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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 during the summers and starting in 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: November 1st, 2022

Applications Close: February 1st, 2023

Students Notified of Acceptance: March 15th, 2023

Program Begins: May 22rd, 2023

Program Ends: July 30th, 2023


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.  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 their projects for 2023, please click here. To meet the classes and learn about their research, please click here for the class of 2021 and here for the class of 2022.


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

To apply:


The application is available as a Google Form.  If you have a gmail account, you will be able to save your application as you progress. When your application is complete, Google Forms will automatically send you an email with confirmation that we have received your application.


In addition to contact and demographic information, you will need:

  • A pdf of your college transcripts.
  • Answers to three short essay questions:

1. What do you envision as your career path, and how do you believe that this specific REU program will help you on your desired path? (1000 character limit)

2. What personal, academic, or professional experiences have you had that would make you well-suited for this specific REU program?  (1000 character limit)

3. How do you think you could use what you learn from this program to help people and the environment? (1000 character limit)

  • Names and email addresses of two people who have agreed to write letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation will only be asked of finalists for the REU program.
  • Three choices for mentors you’d like to work with this summer.  
  • Resume/CV
Applications for our 2023 program year is open and can be found by clicking here: 2023 applications

For more information, contact 

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