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 accepted into the program begin by taking an online course that serves as an introduction to the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, principles of research, and diversity and inclusion topics. It is also an opportunity to begin forging connections between students in the program, connections that may last a lifetime. At the end of the spring semester students 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. There they cement strong bonds with fellow scholars while exploring nature together and learning valuable field and leadership skills in the indoor and outdoor classrooms of the National Conservation Training Center.
At the end of the week, scholars return to their home institutions to work with faculty and graduate student mentors on field research projects. In some cases, work on projects will have begun prior to Conservation Leadership Week. 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. Projects are likely to occur away from campus and if so, housing will be provided.
Scholars are assigned to one of two research projects. Scholars are assigned to projects in pairs and the decision on which project to assign to scholars takes interests into account. Project mentors will either be associated with the DDCSP or with the research project. Scholars are employed through their home university during this period and work full-time on an ecological research project for approximately 9 weeks during the summer while earning $14/hour. Scholars earn approximately $5,000 for the summer while learning valuable research skills and field techniques.
Throughout the school year, scholars maintain connections with students from across the program and learn valuable communication and leadership principles through 1-credit distance-based courses focused on human dimensions of conservation and achieving academic and professional success. They also finish analyzing data from your summer research project, attend biweekly group meetings or activities and interact regularly with graduate student and faculty mentors.
During their second summer, scholars 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 earn approximately $15/hr to work full-time for 8 weeks (approximately $4,800) and receive an additional $1000 to help defray travel and housing expenses.
During the following academic year, students take a final 1-credit distance-based course, attend biweekly group meetings, and have regular meetings with their mentors. Scholars also work with their mentors to define their educational and career goals in conservation and to prepare for the next steps in their journey.