Mountain Studies Institute

A nonprofit organization

$20,952 raised by 75 donors

100% complete

$20,000 Goal

Do you love the mountains? At Mountain Studies Institute (MSI), we are passionate about delivering science people can use to address the environmental issues facing the San Juan Mountains. 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. Founded in Silverton in 2002, we now work in the forests and watersheds surrounding Durango, Pagosa, Mancos, Telluride, and more. Help us celebrate our 20th anniversary and kick off the next 20 years of connecting scientists and communities. Donate today to help knowledge grow! 


"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 2020 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)





679 E. 2nd Avenue Unit 8
Durango, CO 81301


1315 Snowden Street (deliveries) P.O. Box 426
Silverton, CO 81433


679 E. 2nd Avenue Unit 8
Durango, CO 81301

Service areas

San Juan County, CO, US

La Plata County, CO, US



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