourism development while exploring the resplendent Khmer temple complex of Angkor, one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia
  • Explore the role of monks and Buddhism in environmental education, environmental ethics, and wildlife conservation
  • Participate in baseline biodiversity surveys in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve, and investigate the status of migratory bird species




In this two-country program, students learn about the complexity and fundamental importance of the Mekong River to the region’s ecosystems and socioeconomic systems. In Cambodia, through coursework, field excursions, and Directed Research, we focus on conservation and rural development. Students may engage in research on water resource management, conservation methods and practices, environmental ethics, and socioeconomic development. The greater Siem Reap region provides myriad riverine and terrestrial habitats to explore. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor serves as a backdrop for understanding Buddhist cosmology and the deep historical and spiritual connectedness that humans feel with nature. In Vietnam, we introduce students to dynamic hydrology, biodiversity, communities, and politics, with a focus on the role of the river in the delta region.

In the first year of programming, we are focusing on understanding the ecology of the flora and fauna of the region and threats to biodiversity and traditional rural livelihoods. Students begin to understand these processes and concepts with environmental ethics as their lens of inquiry. We continuously discuss and reflect upon the moral relationship between humans and the environment, study the belief systems of the people in the places we visit, and assess the moral status and intrinsic value of the natural world.

Students in this program, unlike any other SFS program, live and learn at a host-nation university for two weeks. The Vietnam component, which occurs mid-way through the semester, exposes students to a contrasting political, social, and economic system from what they have experienced in Cambodia. Can Tho University scholars—some of the most respected ecologists, climate scientists, and geographers in the world—provide students with an in-depth understanding of the Mekong delta region ecosystems, its vibrant human communities, and the juxtaposition of rural and urban livelihoods.

While in Vietnam, students experience a different socioeconomic structure and different geo-political ideologies and philosophies. Cambodia and Vietnam may share the Mekong River; however, they are worlds apart in their respective approaches to and capabilities for environmental sustainability and conservation of natural resources.


  • Participate in baseline biodiversity studies in Phnom Kulen National Park and Kbal Spean, a spiritual and well-protected area that has yet to be thoroughly studied and categorized
  • Visit the Angkor Center for Conservation and Biodiversity and learn how captive endangered species, such as the pileated gibbon, the silvered langur monkey, the slow loris, and the palm civet, are being cared for before they are reintroduced into the wild
  • Observe how the Angkor Butterfly Center raises “trophy” species of butterflies that attract lepidopterists from around the world, and encourages small-scale silk worm harvesting which augments rural family incomes
  • Conduct research around Tonle Sap, investigating the health and status of migratory bird species and monitoring the extraction of lake resources
  • Study impacts and opportunities of tourism while exploring the resplendent Khmer temple complex of Angkor
  • Get to know the many major social justice, human rights, and environmental organizations that operate in Phnom Penh and learn about the international NGO community
  • Study conservation efforts for the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin and Cantor’s giant softshell turtle in the Kratie area of the Mekong River
  • Examine the Mekong delta ecosystems in Vietnam and the economics of shrimp and fish aquaculture farms and rice farming in large- and small-scale communities
  • Visit Ream National Park on the Cambodian coast in Sihanoukville to study marine ecosystems and a variety of bird species
  • Develop field research skills including aquatic and terrestrial organism behavioral observations, biodiversity assessment, survey design and interviewing techniques, environmental impact and protected-areas assessment, scientific writing and oral presentation, GIS or remote sensing, and habitat assessment and mapping species distributions
The primary site of this program will be in Siem Reap, Cambodia. A local guesthouse will serve as our field station, and SFS students will have exclusive use of the facilities. Amenities include shared bedrooms and bathrooms, wireless internet, and an open-air classroom and common area for studying, dining, and relaxing. Nearby attractions include the day and night markets, and the famed Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site. The variety of hotels and restaurants in town often host traditional Apsara dance shows and other cultural demonstrations. Surrounding Siem Reap are silk farms and rice paddies, as well as stilted fishing villages and wildlife sanctuaries on the Tonle Sap Lake. Students will stay at various hotels during trips through the Mekong Delta including visits to Phnom Penh, Kratie, and the coast of Cambodia. In Vietnam, students will be housed in the international dormitory at Can Tho University.

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring Semester 2020 10/01/2019 ** Rolling Admission TBA TBA

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applicants will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.