Biodiversity and Conservation

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Quick Information

Location Thailand
Academic Date Winter Break –
Credit Hours 6
Requirements 3.0 minimum MU GPA at time of application. Good academic standing. Scuba certification (before departure). Good physical condition. This program is physically and mentally rigorous.
Estimated cost $4,093 *without scuba certification (doesn't include airfare)
Contact Shanon Dickerson, Director of Study Abroad
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All accepted participants must complete the AFNR 2190 prerequisite course during the fall semester.

Experience the fascinating Thai culture while studying conservation and the incredibly rich diversity of terrestrial and marine life during CAFNR’s three-week winter break study abroad program to Thailand!


Students experience the remarkable warmth, hospitality, and friendliness of the beautiful Thai people.

Starting in Bangkok, students explore cultural sites such as the Grand Palace and Buddhist temples.

We see some of Thailand’s venomous snakes when we visit the Thai Red Cross Snake Farm, funded by the World Health Organization, where antivenom is produced for all of SE Asia.

We even have a cooking class in which our students learn how to prepare some of the most scrumptious dishes for which Thailand is famous.

Outside of Bangkok

Once outside of Bangkok, a Thai university professor leads us through a mangrove conservation area where students explore mangroves in kayaks and plant mangrove saplings at low tide.

We visit the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage site and former capitol of Thailand.

We take the WWII Death Railway Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi to visit an elephant sanctuary, where we will spend a day with elephants.

“This was hands-down the greatest thing I’ve done with my life.” Katie Alewel 2017-18

Khao Yai National Park

We trek through the tropical forests of Khao Yai National Park where we are led by Thai professors studying gibbon ecology and Thai graduate students studying bird ecology. Gibbons are spectacular apes that brachiate through trees and sing in the mornings.

At Khao Yai, we will also take an 10 kilometer hike through the jungle to a breathtaking waterfall that was featured in a Hollywood movie. There is an opportunity to see wild elephants in addition to gibbons, macaques, and exotic birds including the incredible hornbills.

We got to see some of the world’s most spectacular biodiversity in the jungle, in the sky, and under the sea!” Blair Mobley 2006-07

Phi Phi Island

Further south, we spend a week in the Phi Phi Islands where students learn about conservation and ecology of coral reefs and their constituent fish and invertebrate life.

Students learn various techniques to assess reef health and conduct the assessments during dives on local reefs. We participate in a coral reef conservation research project being conducted by marine biologists from the Phuket Marine Biological Center. All of the coral reef studies are hands-on, thus we spend lots of time scuba diving in the warm, clear waters of the Andaman Sea.

To enable us all to be certified divers before departing for Thailand, an open water dive class independent from MU is offered just for our students by Captain Nemo’s dive shop in Columbia.

It was an adventure of a lifetime and I did not want it to end,” Rachael Bonacker 2016-17


Thailand is located in Southeast Asia and is about the size of Texas. The weather is sunny and in the upper 80s (F), perfect for winter break while our friends and family back home are shoveling snow.

Thailand has something for everyone. Exploring street markets can provide an overwhelming shopping, cultural, and gastronomical experience. Meanwhile, the mountains, waterfalls, beaches, reefs and national parks provide unparalleled spectacular natural beauty.

You won’t find a more inviting, friendly people than the Thai. There is a reason it’s is the most visited country in Southeast Asia. Your senses will be overloaded during this life-changing learning experience!

Accommodation and Meals

Students will be housed in a combination of hotels, national park accommodations, and resorts. Rooms will be shared, and the number of participants in a room varies from location to location. All housing costs are included in the program fee.

Although some meals for the group are included in the program fee, students will be responsible for most meals while on the ground. As the cost of living in Thailand is relatively low, students can expect to spend substantially less than they would for the same number of meals in the U.S. Individual spending habits of students vary, so please see the budget information below for an estimate of the average out-of-pocket meal expenses.

Program Travel

International round-trip air travel will be arranged for the Thailand group. This arranged flight generally departs from and returns to St. Louis. Transportation to Lambert International Airport will be the responsibility of the student. The faculty program leader travels with the group flight to facilitate airport check-in and transfers. Because of the fluctuation in airline prices, the airfare estimate is listed separately below; however, once group reservations are made and the flight is finalized, the ticket cost will be added to the program fee and billed to participants’ MU accounts.

All in-country program travel is organized by CAFNR and is included in the program fee.

Faculty Leader

The MU instructor is Robert Sites, Ph.D., professor of entomology.  He has been to Thailand 42 times for research and teaching and has taught this study abroad course since its inception in 1999.


Students accepted to the Thailand program will be registered for the required three-credit AFNR 2190: International Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources prerequisite course (3 credits, graded A/F) for the fall semester preceding the program travel dates. The fall course meets on Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. In the course, students examine aspects of Southeast Asian biodiversity, Thai conservation programs, and Thai culture (including language, Buddhism and more). Assignments, quizzes and presentations are used to assess student performance.

Students are enrolled in three credits of AFNR 2191: International Agriculture and Natural Resources (humanities; graded A/F) during the spring semester for their in-country experience. The in-country experience focuses on observing and experiencing what was learned in the classroom. In Thailand, student assessment is based on journals, conduct, and a final report. The course is taught in English, although some Thai language skills will be very desirable in markets and when meeting with Thai students.

Participants should work with their advisors to determine how these AFNR 2190 and 2191 credits (six total) will count toward their individual graduation plans.

Estimated Cost

Does not include fall semester prerequisite class

Non-refundable deposit: $350
Missouri Resident Tuition (3 credits): $897*
CAFNR supplemental course fees: $163
*Non-resident students will also be billed non-resident fees.
IT Fees: $42
Intl Center Fees: $245
Program Fees: $2,396
Total cost estimate without airfare or scuba certification: $4,093
Airfare estimate: $2,200
Pre-trip scuba certification: $500-$600
Additional meals estimate: $250
Additional misc. estimate: $250