September 27, 2021

Students Wild for Smithsonian Endangered Species Program

Sophomore Liliana Ramirez (pictured here) and junior Maddie Lichter are the first two students to participate in a partnership between UMW and the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation.

Sophomore Liliana Ramirez (pictured here) and junior Maddie Lichter are the first two students to participate in a partnership between UMW and the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation.

Liliana Ramirez and Madelyn “Maddie” Lichter know that residence hall life can be a bit like living in a zoo. So these University of Mary Washington students felt prepared for all the wildlife sounds and smells they’ve experienced over the last several months.

Both pursuing UMW’s new conservation biology major, Ramirez and Lichter are pioneer participants in a new partnership between Mary Washington and the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. The pair has spent the last semester engaged in a new kind of “domestic study abroad experience,” conducting hands-on research on endangered animal and plant species at Front Royal’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains on 3,200 acres of forest, grasslands and pasture along the Shenandoah River.

“We hear wolves howling, and whooping cranes going at it. Last night, I heard something that sounded very zebra-like,” said Ramirez, mimicking the noise she heard while falling asleep in the residence hall. The building is one of three on campus, which also includes a dining common area and an academic center with state-of-the-art classrooms and research labs. Read more.

Smithsonian Partnership Lets Students Explore Endangered Species

Thanks to a new partnership with the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, Mary Washington students will soon have the opportunity to study clouded leopards and other endangered species with Smithsonian scientists. Photo by Evan Cantwell/George Mason University.

Thanks to a new partnership with the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, Mary Washington students will soon have the opportunity to study clouded leopards and other endangered species with Smithsonian scientists. Photo by Evan Cantwell/George Mason University.

Imagine getting up close and personal with the world’s most endangered species – and then having the chance to save them.

Thanks to a partnership with the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC), Mary Washington students will soon have that experience. They’ll spend a semester working directly with these animals and learning from Smithsonian scientists and George Mason University professors at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The agreement comes just as UMW’s biology department introduces a new major in conservation biology. Read more.