• Conservation Research Bridge Program

    Hands-on Mentored Career-development Programs in Conservation Research
    The Amphibian Foundation's acclaimed Conservation Research Bridge Program offers unique opportunities to get involved in and advance critical amphibian conservation projects, while gaining career-building training and research experience in the lab and in the field.

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If college taught you these things, we wouldn't have to ...

We are pleased to offer exciting Research Scholarships to our Conservation Research Bridge Program!

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The Amphibian Foundation’s (AF) Conservation Research Bridge Program offers the unique opportunity for adults (18+) to conduct conservation and biological research in a collaborative and mentored scientific environment.

In-person (Atlanta) | 1-3 semester programs | Rolling start dates

The Conservation Research Bridge Program (Bridge) is available to people before, during, or after college, and allows students to explore conservation research as a potential career field, while gaining valuable training, and collaborating with regional professionals from agencies, zoos, and universities.

Students work as Conservation Research Assistants and apprentices, developing the confidence, resilience, and adaptiveness that define a successful scientist. AF provides valuable training and research exeriences for all students in a supportive, thriving environment. We work closely with students to help them achieve their personal, academic and career goals. Our Bridge students and their research projects advance the conservation science of threatened and endangered amphibians. .

Although a degree is not required, applicants should have a strong interest in biology, conservation, amphibians, and the ability to work independently as well as with colleagues with different backgrounds and interests. Students are based at the Amphibian Foundation in Atlanta, located on the Blue Heron Nature Preserve, for the duration of the program, with many opportunities for field work.


AF Inclusion & Diversity Statement


Bridge Program students in the field

Bridge program staff and students at Fort Stewart Army Base, Liberty County, GA (photo by Dirk Stevenson)

The Bridge Program offers two tracks,
depending on student preference and availability.

  • Track 1: 15-week program

    For 15 weeks, students work as an apprentice across many disciplines in conservation science, including:

    Track 1

    • Reintroduction conservation
    • Restoration conservation
    • Urban ecology
    • Disease surveillance
    • Animal husbandry
    • Lab propagation of imperiled species
    • Scientific illustration
    • Natural history
    • Science communication
    • Biological monitoring of local, native, and reintroduced amphibians
    • Partner on projects with agency, zoo, and academic professionals
    • Concentrations can be seen below

    Bridge students rotate working in the captive propagation (breeding) and husbandry labs, and other concentrations. Students may participate in educational or outreach events.

    Students interested in continuing the program may repeat Track 1 or transfer to Track 2.

  • Track 2: One-year program

    For 15 weeks, students work as an apprentice across many disciplines as outlined in Track 1.

    Track 2

    In subsequent semesters, with their mentor, students design and implement their own mentored research project, and/or work within ongoing studies for the remainder of the year.

    Research studies will explore ecological, physiological, life-history, biomechanical, and scientifically interesting questions. This research will also advance AF’s conservation efforts and could be published in scientific literature.

    The program ends with a research symposium presentation (when applicable) and graduation.


    Track 2 students, and those enrolled in the Winter semester attend the regional conference Southeast Partners in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation (SEPARC) the largest regional herpetological conference in the Southeastern US. Bridge students have historically given oral and poster presentations at this conference, and students are strongly encouraged to do so.
Salamander silhouette

The Seasonality of Amphibians and the Conservation Research Bridge Program

Students can expect a similar training experience, regardless of which semester they are enrolled in. That said, certain opportunities are heightened during key activity periods of the year. For example, During Winter semesters (Dec-April), there is an increase in focus on Flatwoods Salamander monitoring, and during the Summer semesters (May-Sept), there is heightened focus on rearing Gopher Frog tadpoles for experimental release into the wild, and urban turtle community monitoring on our nature preserve.

Here is a list of studies which occur year-round:

  1. Lab Husbandry + Propagation
  2. Urban Ecology
  3. Science Communication
  4. Course Enrollment
  5. Venomous Training & Certification
  6. Field Studies
  7. Amphibian Disease Studies
  8. Microbiome + Invasive Species Studies
  9. Biomechanics Studies
  10. Behavioral Studies


Sample Bridge Student Schedule

  • Monday

    Monday

    Warmer Months:
    • Endangered species mesocosm studies (with Ashley)
    • Urban turtle ecology study (with Maura)

    All Months:
    • Bridge Coordinator check-ins
    • Independent + Group research projects (Bridge Program Faculty)
    • Course work + Independent study

  • Tuesday

    Tuesday

    Warmer Months:
    • Urban turtle ecology study

    All Months:
    • Lab propagation of endangered species (with Ashley)
    • Coursework (depending on semester):
    • Biology of the Amphibians
    • Biology of the Reptiles
    • Master Herpetologist
    • Science Writing
    • Science Illustration
    • Individual student meetings (with Mark)
  • Wednesday

    Wednesday

    Warmer Months:
    • Endangered species mesocosm studies (with Ashley)
    • Urban turtle ecology study (With Maura)
    • Independent Study / Data Analysis (Bridge Program Faculty)

    All Months:
    • Remote Field Work (Twice per month; 9am-5pm, with Roxana and/or Sasha)
  • Thursday

    Thursday

    Warmer Months:
    • Urban turtle ecology study (with Maura)

    All Months:
    • Urban Ecology:
    • Amphibian Monitoring (with Maura)
    • Disease Surveillance (with Sasha)
    • Habitat Restoration (with Bridge Program Faculty)
    • Repopulation + experimental release (with Bridge Program Faculty)
  • Friday

    Friday

    Warmer Months:
    • Urban turtle ecology study (with Maura)

    • Venomous Competency Training (with Marjan)

    All Months:
    • Lab propagation of endangered species (with Ashley)
    • ~ Monthly research symposia
    • Course work + Independent study

    Want to Learn More?

