Mountain Studies Institute

A nonprofit organization

$22,056 raised by 82 donors

100% complete

$20,000 Goal

Tis the season of giving!

Why donate to Mountain Studies Institute? We're connecting communities to science people can use to face our most pressing environmental challenges. As an independent research and education center, your donations help us continue to provide youth education programs and facilitate science that’s a priority to our mountain communities. A small snapshot of the impact we're having with your help:

  • Eight million acres of forest managed through collaborative efforts
  • Over 2,400 people engaged in environmental education and stewardship initiatives
  • Ten years of aquatic insect research to measure changes in water quality after fire, pollution events, and restoration
  • 12+ watersheds in the San Juan Mountains benefitting from restoration and monitoring of rivers, wetlands, forests, and wildlife

Project Highlights


You may have seen our newsletters this year highlighting snowtography.

Snow in our forested mountains is the primary source of water for municipal, agricultural, recreational, and industrial water demands representing 75-90% of our water supply. 

This year, we've installed two more sites into a growing network across the San Juans, on Red Mountain Pass and Jackson Mountain near Pagosa Springs thanks to your donations. Go here to learn more about this emerging field connecting forest health and water resources.

Bighorn Sheep Monitoring

Historically, bighorn sheep were widespread and abundant in Colorado. Today’s remnant herds are at risk - in large part due to respiratory disease outbreaks associated with exposure to domestic sheep. Documenting areas where bighorn and domestic sheep interactions are most likely to occur empowers agencies, ranchers, and wildlife advocates alike to focus management actions on the areas that are likely to have the biggest impact in reducing domestic/bighorn conflict. Science people can use.

Bighorn monitoring is one of MSI's few projects that is primarily funded by donations from supporters like you. Help support this program today!

Forest Collaboratives

There's a landscape of collaboration in our backyard. It is a place built on relationships, trust, accountability, and inclusiveness. It is a space where people are hard on ideas and easy on people. It is a forum for making informed decisions about our shared future in a forested region with the realities of fire, drought, and climate change. It is a place of complexity.

MSI works with forest collaboratives across southwest Colorado and even into New Mexico, playing vital roles for five various forest collaborative groups. This includes data collection and analysis, coordination and facilitation, mapping, and communications and storytelling.


"Mountain Studies Institute is an inspiring organization to intern for because their projects and data collected are meaningful to the residents of the San Juans. MSI helped me strengthen my skills and my passion to use science to make a difference." Lara Getz, MSI Intern.

"Over the last two years, your guys' support and encouragement has truly meant the world to me; you guys have been integral in my educational successes. I often think back on that first week of August as the week when I truly began to love learning because MSI and ECI had shown me what it could really be. Testing river water with MSI that week showed me that there was more to learning than a classroom and memorization -- for that I thank you both... It is because of MSI that I'm excited to be majoring in Environmental Studies and Economics (tentatively) in college and because of MSI that I'm able to speak confidently on the topics that I am so passionate about. Thank you so, so, so very much." - Royce Hinijosa, Bayfield Highschool Student

"This has been the Youth Ambassador's favorite thing since they've been in the states. They have had so much fun hiking and learning about a new ecosystem they aren't used to, since this is so different from Ecuador and Columbia. Thank you so much for this field day, it really does mean so much to them!" -Jessica Toll, Amigos International Project Director

"Water quality sampling with MSI was my favorite part of the summer." Soren Braford Lefebvre, Silverton Elementary School Student


To empower communities, managers, and scientists to innovate solutions through advancing mountain research, promoting education, and improving best practices.

We cultivate collaborations that enable resilient mountain communities to articulate issues, develop partnerships, and ignite initiatives that sustain the social, cultural, natural, and economic resources of the San Juan Mountains and mountain systems worldwide.

Background Statement

First conceptualized in the late 1990's as "living classroom without walls," the vision of a mountain center of education and research in Colorado's San Juan Mountains was refined by more than 20 collaborators including the Town of Silverton, San Juan County, Fort Lewis College, and San Juan Public Lands Center. With funding from two federal appropriations through the US Forest Service, the fledgling Institute became a reality in 2002. Now in its 20th year, MSI has grown to a staff of 15 with field offices in Silverton and Durango, and an annual budget of roughly $1.5 million. The organization operates more than 48 research and education programs annually in an 11-county area of southwest Colorado (Archuleta, Dolores, Gunnison, Hinsdale, La Plata, Mineral, Montrose, Montezuma, Ouray, San Juan, and San Miguel), serving a regional population of approximately 164,000 people.

A focus on mountain systems has made MSI unique since its inception. While other organizations may focus on a particular element of the environment, MSI's work takes a systems-based approach, recognizing the interconnections between ecosystem components, and that all actions have cascading effects that reach across time and space. For example, rather than simply studying water quality, we would study how air quality impacts a high alpine lake's water quality through deposition of mercury and nutrients, teasing out the connections and exploring the creative tension at the intersection of disciplines.

MSI is unique from other institutions in that we are focused on serving the isolated rural communities of southwest Colorado and the San Juan Mountains. The communities in this region, once reliant on mining, are now struggling economically. MSI strives to engage the underserved youth in this area, providing youth development programs that help them to understand and address the issues threatening their communities while improving their own potential to thrive in the economic environment by building environmental literacy, developing job skills, and participating in a variety of enrichment and service learning activities.

Organization Data


Organization name

Mountain Studies Institute

other names


Year Established


Tax id (EIN)



Environment, Education, Science & Technology, Youth Development

Organization Size

Large Organization


162 Stewart St Unit A
Durango, CO 81303


162 Stewart St. Unit A
Durango, CO 81303

Service areas

San Juan County, CO, US

La Plata County, CO, US



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