West Virginia Universitys program in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources has joined forces with a consortium of institutions to offer a certificate program in ecotourism.

Ecotourism has become one of the fastest-growing segments of the overall tourism market, and this program will help us to prepare our students for exciting jobs in the field,said David Smaldone, assistant professor in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences who will act as WVU s academic consortium advisor.

Ecotourism focuses on responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. Ecotourism providers and professionals strive to minimize impact to the destination, build environmental and cultural awareness and respect among visitors, and provide financial benefits and empowerment for local host communities.

The consortium currently consists of the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and four member universities: WVU , the Pennsylvania State University, North Carolina State and California Polytechnic. The certificate will be conferred by TIES , the largest and oldest organization in the world dedicated to generating and disseminating information about ecotourism. TIES currently has members in more than 90 countries.The organization’s membership includes academics, consultants, conservation professionals and organizations, governments, architects, tour operators, lodge owners and managers, general development experts, and ecotourists.

This consortium is the first of its kind in the world, and the partnership with TIES lends credibility to this certificate,Smaldone said.

The certificate program follows a flexible and focused curriculum that includes nine hours of course work, a 400-hour field internship focused on ecotourism, a study-abroad experience, and participation in an internationally focused seminar conducted through TIES .

Smaldone notes that while the certificate program meshes well with the undergraduate Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources curriculum, offered by the Davis Colleges Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, it is open to all WVU students regardless of major.

Students from a variety of disciplines may be interested in pursuing this certificate, including students from other natural resource programs, landscape architecture, business, geography, and others,Smaldone said.

Applicants for the certificate need to be juniors or seniors, and the program can be completed in one or two years.

For additional information on the program, contact Smaldone, 304-293-2941, ext. 2443 or david.smaldone@mail.wvu.edu .