To be eligible for the program, students must be current college students, and enrolled at any one of the five collaborating universities (University of Florida, University of Idaho, University of Arizona, Cornell University, and North Carolina State University). Students should have at least 2 years (4 semesters) remaining before graduating, although exceptions may be made for qualified transfer students with only 3 semesters remaining. Current high school students are not eligible to apply and are encouraged to apply during their freshman year of college.
Students that are accepted into the program will attend a week-long conservation leadership program in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia. Students will forge strong relationships while exploring nature together and learn valuable field and leadership skills in the indoor and outdoor classrooms of the National Conservation Training Center.
At the end of the week, students will return to their home institutions to work in teams with faculty and graduate student mentors on field research projects. Possible projects will vary by region but may include studying the influence of domestic animals on hatchling seaturtles, learning about the ecology of imperiled desert fishes, and studying the effects of invasive exotic species on native plant and animal communities. Students will be assigned to one of two research projects. Specific projects will be decided in the spring. Students will be assigned to projects in pairs and the decision on which project to assign them to will take their interests into account. Their mentors in their first summer will either be associated with the DDCSP or with the research project. Students do not have the option to pursue their own research project outside of the offered DDCSP opportunities. Students will be employed through their home university and will work full-time on an ecological research project for approximately 9 weeks during the summer. Students are expected to earn approximately $5,000 for the summer while learning valuable research skills and field techniques.
During the following academic year, students from across the Collaborative will maintain their connections and learn valuable communication and leadership principles through a 1-credit distance-based courses focused on human dimensions of conservation and achieving academic and professional success. At their university, students will finish analyzing data from their summer research projects, attend biweekly group meetings or activities and interact regularly with graduate student and faculty mentors.
During their second summer, students will spend approximately 8 weeks employed in paid internships with tribal, state, or federal agencies or nongovernmental organizations. Internship placements will be related to water, land, or wildlife conservation and student interests will be taken into account. Students are expected to earn approximately $4800 for the summer.
During the following academic year, students will take a final 1-credit distance-based course, attend biweekly group meetings, and have regular meetings with their mentors. Students will also work with their mentors to define their educational and career goals in conservation and to prepare for the next steps in their journey.