    Interested in learning more, or applying to the program?

    Click the link below, fill out a short application, and AF staff will talk with you about your specific needs and goals.


    frog silhouette

    Apply to the Bridge Program

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Contact us with questions

    Gap Year Association Member

    Pricing, Dates, and Registration

    Prices include tuition. Room & board not included.

    Learn more about available scholarships


    Conservation Research Assistant
    1 or 2 semester apprenticeship (15 weeks each)

    Full time (40 hours/week): $10,000
    (Additional second semester: $8,000)

    Part time (30 hours/week): $8,000
    (Additional second semester: $6,500)

    Part time (20 hours/week): $6,000
    (Additional second semester: $5,000)


    1 year apprenticeship (45 weeks)

    Full time (40 hours/week): $25,000

    Part time (20 hours/week): $13,000


    Larval Salamander
    Semesters

    Spring: Starts First week in Jan
    Summer: Starts First Week in May
    Fall: Starts First Week in Sept

    Application deadline: 30 days before start of the semester, but contact us if you need an extension. We are flexible with start dates as well, though we prefer to start student groups at the same time for solidarity.


    Support Diversity and Inclusion in Science!

    Box Turtle Illustration Sponsor a wild turtle & support Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in science.

    Click here to learn more!

    Bridge Program Faculty

    • Mark Mandica
    • Crystal Mandica
    • Maura Dudley
    • Sasha Greenspan
    • Duncan Irschick
    • J Spahr
    • John Measey
    • Kevin Blackwell
    • Marjan Ghadrdan
    • Mark Mandica, Executive Director of the Amphibian Foundation, Biology Lecturer, Agnes Scott College

      Mark instructs students on field studies on endangered species, monitoring urban and experimentally released amphibians, and scientific illustration
    • Crystal Mandica, Director of Education at the Foundation

      Crystal works with students on scientific engagement, particularly through a diverse offering of youth programming. As Collections Manager, Crystal assigns Bridge students to conservation labs for their training.
    • Maura Dudley, Urban Ecologist, Oglethorpe University

      Maura is the Urban Ecologist at AF, and leads the students in urban amphibian monitoring, reintroductions and restoration ecology, and urban turtle community monitoring on our preserve.
    • Sasha Greenspan, Amphibian Disease Biologist

      Sasha instructs students in amphibian disease pathology, disease surveillance, and PCR. She also mentors students in AF's contribution to the Student Network of Amphibian Pathogen Surveillance (SNAPS) .
    • Duncan Irschick, Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

      Duncan instructs students on 3D imaging, modeling and biomechanics
    • J Spahr, Scientific Illustrator

      J instructs students in scientific illustration, and the creation of compelling graphics.
    • John Measey, Invasion Biologist, Stellenbosch University

      John authored the text 'How to Publish in Biological Sciences' and leads students through the key points of writing compelling science articles. John also guides students in invasive species studies at AF.
    • Kevin Blackwell, Staff Photographer, Amphibian Foundation

      Kevin served as AF Invertebraculturist in the pre-COVID times, and has made a career of capturing incredible photographs of some of earth's most underappreciated critters.
    • Marjan Ghadrdan, Venomous Programs Coordinator, Amphibian Foundation

      Marjan is the Lead Venomous Instructor for the Venomous Training & Certification Program Workshops we offer at AF every other month. She also works with our venom certified Research Assistants on becoming more proficient and safe while working with venomous reptiles.
    • Mark Mandica
    • Crystal Mandica
    • Maura Dudley
    • Sasha Greenspan
    • Duncan Irschick
    • J Spahr
    • John Measey
    • Kevin Blackwell
    • Marjan Ghadrdan

    Bridge Program Courses!

    AF Priority Amphibian Species

    Bridge Program students have access to our full course catalog, included as part of their program. Some courses include certification programs for career-development, and resume building. All of our courses are world-class opportunities to learn from experts in the field.

    Courses include: Master Herpetologist Program, Southeastern Master Herpetologist, Husbandry & Captive Management, Venomous Training & Certification, Critters & Cabernet.


    Click here to see our course catalog!


    In addition to our course catalog, there are several courses offered exclusively for Bridge program students.

