Experiential, cross-cultural and field-based learning

One of the elements that sets CLTL apart is the experience that students gain from working in the field on real-world conservation and development issues. Field visits are integrated into the coursework from the beginning, and carry through the entirety of the program, culminating in a capstone project. See below for an example of prior CLTL locations where students have lived and studied for the 4-6 months of the capstone project period.

|  Belize | Kenya | Mexico |  New Zealand | Peru |


2014 - 2016, and 2016-17 site
Official language:
Other languages: Kriol/Creole, Spanish, Maya Kekchi, Garifuna, Maya Mopan

Description: Belize, a land where Caribbean, Mayan and Latin cultures converge, offers many opportunities to experience a variety of ecosystems.  The least populated of all countries in Central America, Belize is home to Mayan ruins, ancient temples, and rainforests, while off the coast lies the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere.  The conservation issues in Belize are as diverse as its people and landscapes.  Designated a biodiversity hotspot, Belize has protected approximately 37% of its area. 

The base for the Belize program is anticipated to be in the Punta Gorda region (population 6,000) located in the southern part of the country. Accommodations are likely to be a shared apartment or house in this seaport/fishing community from which field trips will be taken related to the study of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, , wildlife conservation (e.g., hawksbill turtles, howler monkeys), tourism and community-based conservation.  In partnership with local NGOs, universities, and/or government agencies students will undertake fieldwork in small villages in both the interior as well as coastal areas to examine conservation and development issues. 
Research topics: a variety of community-based conservation issues related to species conservation, coral reef protection, local peoples’ livelihoods and others. Belize also provides many opportunities to address the relationship between tourism, community development and environmental protection. 


2013 - 2015 site and 2015 - 2016 site
Official Languages:
Swahili and English
Other Languages: local tribal languages

Description: Kenya offers a diverse suite of ecosystems, from its dry grassland areas in the north to coniferous rain forests in the west, and coastal mangroves along the coast of the Indian Ocean.  It is also a country undergoing a significant transition with dramatic improvements in infrastructure and education that have many implications for the country’s natural resources. In addition, the Great Rift Valley runs through Kenya and provides habitat to thousands of species, including many large mammal populations that serve as a basis for Kenya’s safari tourism industry.
Students will be based in Kenya’s central province in the shadows of 17,000+ foot Mount Kenya, in the town of Nanyuki (population approx.. 35,000) located a few hours north of the capital, Nairobi. Accommodations are likely to be a shared apartment or house.  Nanyuki is home to a number of conservation organizations in Kenya, such as the Laikipia Wildlife Forum and Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and is within close proximity of leading conservation efforts at places such as Lewa Conservancy and Northern Rangelands Trust. Students will potentially work with some of these organizations while in Kenya as well as faculty and other students from University of Nairobi as part of a formal partnership between the university and CSU.  Further, there are more than a dozen protected areas within a day’s drive such as Samburu National Reserve, Mount Kenya National Park and Meru National Park.
Research topics:  The conservation issues which will likely serve as a basis for CLTL study include an examination of how perceptions of wildlife and local knowledge about natural resources are changing as nomadic pastoralist cultures become more settled; human-wildlife conflict; issues of gender in natural resource management; the role of environmental education in nurturing future conservation leaders, and sustainable tourism development.


MexicoMexico (dual-degree program with ECOSUR)

2012 - 2014 site 
Official language:
Other languages: Tzeltal, Tzotzil, and other indigenous languages
University Partner: El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR)

 Description: CLTL Mexico is based in the southern state of Chiapas, one of the most diverse states in Mexico, which in tern is one of the world's 17 mega-diverse countries.  The incredible diversity in Chiapas is biological, physical, and cultural.  The costal plains, cloud forests, tropical dry forests, and lowland tropical rainforests dot a mountainous landscape represented by the Chiapas highlands and Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountains.  Chiapas also has many different indigenous groups that maintain many traditional practices and who largely make their living off the land. 

