Summer in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

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

Program Dates: May 27, 2024 – July 15, 2024

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

Option 1 is a no-credit option with no tuition required.

Option 2 is for students seeking undergraduate or graduate credit consists of up to 9-credits of courses including a 3-credit independent study and 6-credits of field research study in Mexico. Students are responsible for tuition costs at UWM. See specific course requirements.

Week 1 will be at the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences, weeks 2-8 will be on site in Mexico at the Bacalar International Field Research Station. 

International airfare, in-Mexico transportation, lodging and modest research expenses are paid for through the NSF IRES grant. Other expenses including cultural excursions, meals, health and travel insurance, academic costs including tuition and fees if taking for credit are the student’s responsibility.

Application Process

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 Information

Program Leaders

Academic Advising

Contact Mal Kaul for administrative questions about registering for credit.


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 students are eligible to apply for Research-Conference Awards, which are typically between $250-$600. For undergraduate student options, visit For graduate student options, visit

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 (