Skip to Main Content
project dragonfly icon

Thailand: Buddhism & Conservation

Study emerging models in conservation and education. Understand nature through Buddhist philosophy.

Course Overview

Travel to Thailand to investigate this country’s astonishing Old World rain forests and diverse cultural environments. This course will address key topics in ecology while exploring emerging models of conservation and education. Possible research projects include Buddhism and the environment; indigenous ecological knowledge; spiritual connections to nature; and community forests. Discover the power of inquiry to generate knowledge and inspire conservation. All students will have the chance to conduct an investigation of the local ecosystem, asking their own questions, collecting data, and presenting conclusions.

Prior to and following the field experience in Thailand, students will complete coursework via Dragonfly Workshops’ web-based learning community as they apply experiences to their home institutions.

Course Details
In-person travel dates:

June 17-26, 2024

Students arrive at least one day before and depart on last day of course

On the Web: Pre-travel preparations: February-March
Login to online course: April
Summer course: May 16-August 9
Fall course: Late August- early December
Credits: Summer course: 5 graduate credits

Follow-on Fall course: 2 graduate credits

All Miami University credits can be applied to the GFP or AIP (or other programs if approved)
Costs: Summer course: $3,550* + $500 additional transportation fee + your own airfare to Bangkok, Thailand
* $3,550 calculated as = $455 per credit tuition x 5 graduate credits + $1100 program fee + $175 Miami global fee

Course Themes

  • Tropical ecology and conservation
  • Buddhist philosophy in education
  • Western and Eastern modes of understanding nature
  • Indigenous ecological knowledge
  • Buddhism and conservation activism
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Participatory education
  • Community-based conservation

A typical day is likely to include:

  • Visits to field conservation sites
  • Lectures
  • Student-led discussions of key course topics
  • Engagement with local communities
  • Open inquiries
  • Journal writing

Thailand Student Reflection:

"The experiences in Thailand taught me so much, in so many different ways. Being immersed in Thai culture and Buddhism, learning about conservation efforts, getting to explore our own inquiries, and the privilege of seeing hornbill research up close and personal (and the list goes on)" -Grace Masaoka

Grace Masaoka


Thailand is especially renowned for its temples, its mouth-watering cuisine, its hospitality, and its astonishing biotic diversity. Known as Siam until 1939, the Kingdom of Thailand was never colonized by a European power. Thais are proud of their strong culture and their history. Buddhism influences all aspects of Thai life and is practiced by 95% of the population.

Planned Sites

Google maps image of Thailand with three locations marked. A second image shows the marked locations zoomed in and labeled Wat Paa Sukato, Wat Paa Mahawan, and Khao Yai National ParkKhao Yai National Park

Located approximately 200 kilometers northeast of Bangkok, Khao Yai is Thailand’s oldest national park. The 2,100 square kilometer park encompasses a variety of vegetation zones including evergreen rainforest and mixed deciduous forest. Approximately 200 to 300 wild elephants share the park with tigers, gibbons, barking deer, civets, and sun bears. Khao Yai’s rich forests are home to a large population of hornbills including the great hornbill, one of the most conspicuous of the hornbill clan with its bright yellow “horn” or casque on top of its head. There are numerous hiking trails and several wildlife observation towers, including one near a natural salt lick that entices elephants, barking deer, and gaur into the open.

Various forest wats (temples)

Discuss Buddhist views on nature, ecology, and conservation with scientists, educators, and “ecology monks” active in conservation efforts in Thailand. The group will spend several days at Buddhist monasteries, where students will be instructed in meditation practice and participate in discussions on contemplative education.

Wat Paa Sukato

Wat Paa Sukato is a forest monastery in a remote village in northeast Thailand’s Chaiyaphum province. The monastery is an outstanding example of the interwoven strands of conservation, Buddhism, and community. The monks designated the forest surrounding their monastery as sacred, prohibiting logging and the killing of wild animals. They fostered a reverence for nature among the local community and recruited the villagers to help prevent forest fires. The monks also helped local children form an environmental education club called Dek Rak Nok (Children Love Birds) with the goal to protect the local bird population. Monks also lead an annual week-long “Green Walk” around the watershed forest to promote conservation awareness.