    • Biology of the Amphibians
    • Biology of the Reptiles
    • Writing for Science and Grants
    • Scientific Illustration

    Bridge Program Faculty and Student Videos

    • Meet Jack, Conservation Research Assistant in the AF Bridge Program

    • Conservation Research Bridge Program

    • Meet Sarah, Conservation Research Assistant in the AF Bridge Program

    • Meet Tobias, Chair of the AF Science Advisor Board

    • Meet Mark, Executive Director & AF Co-Founder

    Bridge Program Concentrations

    Conduct Field Restoration and Conservation

    Conduct Field Restoration and Conservation

    Work in the field with some of the most endangered species in the southeastern United States, including the imperiled Gopher Frog (Rana capito)—Georgia’s rarest frog. Staff at the Amphibian Foundation have been working on their conservation for more than ten years.
    Help Endangered Species in the Lab

    Help Endangered Species in the Lab

    Care for vulnerable amphibians and reptiles in the lab and help propagate captive populations of endangered species, such as the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum), which has declined in population by 90% since 2000.
    Learn Functional Ecology & Ecophysiology

    Learn Functional Ecology & Ecophysiology

    Generate knowledge on how species function in their environment, leading to better conservation practices. The focal species at AF are locally or federally imperiled, yet very little is known about how they function in the environment.
    Perform Biological Monitoring

    Perform Biological Monitoring

    Assess populations to help make conservation plans. At the heart of conservation efforts are biological monitoring initiatives. Assessing wild populations and the status of experimentally released animals is key to understanding the impact of conservation efforts, as well as predicting when to enact a conservation plan.
    Engage in Outreach and Education

    Engage in Outreach and Education

    Educate people across the state and nation within AF’s Education & Outreach Program, which provides unlimited opportunities to engage the community in learning about reptiles and amphibians. We have partnerships with many area schools, colleges, and organizations.
    Access Exciting Courses in Biology

    Access Exciting Courses in Biology

    The Amphibian Foundation offers, with partners, an exciting selection of classes that students can take to further their herpetological knowledge. These courses include Biology of the Amphibians and Biology of the Reptiles, both of which are offered at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA. The Master Herpetologist Program is taught at the Amphibian Foundation and in the field with Georgia DNR and the Orianne Society.
    Learn Survey Techniques

    Learn Survey Techniques

    Detect amphibians and reptiles using sampling techniques such as Visible Implant Elastomer, Dipnetting, Funnel & Pitfall Traps, Hoop Nets, and Nocturnal Sonic Surveys.
    Practice Scientific Illustration

    Practice Scientific Illustration

    Get guidance from professional scientific illustrators in a variety of media including pen and ink, watercolor, and digital renderings using PhotoShop, Illustrator, and Procreate. AF values the connection between art and science and strives to empower students to produce compelling graphics to accompany research.
    Learn 3D Imaging, Modeling, and Biomechanics

    Learn 3D Imaging, Modeling, and Biomechanics

    Work with 'Beast-Cam' technology and learn about generating perfect 3D models, which can be manipulated and animated.
    Train and Certify in Venomous Snake Biology, Conservation, and Handling

    Train and Certify in Venomous Snake Biology, Conservation, and Handling

    Working with the Rattlesnake Conservancy, our students are trained and certified in properly handling venomous snakes, an extremely valuable skill when working in the field.
    Propagate Endangered Species

    Propagate Endangered Species

    Experience AF’s Amphibian Research and Conservation Center, a solar-powered outdoor research lab with 33 artificial and experimentally controlled wetlands called mesocosms. These mesocosms hold hundreds of frogs and salamanders for conservation research programs. Many conservation programs rely on population augmentation using techniques such as assisted metamorphosis (head-starting, or rearing animals from egg to metamorphosis before releasing) and captive propagation (producing animals at AF which would be candidates for experimental release in the wild).
    Make Lasting Connections in Research and Conservation

    Make Lasting Connections in Research and Conservation

    Network and meet experts in the field. AF’s conservation efforts are collaborative with a growing base of passionate partners. Students connect with partners and researchers from state and federal agencies, other non-profits, and universities.

    Learn more

    Learn Techniques in Amphibian Disease Surveillance

    Learn Techniques in Amphibian Disease Surveillance

    Emergent infectious disease is a main cause of the global amphibian declines, which now effect 43% of the world's amphibian species. Disease testing and surveillance is a vital part of amphibian community monitoring.
    Learn Specimen Preparation Techniques and Museum Studies

    Learn Specimen Preparation Techniques and Museum Studies

    Proper specimen preparation, as fluid (alcoholic) or skeletal specimens, is an important tool for scientific and illustrative investigations. We train students to prepare these specimens for research, including the maintenance of the dermestid beetle colony used to clean skeletal material.
    Work in Restricted and Protected Habitats

    Work in Restricted and Protected Habitats

    Through our valued partnerships, the Amphibian Foundation works in some of the most restricted areas of the southeastern US, such as military installations and Wildlife Management Areas. Our students have access to some of the most pristine areas, with opportunities to witness wildlife of all kinds while studying focal species.

    Want to Learn More?

    Interested in learning more, or applying to the program? Click the link below, fill out a short application, and AF staff will talk with you about your specific needs and goals.


    Apply to the Bridge Program


    Frequently Asked Questions | FAQ


    Learn more about available scholarships