Students will be based in the colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas, which is world-renown as one of Mexico's "magical cities".  San Cristobal serves as a perfect location for groups heading east towards the lowland tropical rainforest of the Selva Lacandona or west towards the Sierra Madre mountains and the pacific coast.  San Cristobal is only home to our Mexican University partner, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR).  We worked with ECOSUR exclusively on the first 2-cohorts of the program before deciding to expand our program offering with other partners around the globe.  CLTL also exists at ECOSUR (Liderazgo para la Conservacion mediante el aprendizaje - LiCA) as a degree program and the requirements for coursework have been designed so that students get a dual-degree - one from CSU and one from ECOSUR upon completion of the program.  

Research topics: Students will have the opportunity to work along side local partners to address real-world issues.  Projects sites for the will focus on the Sierra Madre Watersheds of Chiapas, the Coastal Soconusco plain, the central depression, and the Maya Forest.  Topics include climate change adaptation and communication planning, urban sustainability, integrated watershed management, supporting the development of the Chiapas Water Fund and other possible payment for ecosystem services programs, working with local agricultural community cooperatives on resilience and adaptation, working in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor to support low-impact coffee production, sustainable fishing on the Chiapas pacific coast, and diversification of ecotourism opportunities in the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve.




New ZealandNew Zealand (Aotearoa)
2013 - 2015 site 
Official Languages: 
English and Maori

Description:  New Zealand, or Aotearoa as it is known to the Maori people, is located in the South Pacific. The small country (approximately the size of the state of Colorado) is divided into two main islands (North and South Island) and several other smaller islands.  The country's four and half million inhabitants are mostly of Maori (15%) and European (68%) descent, and nearly 3/4 of the population lives in urban centers. New Zealand is renowned for its spectacular landscapes, which include the Southern Alps with numerous peaks over 10,000 feet, the volcanic plateau of central North Island home to the active volcanoes in Tongariro National Park (a World Heritage Site), and nearly 9,000 miles of coastline that includes beautiful beaches and majestic fjords. Like many island nations, New Zealand’s flora and fauna are endemic and an increasing number are highly threatened. New Zealand faces several conservation challenges, including severe threats from invasive species, habitat loss due to deforestation, and increasing concerns around energy consumption and water quality. On the international scale, New Zealand is considered a strong leader in environmental protection and restoration measures.
Information about living location and arrangements:  Students will initially be based in Wellington (population 390,000) on the north island, the country’s capitol and second most populous city. From here, field trips will taken throughout regions of the North Island. Wellington is also a gateway for crossing the Cook Strait to South Island. Field trips on both islands will explore a wide range of conservation issues, including challenges related to protected area management, ecological restoration, agriculture, energy, urban sustainability and water quality.
Research topics: Students will have the opportunity to partner with a variety of organizations to explore a wide range of topics, including  protected area management, ecological restoration, urban sustainability, renewable energy, and the environmental and socio-economic dimensions of agriculture. 

2013 - 2015 site
Official language: Spanish
Other languages: Quechua, Aymara
Description: Peru is a geographically dramatic country that can be divided into three regions including (1) the arid coastal plains, (2) high Andean peaks (reaching over 22,000 feet above sea level), and (3) the Amazon rainforest.  One of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world, Peru is rich natural resources. This natural resource base includes some of the most biologically diverse parts of the planet.  This diversity also includes economically significant resources including copper, silver, lead, zinc, oil, and gold.  These resources have increasingly been developed and in part has fueled an economic boom throughout the 2000’s.  In addition, to natural resources, Peru has world-class historical and cultural resources including location such as Cuzco, Manchu Picchu, and the communities of Lake Titicaca. 
Students will primarily be based in Puerto Maldondo in the department of Madre de Dios in the southern portion of the Amazon Basin.  Puerto Maldonado serves as a well positioned jumping off point for exploration of the rivers, forests, and livelihood activities that dot the landscape.  A number of local and international NGOs operate out of Puerto Maldonado and will partner with CLTL. 
Research topics: The conservation issues which will likely serve as a basis for CLTL study include collaborative conservation, sustainable tourism development, establishing long-term sustainable livelihoods activities, understanding the effects of the new interoceanic highway, and local community involvement in national protected area management.