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International Field Studies

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International Conservation Volunteer Exchange & Field Studies

The International Conservation Volunteer Exchange is a volunteer and internship program for international participants who wish to collaborate with American professionals on natural resource projects on public lands throughout the American West and abroad. ICVE is based on the philosophy that international understanding and goodwill can be achieved through cooperating on the shared goal of improving the environment. By attracting a corps of conservation-minded volunteers, ICVE contributes to the breakdown of cultural barriers while advancing ecological awareness on a global scale.

The Program

As a global exchange reaching all corners of the world, ICVE promotes the idea of global citizenship through conservation-based service projects. The ICVE program allows members to channel their passion for the environment through meaningful service projects at national parks, forests, and public lands. ICVE focuses on the idea of global citizenship through conservation-based service projects. This programmatic opportunity allows participants to discover new cultures, protect vital landscapes and make new friendships that last a lifetime. By utilizing conservation-based projects as a means for crossing cultural thresholds, ICVE enables the growth of international understanding while improving the ecological integrity of public lands in western United States.

ICVE offers well-supported service opportunities in some of the most spectacular landscapes in the United States. As such, ICVE members discover the many rewards of volunteerism while being a part of a world class program. Some members enjoy the physical demands of performing the work, and take pleasure in the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing difficult environmental projects. For others, volunteering offers a chance to learn first hand the varied practices of natural resource management and gain skills in field techniques that enhance their chosen career. Most crew members find that, despite whatever challenges of the work, they welcome the field experience of camping with people who work with purpose to conserve some of the most beautiful regions of the American West.  Since 2004 ICVE has collaborated with dozens of international environmental exchange programs, attracting over 2,000 students and young professionals from 45 countries and six continents around the world to serve on conservation projects in the mountainous West.

Types of Projects

Trail Building and Maintenance; Forest Fuels Reduction and Timber Stand Improvement; Exotic Species Eradication; Arid Land, Fire and Riparian Restoration; Wildlife and Habitat Monitoring, Conservation Education Internships.


Located in the mountainous American West, Nevada lies east of California and north of Arizona. Nevada’s landscape is the most mountainous and geologically diverse in the United States. The Lake Tahoe Basin, Great Basin, Mojave Desert and Sierra Nevada Mountains are where the majority of ICVE’s field work takes place. Participants will have the opportunity to work and live in some of the most beautiful wilderness locales in the world. From mountain peaks over 13,000 feet above sea level to desert eco-systems 282 feet below sea level, the regions in which ICVE serves are diverse environments that harbor some of the most sensitive and fragile species of flora and fauna found in North America.

Program Duration

Volunteer sessions range from seven to fourteen weeks with the majority of placements in the summer months. A typical work week consists of 4 days in the field, working ten hour days and three days off during which the participant is free to explore. Because of the remoteness of service locations, some projects may require eight days in the field with six days off.  Internship sessions range from three to twelve months and are typically available year round, with the majority of placements in the summer months. The duration of each internship depends largely upon specific project demands and funding.


While in the field, participants will camp in either primitive wilderness areas or in developed campgrounds near their project sites. On days off, participants are provided with lodging – free of charge. The lodging facilities are located in and around Reno, Nevada. Whether across the street from the University of Nevada and in walking distance to downtown Reno, or 8,000 feet above sea level on Mount Rose, ICVE housing facilities offer limitless opportunities for exploration and recreation. The provided lodging is similar to a dormitory as it contains multiple bunk beds per room, shared living areas, a kitchen and bathroom facilities. The lodging environment creates a great atmosphere in which participants are immersed with cultures from all over the world: at any given time, participants may be housed with people from up to a dozen other nations. Participants will have the opportunity to foster life-long friendships with folks from around the world during their tenure with ICVE.

Field Opportunities

Opportunities abound for those looking for field experience in conservation or to learn applied science in an international context. Spend 6 – 12 weeks and volunteer on our crews or apply for an Research Associate position lasting up to 12 months and gain meaningful work and life experience.  Program opportunities vary with the demand for conservation service and research initiatives. However, be assured you’ll be rewarded with meaningful environmental service as the institute carefully places each participant based on a thorough interview and screening process. Fill out an application opportunities with ICVE and begin your journey across the West and beyond!


International Field Studies

coastal ecology field class

ICVE also provides study abroad opportunities to engage host countries in accredited conservation programs.  The University of Nevada, Reno, the University of South Florida, Chico State, and California State University, Channel Islands comprise a research consortium for our exchanges in Latin America.  Collaborating with the Universidad de Gaudalajara and the National University of Costa Rica, GBI provides students rich learning experiences while serving on research and conservation projects along the southern Pacific Coast.

Each winter,  GBI travels to the central Pacific Coast of Mexico, Costa Alegre, or Las Bualas National Park in Costa Rica, for field research and service initiatives.  These unique coastal locations boast a rich endowment of natural resources, from fringing reefs bejeweled with colorful fishes to tropical deciduous forests, one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Coastal mangrove forests play a pivotal role in these regions, preventing erosion and sedimentation of coral reefs, providing key nursery areas for fishes, and offering crucial habitat for American crocodiles, boat-billed herons, and other wildlife. But a dramatic rise in tourism and development along the pacific threatens to undermine the ecological role of mangrove forests and the communities that rely on them. Students can become part of an interdisciplinary initiative to assist local communities in mangrove conservation.  University students will work with Jerry Keir, Director, Great Basin Institute, and an international team of researchers.

On the Coast, in the Field

Working from a boat in mangrove forests, students sample tree density, identify species composition, and collect plants for further research. Teams will run transects along the forest for a diversity of birds, collecting critical survey data on neotropical migrants and resident species. Participants will also help with mangrove restoration efforts, using the data you collected to build a functioning mangrove ecosystem.  Faculty from host country Universities will each add their own expertise to certain teams.  Data collected contributes to regional natural resource management plans. This is an outstanding opportunity to help conservation efforts at the community level. In the spare time, there’s plenty of kayaking, fishing, surfing, and nature-walking to be found.

Meals and Accommodations

Students will return from the field to a base camp near the beach, where they will share a screened tent and palapa, or thatched hut, with teammates. The camp has potable water, conventional bathroom facilities, electricity, and a dining area. Students help the staff prepare meals from abundant local fish, shrimp, and octopus, including traditional Latin American cuisine. Fresh tropical fruits, including avocados, mangos, watermelon, and papayas are also available in abundance.

For more information regarding international field studies, email Jerry Keir, GBI’s Executive Director, at jkeir@thegreatbasininstitute.org