SFS BHUTAN: FORESTS IN THE LAND OF THE THUNDER DRAGON (SUMMER I)
- Term: Summer Session I
- Credits: 4 semester-hour credits
- Prerequisites: No course prerequisites: 18 years of age
- Application Deadline: Rolling admissions until April 2020
- Financial Aid: All accepted students can apply for need-based scholarships, grants, and loans
Explore the rich culture, biodiversity, and dramatic mountain views of the Bhutanese Himalayas and learn how forests - which cover more than 70 percent of the landscape - are integral to the goals of Gross National Happiness. Spend four weeks surveying forests, visiting ancient shrines, and studying conservation and development in one of the most fascinating countries in the world.
- Trek across forested ridges and remote villages, camping out under the stars and learning about Bhutanese culture and ecosystems firsthand.
SFS students live and study at the Center for Himalayan Environment and Development Studies. The Center is located at one end of the stunning Paro Valley, at the base of a towering ridgeline dotted with Buddhist monasteries. Campus is a small cluster of buildings designed in the traditional Bhutanese architectural style. A pleasant 15-minute walk brings you to the markets, shops, and cultural events of Paro Town.
Take back-to-back summer sessions and get the hands-on learning and skill-building experiences of an internship, while also going off the beaten path and exploring the world. Each summer session focuses on a different topic, and you’ll have time to travel independently between sessions. Receive a $1,000 discount on your second session.
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The School for Field Studies (SFS) Eastern Himalayan Forests and Rural Livelihoods summer program introduces students to Bhutanese culture, society, and environment. Traveling and trekking across valleys and ridges and through villages, students will gain an intimate knowledge of the diverse ecosystems and rural livelihood strategies, and conduct research on Bhutan’s priority environmental concerns and resource management and biodiversity conservation strategies.
Bhutan is nestled in the remote and rugged eastern Himalayas, a mountainous area characterized by some of the world’s highest peaks, extraordinary biodiversity, and deep cultural and religious history etched into the landscape. As one of the major biodiversity hot spots in the world, Bhutan is home to a beautiful array of birds, butterflies, and rhododendrons. The takin, snow leopard, golden langur, blue sheep, and tiger are among Bhutan’s diverse and charismatic fauna.
In this Buddhist kingdom, rich cultural traditions and social and political institutions reflect Buddhist principles of The Middle Path, integrating people and nature, traditional knowledge and modern science, and balancing economic growth and collective happiness. In 2008, Bhutan shifted from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional democracy with the enactment of the kingdom’s first constitution. Because the majority of Bhutanese people still reside in rural areas and practice small-scale agriculture and forest product extraction, sustainable management of local natural resources is critical for achieving the four pillars of development in Bhutan: conservation of environment, good governance, equitable social and economic growth, and preservation and promotion of culture.
COURSE CONTENT AND STUDENT RESEARCH
Traveling through Bhutan, students learn about culture and history, religious traditions, environmental issues, and conservation policies, and explore the role that environmental services and natural resources play in rural livelihoods and national development. With the central district of Bumthang as their classroom, and a trek across valleys and through villages, students gain an intimate understanding of local environments and rural livelihood strategies.
Through Directed Research projects, students contribute to the advancement of SFS’s joint research agenda with the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) in areas including sustainable forestry, watershed management, and rural development. Students develop skills in assessing environmental problems, defining research questions, conducting field research, and communicating results.
The Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), part of Bhutan's Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, serves as a center for research, policy dialogue, and training in the fields of conservation and environmental sciences. Students live and study on the UWICE campus, set in the pastoral Chokhor Valley in the central district of Bumthang.
- Observe four major vegetation zones during the journey from the capital city to the field station
- Visit the stunning Punakha Dzong and Bumthang monasteries
- Overnight in Phobjikha valley, an important conservation area for the black-necked crane
- Consider how religion influences people’s attitudes about the treatment of the environment
- Take a multi-day trek through cultural and natural landscapes, up and over the ridge, between Chamkhar and Tang valley
- Field visits to community forestry projects, micro-hydropower stations, and rural farms
- Guided by UWICE staff, learn important features of local forest species, including species composition and community dynamics; practice field techniques for tree measurement and how to estimate timber volume
- Conduct interviews with Bhutanese citizens who have resource-based livelihoods, exploring the relationship between human well-being and natural resources
The administrative building at UWICE is a former king's palace and is built in traditional Bhutanese architecture with wood paneled walls and colorful decorations both inside and out. UWICE campus offers views the surrounding valley, the mountains swathed in clouds, and the occasional cattle or ponies grazing in the yard.
The modern dormatories and cafeteria are just steps away from the Dzong, where classes are held. A running trail behind the campus winds through the woods where wild strawberries, roses, and stream crossings accent the landscape. After classes, students can head up the trails for a quick run, hike, or yoga retreat. There is also a volleyball court where students can challenge the locals in competitive play or opt to play a rousing game of Snooker in the lounge.
Note: The program operates in rugged and rural environments, taking us (often by foot) to high altitude and to villages with pit latrines and simple diets. The trek and field work requires participants to be in excellent physical condition. Flexibility and patience are equally important attributes for the successful participant.