Fall Semester 2022 in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

Integrating Freshwater Science and Sustainability in a rapidly changing ecological corridor, Yucatán Peninsula

The School of Freshwater Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee through the support of the National Science Foundation’s International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program provides an opportunity open to both undergraduate and graduate students to enroll in a field research experience in the Southern Yucatán Peninsula at the Laguna Bacalar International Research Station on the campus of CREN Normal College in Bacalar, Mexico.

Mexico’s second largest natural lake, Laguna Bacalar is one of the most unique freshwater lakes on Earth. It is part of an important ecological corridor ranging from tropical forest to the Caribbean Sea. The Laguna has the world’s largest freshwater, living Stromatolites (oldest known life forms at 3.5 Ga that put oxygen in the atmosphere), extensive freshwater mangroves, cenotes, and a unique hydrology.

What will you do?

The Yucatán Peninsula is experiencing the economic benefits of eco-tourism and the challenge of maintaining the environment that drives its economic growth. Participants will have opportunities for research in a wide-variety of areas, including surficial and subterranean hydrologic system dynamics, limnology, biogeochemistry, stromatolite ecology, mangrove forest ecology, land-water interactions, environmental sustainability, and other related fields.

  • Research will be directed under the shared mentorship of SFS program leaders, Mexican scientists/faculty, and educators with opportunities to.
  • interact with students and faculty at the Superior Javier Rojo Gómez Normal College and the local high school

Here’s a glimpse of where you’ll be working

Who Can Apply?

This program is open to undergraduate and graduate students from any accredited institution of higher education who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States with high promise of successfully completing the international experience. Students from any study discipline are encouraged to apply. A maximum of seven students will be accepted. Students with no previous international experience are encouraged to apply.

Program Options and Requirements

This program offers two options.

Option 1 consists of a 9-credit sequence of courses including a 3-credit independent study hybrid course that meets weekly for the first eight weeks of the fall semester, followed by six credits of study on-site in Mexico, approximately Oct. 26, 2022, through Dec. 10, 2022.

Credits: 9 undergraduate/graduate credits in freshwater sciences
Prerequisites: Undergraduate (junior standing) and consent of program leader (listed below)

Undergraduate course enrollment in FRSHWTR 512-1 (Field 3 credits), 512-2 (Lab 3 credits) and independent study 699 at UWM  OR
Graduate student course enrollment in FRSHWTR 512G-1 (Field 3 credits), 512G-2 (Lab 3 credits) and independent study 999 at UWM.

See specific course requirements.

Students not enrolled in a UW-Milwaukee degree program are required to enroll as a special student at UW-Milwaukee.

Option 2 is a no-credit option with no tuition required. 

Participation, preparation, conduct of research and reporting results are the same for both options. 

Participants will be expected to present the results of their research at a professional meeting or other designated forum, for which support is available.

Application Process

Applications will be accepted beginning June 1, 2022, and the review process will begin immediately. Acceptance will be on a rolling basis until filled with final notifications no later than August 26, 2022.

Scored criteria will include academic grade performance, diversity and pertinence of course work, written conveyance, previous work and academic experience, activity participation, letters of support. We seek individuals with a strong work ethic, a curiosity about the natural world, and the ability to work in a diverse team environment.

Prospective students must submit an application consisting of the following materials:

  • An academic transcript
  • A 1-2 page personal interest statement that includes previous work and academic experience (a strong personal statement can dominate shortcomings in an academic record)
  • 2 letters of reference from individuals knowledgeable of student’s qualifications

Final applicants must participate in an interview conducted in person or via phone or virtually.

Additional Requirements


Mexico travel dates are October 26 – December 10, 2022
Semester dates are September 6 – December 14, 2022

Program Leaders

Val Klump, vklump@uwm.edu; Tim Grundl, Grundl@uwm.edu; Jerry Kaster, jlk@uwm.edu;  Marissa Jablonski (jablons5@uwm.edu), School of Freshwater Sciences, UWM

Academic Advising

Mallory Kaul (malkaul@uwm.edu). Contact for administrative questions about application, registration, program cost, etc.


International airfare, in-Mexico transportation, lodging accommodations, and modest research expenses are paid for through a grant from the National Science Foundation-International Research Experience for Students. Other expenses including cultural excursions, most meals, health insurance, trip/travel insurance, academic costs-tuition & fees, are the student’s responsibility.


Through the UWM Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies UWM graduate students are eligible for a Research-Conference Award: https://uwm.edu/clacs/funding/graduate-student-funding/student-research-travel-award/student-research-travel-award-application/ Award is typically between $250-$600. deadline October 1. Non-UWM students are encouraged to speak with the scholarships office at their institution to determine if similar programs are available.

This program is available to students within the University of Wisconsin System through a partnership with the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin (https://freshwater.wisconsin.edu/)