Earth Corps

An intensive 4-week, for-credit field study course for undergraduate students
Earth Corps students standing atop a summit

Earth Corps is a field studies program run by the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) in partnership with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to provide motivated, environmentally conscious students the opportunity to live and learn in the incredible natural classroom of the Colorado wilderness. The program began in 2002 and is designed to integrate key lessons in environmental studies with the completion of multiple critical environmental restoration projects. Earth Corps attracts exceptional students from across the nation to participate in this unique service learning opportunity.

"The trail compels you to know yourself"  -Enos Mills

In 2016, Earth Corps students will complete environmental restoration projects in Willow Lake Basin located at the base of Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Students will gain field experience in restoration ecology through the completion of a highly technical trail reconstruction project. Visiting professors and industry experts will provide lectures in the field covering topics such as geomorphology, vegetation, hydrology, land/recreation management, environmental policy, ethics, and other aspects of environmental studies. Upon successful completion of the program, each student will receive 4 credit hours from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (GES 446: Field Studies in Geography).

For the duration of the program, participants will live, work, and learn in a backcountry wildland environment, complete long hours of very demanding physical labor at altitudes of 11,000-14,000+ feet, work effectively as a team, exercise the highest level of commitment and perseverance, and make enduring friendships. Students will develop key outdoor skills during the program and through their summits of Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak. Students will learn and practice outdoor leadership, Leave No Trace ethics, backcountry navigation, alpine mountaineering, and risk management skills. There are no course pre-requisites to participate in Earth Corps. Previous backcountry experience is preferred, but not required. Earth Corps is a very physically strenuous program and participants must arrive in good physical condition.

2015 Earth Corps Lecturers:

  1. Dr. David Havlick: Associate Professor, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs - Public Land Management
  2. Mike Smith: retired Forest Planning Specalist, U.S. Forest Service - Land Management History of Rio Grande National Forest, Land Management Issues Facing the Sangre de Cristo Range
  3. Bart Miller, JD: Water Program Director, Western Resource Advocates - Colorado Water Law
  4. Dr. Tom Huber, Professor, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs - Climate Change in the Alpine, Mountain Climatology and Soils, Glacial Geomorphology of Willow Lake Basin
  5. Dr. Catherine Kleier, Associate Professor and Chair, Regis University - Life Above the Trees - Plant Adaptations in the Rocky Mountains

  6. Dr. Emilie Gray, Professor, Colorado College - Bugs and Other Pollinators
  7. Loretta McEllhiney, Peak Manager, U.S. Forest Service - Managing Colorado's 14,000 Foot Peaks


2016 Information

Program Dates: July 11-August 9, 2016

Course Fee: There is a course fee of $2,500 (merit- and need-based scholarships available to qualifying students). Fees are used to cover costs of the program including project equipment, supplies, and materials.

To Apply: RMFI accepts applications on a rolling basis and will review applications immediately upon receiving them. Acceptance into the program is competitive, based on application and interview process. RMFI will select 10 students to participate. Upon receiving an application, RMFI staff will contact prospective students to arrange an interview.

A complete application includes:

To apply for a scholarship, please send a 1-page letter (along with your other application materials) detailing your interest in the program and you need for financial assistance.

Application Deadline: Early deadline February 26, 2016. Final deadline to apply has been extended until Sunday, April 17th, 2016. Participants announced in late April. Email completed application to Please submit all application materials at once.


Read alumni testimonials HERE.