Wat Paa Mahawan

Wat Paa Mahawan is a forest monastery in the mountains of Chaiyaphum. Monks of Wat Paa Mahawan work with the local community to nurture and conserve the forests surrounding the temple. The forest is an important watershed area, and the community conservation efforts help ensure the health of vital river systems upon which the local people, the forests, and the wildlife depend. The monks have also begun a biodiversity monitoring program to collect data on forest recovery and cultural uses of wild species. The monks hope to use the data to create further conservation awareness in the local communities.

(Course locations are subject to change.)

2024 Costs Include:

In addition to covering the price for five graduate credits of Miami University tuition, field course costs cover all basic expenses, including:

  • Meals (incidental snacks and drinks not included)
  • Lodging
  • Field station fees
  • Course activities (optional activities are not included)
  • Ground transportation (van, boat, train, etc., as needed)
  • Park entrance and guide fees

Course costs do not cover personal expenses, such as airfare to the course, personal gifts, or ancillary costs, such as passport fees, country entry fees, required course readers, and any additional course texts.

Airfare: To estimate fares applicants may wish to visit an online fare finder or call a travel agent. Bear in mind that airlines have seasonal fluctuations in fares.

Miami University also requires all international workshop participants to purchase travel health insurance for about $40. (Successful applicants will receive more details in their web-based learning community course workshop.) In some classes an additional textbook is required. In some countries, you may have to pay entrance and departure taxes/fees at the airport.

Because of support from Miami University, the course costs listed above are a fraction of actual program costs. Earth Expeditions recommends that accepted applicants to the program check with their school district or employer to see if professional development funds are available to further offset costs.

We offer some further ideas on Helping to Fund your Degree and Scholarships for Current Dragonfly Students

U.S. Students and Students Living Abroad

To support involvement by a broad range of professionals nationally and globally, Miami University discounts tuition for participants accepted to an Earth Expeditions graduate course. Applicants must be over the age of 18 and hold bachelor’s degrees. Upon successful completion of both the field and Web-based components of the Earth Expeditions course, participants earn seven graduate credit hours.

Students Seeking Undergraduate Credit

Undergraduate students at Miami University or elsewhere may apply for an Earth Expeditions course and earn five credits for the field component, with the option to complete two additional credits for the fall Web component. Normal Miami tuition rates apply, as do eligible summer tuition waivers and scholarships. Contact Project Dragonfly for more information.

Course Options for Miami Students

Are you a current Miami University undergrad or grad student interested in participating? Check out our Miami Students page to learn more about program requirements.

*Note that costs shown above are for graduate students only. Course costs for undergraduate students are based on each student’s tuition rate. If you have questions regarding your tuition promise rate, please contact the Bursar.

Inquiry & Action Follow-on Course

The 2-credit follow-on course, Inquiry & Action, puts the Earth Expeditions course ideas and concepts into practice. Students in this course will choose a research topic and construct a multidisciplinary semester-long project of their choice that includes inquiry-driven learning, participatory education, and community-based conservation to experience and promote action in real-world contexts. Students will connect and collaborate with peers and their instructional team throughout the semester working to make a positive difference in their local communities. This class is a required part of the Global Field Program (GFP) master's course sequence. Inquiry & Action is recommended though optional for non-GFP students.

Course cost: $910 (2 credits)


Do you have questions? Go to our Frequently Asked Questions page for some answers.

Check out another EE!

A marine landscape in Baja

Baja: Field Methods

Experience the spectacular desert and marine landscapes of two richly diverse biosphere reserves through ecological and social field methods.
Galápagos giant tortoise

Galápagos: Islands of Change

Visit the realm of giant tortoises; study the forces of evolutionary, geologic, and social change; contribute to sustainable solutions for this astounding archipelago.

Apply to Earth Expeditions