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REU Program

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

in Conservation Science at Zoo Miami


  Undergraduate research students from Florida International University conducting habitat surveys in the pine rocklands  


Zoo Miami, the Zoo Miami Foundation, and Florida International University (FIU) will offer a Research Experience for Undergraduates program funded by the National Science Foundation beginning in Summer 2021.  In this 10-week summer program, students will conduct independent research in conservation science under the mentorship of the conservation biologists, wildlife veterinarians, and education researchers at Zoo Miami and FIU.


Important Dates:

Applications Open: October 1st, 2020

Applications Close: February 1st, 2021

Students Notified of Acceptance: March 12th, 2021

Program Begins: May 24th, 2021

Program Ends: August 1st, 2021


What is the status of application review?

As of March 23rd, 2021, we have notified all applicants of acceptance, placement on wait lists, or rejection from the program.  We had far more qualified applications than we had positions available.

We plan to open applications for the summer 2022 program in October 2021.


REU Students will receive:

Weekly stipend ($600/week)

Paid summer housing (at FIU University Towers Dorms)

Food allowance ($100/week)

Travel costs to and from Miami


Students enrolled in college throughout the U.S. are eligible to apply.  Students from minorities underrepresented in science and students from universities with limited research opportunities are particularly encouraged to apply.


Undergraduates examining an invasive boa constrictor at Zoo Miami's hospital


Research areas:

research areas chart at Zoo Miami


Program Basics

Conservation, research, and education are a fundamental part of the mission of modern zoos.  Zoo Miami, ZMF, and FIU are happy to host the only zoo-based Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program within the US, beginning in summer 2021.  Students in this program will conduct mentored research under the guidance of conservation biologists and conservation practitioners from Zoo Miami and from FIU.

Like all REU programs, students in this program will have a guided introduction to how to conduct research: 

  • how to design a research project
  • how to collect, manage, and analyze data
  • how to produce formal research presentations
  • how to produce formal research papers.

Unlike any other REU program, students will have the unique experience of conducting research within a zoo environment, with unparalleled access to endangered species and conservationists working to protect them.  This program is highly interdisciplinary, with research topics ranging from field ecology, reproductive physiology, disease biology, and conservation education.  What links these projects is that they help advance conservation by leveraging the unique resources of a modern zoo.


Ex situ Conservation Research

Ex situ conservation describes conservation of animals in human care.  Ex situ programs in zoos are focused on protecting animals that are threatened in their native range, and may focus on propagation for conservation reintroductions, understanding animal behavior or animal welfare, or using animals in human care to learn about species that are challenging to study in the wild.


In situ Conservation Research

In situ research focuses on field conservation, understanding the ecology or conservation of species in the field.  Zoo Miami’s in situ conservation programs focus on the ecology of critically endangered pine rocklands – a habitat found only in South Florida.  Zoo Miami itself is surrounded by, and manages, one of the largest remaining patches of pine rocklands left in the world.  The pine rocklands at Zoo Miami are home to rare and endangered species ranging from Gopher Tortoises to Florida Bonneted Bats to the Bartram’s Hairstreak Butterfly.


Conservation Education

Conservation education is a fundamental part of the mission of a modern zoo, and zoos are one of the major places where people from any background and of any age can learn about wildlife and conservation.  However, conservation education is not always easy in “informal” learning environments such as zoos.   Conservation Education research at Zoo Miami focuses on understanding how people learn in zoo environments, and how zoo education programs can be optimized.


Students will work closely with a mentor from Zoo Miami or FlU on a research project of their very own.  To read about mentors and projects for 2021, please click here.


Who should apply for this program?

This program is suited for students with a background in biology, environmental science, or education.  Students should have a passion for conservation and an enthusiasm for working with diverse teams of conservation practitioners.


Who is eligible?
  • Students enrolled in college (including 4-year and community colleges) anywhere in the U.S. are eligible to apply
  • Students from minorities underrepresented in science and students from universities with limited research opportunities are particularly encouraged to apply
  • Students must be available for the entire 10 weeks of the program and program assignments and requirements will not permit students to begin late or end early


REU students will receive:
  • Weekly stipend ($600/week)
  • Paid summer housing (at FIU University Towers Dorms)
  • Food allowance ($100/week)
  • Travel costs to and from Miami
How is the program planning to deal with COVID19?

We are optimistic that science will develop a vaccine by late May 2021. However, this program is designed for students to live together in housing at FIU, and requires that students be able to travel across the country to participate. We are making contingencies in the event that either university housing or cross-country travel are not realistic by May 2021.  Stay tuned and we will post more information here as it becomes available.



Required documents to apply:

Please send all application materials to
Application Form
Letter of Reference Form
Diversity and Demographics Form


For more information, contact Dr. Steven Whitfield at or Dr. Elizabeth Anderson at

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