About EPI

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Creating Partnerships for Global Impact

Ecology Project International is a nonprofit, educational organization like no other. Our mission is to improve and inspire science education and conservation efforts worldwide through field-based student-scientist partnerships. We empower youth to take an active role in conservation.

Our Story

Educator + Scientist

In the 1990s, our co-founders Scott Pankratz and Julie Osborn were an educator and a scientist working and studying in Costa Rica. Both recognized that, in spite of federal protection and conservation science happening in the area, many critical habitats and species continued to decline. Sea turtle eggs were sold at local markets and piles of trash washed up on the beach during rainstorms.

Scott and Julie realized that unless locals valued and protected wildlife and the critical habitats in their own backyards, conservation efforts would ultimately fail. They also recognized that people can’t value what they don’t understand. In short, they needed a way to involve locals in the work of conservation.

In 2000, they launched the first EPI program in Costa Rica – four local courses for Costa Rican students and teachers. Many of the students lived within five miles of the project site and had eaten sea turtle eggs, yet none had ever seen a live sea turtle. For just a few precious days, they worked with researchers at Pacuare Nature Reserve to measure turtles, tag them, count their eggs, and sometimes move the eggs to a safer location to avoid predation. Meanwhile, Scott's thesis at the University of Montana documented the implementation and analysis of the program. EPI students learned both how to collect data and how the data would be used by researchers to monitor the local sea turtle population. For the students, it was an entirely new way of looking at their own backyards.

We want to give youth a mechanism to become active in conservation and be out in the field, making a difference on the ground, helping out habitats, ecosystems, and scientists.

Scott Pankratz, EPI Co-founder

That first year of EPI brought 61 local Costa Rican teens and teachers up close and personal with the biodiversity and ecological importance of their homeland. Empowered to make a difference, this growing number of conservation-minded teens began to work in their own communities to protect their wildlife resources, and the tide began to turn.

Through dedication to our mission, we've grown to five countries and become a leader in conservation education, connecting students with scientists on active research projects in the world’s most important ecological hotspots. In the time since that first course, more than 35,000 students have joined us in the field, and their impact is profound. At our program site in Costa Rica, the predation rate of nesting sites has dropped from 98% in 2000 to less than 1% today - thanks in large part to our students and our incredible partners at Pacuare Nature Reserve.


Our vision is to create an ecologically literate society where the world's youth are empowered to take an active role in conservation. This vision is realized through three goals:
Conservation, Education, and Cultural Exchange.

Tab 1

We partner students with scientists to enhance conservation, helping to protect vulnerable species and critical habitats.

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Tab 2

Our participants gain a better understanding of ecological systems and processes through participatory field science.

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Tab 3

We create global citizens by fostering cooperation between international and local students, teachers, and scientists.

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Where We Work


In Belize, culture, land, and sea come together to form both unique opportunities and unique conservation needs.... Learn More

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is home to 4% of the world's biodiversity, including the vulnerable leatherback sea turtle.... Learn More

Galapagos, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, are teeming with life and colorful native cultures but also facing many human-imposed threats, making them the perfect natural laboratory to empower the next generation of conservation leaders.... Learn More


The Sea of Cortez, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to more than a third of the world's marine mammals, is an ecological wonderland for local youth to experience conservation science.... Learn More


Once logged for timber, grazed by cattle, and threatened by encroaching plantations, Pacuare Reserve is now a protected haven for thousands of species, including the vulnerable nesting leatherback sea turtle, threatened jaguars, and the rare Agami heron. ... Learn More


The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is the largest, intact ecosystem in the contiguous United States, but it’s not a given it will remain that way.... Learn More

More than 70%
of our participants are underserved
youth living near our project sites.