National Zoo and George Mason University Develop New Program for Future Conservationists

October 10, 2008
News Release

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The Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and George Mason University have joined to develop a comprehensive academic program for undergraduates, graduates and conservationists. Multidisciplinary faculty from the Zoo’s Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability and George Mason’s Center for Conservation Studies are launching the Smithsonian-Mason Global Conservation Education Program that will provide academic opportunities for up to 50 undergraduate students per semester and accommodate an additional 60 participants of the professional training and certificate programs that the partnership will offer.

“Given the environmental threats to our planet, we must invest in the next generation of conservationists, wildlife practitioners, natural resources managers, decision makers and educators,” said Steve Monfort, associate director for Conservation and Science at the National Zoo. “By advancing the career development for those who want to protect our planet, we are ensuring a sustainable future.”

The Smithsonian-Mason Global Conservation Education Program offers students an opportunity to live and study at the Zoo’s 3,200-acre Conservation and Research Center, where the Zoo cares for and conducts research on more than 30 critically endangered species. New facilities, including energy-efficient residential facilities, research and computer labs, classrooms, offices and student amenities will be supplemented by access to more than 2,000 acres of natural study sites on CRC’s property. The National Zoo and Mason will jointly raise funds for the facility’s construction, which begins in 2012. In the interim, the Smithsonian-Mason Semester for undergraduates is being offered annually, and new professional training programs will be developed using existing CRC facilities and research sites.

“This community has been designed to provide the most progressive education in conservation studies available anywhere in the world,” said Tom Wood, director of the Mason Center for Conservation Studies. “People who are practicing conservation all over the world, from researchers and faculty to government and nongovernment organizations, are here participating in the resident learning experience with a diverse array of students.” Both organizations have a long history of successful collaboration.

For many years, Mason undergraduate and graduate students have visited the Zoo and CRC as part of their course work. This led to a resident learning community, the Smithsonian-Mason Semester, which was launched in spring 2008 with 15 undergraduates who received 16 units of academic credit. In addition, a joint fellowship program supports eight Mason graduate students in conservation biology.

“The Smithsonian-Mason program comes at a time when we are experiencing a global biodiversity crisis,” said Francisco Dallmeier, the head of the Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability. “The alliance with Mason will empower professionals to address the current and significant biodiversity conservation challenges facing our planet today.”

Applications are currently being accepted for the 2009 Smithsonian-Mason Semester. For more information, visit

About the CRC
The mission of the National Zoo’s CRC is to conserve biodiversity through scientific research, professional training and environmental education. Under CRC, the Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability studies and seeks to understand the complex relationship among animals, people and the environment and educates people about the Earth’s biodiversity and how it can be conserved and used wisely.

About George Mason University
Named the number-one national university to watch by U.S. News & World Report, George Mason University is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with global distinction in a range of academic fields. Located in the heart of Northern Virginia’s technology corridor near Washington, D.C., George Mason prepares its students to succeed in the work force and meet the needs of the region and the world.

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