Staff Spotlight: Brooks Bonner

Director of Community Engagement & Enrollment Management


Brooks is passionate about international conservation, sustainable development, and education. He brings in-situ experience from several Latin American countries focused on community-led, productive conservation efforts. Joining OTS in 2015, Brooks has led undergraduate recruitment efforts for field-based programs in Costa Rica and South Africa.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My first visit to OTS' field station in Kruger National Park blew away my expectations. Getting up at the crack of dawn every morning with only a mug of coffee and some rusks for nourishment, we would see incredibly unique and iconic African wildlife at every turn. My most memorable moment was being guided up a large outcropping of boulders to view the sunrise, it was an astonishing 360-degree view of the African Savanna that stretched as far as the eye could see in every direction.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

My growth has really been related to our programs and our overall efforts in South Africa. Gaining a better understanding of the complexities, successes, and failures in South Africa (focused on conservation, development and human rights), have helped me more effectively share those stories with potential students.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

It is really difficult to pick out one story, but I think a common theme that I hear most often is not academic, but self-reflective. Students come away with a greater sense of their place in this world, and for many, they must confront the socio-economic advantages they have benefited from. South Africa is one of the most unequal countries on the planet and students get to experience first-hand, how this country is attempting to move forward from apartheid.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

African Ecology & Conservation in South Africa! There is no question in my mind that this program is the best of its kind. The only US-based undergraduate program that gives students the opportunity to contribute to meaningful, ongoing long-term research, as well as conduct their own independent research thesis project. The program also visits various sites around the country, giving students a well-rounded picture of this fascinating and exciting country.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

We are a consortium of over 50 colleges, universities, and research institutions from seven countries on four continents. OTS’ mission is to provide leadership in education, research, and responsible use of natural resources in the tropics. We provide non-traditional field-based education programs in biology, ecology and global health. Our flagship field station in Costa Rica, La Selva, is considered one of the most important research stations on the planet, having some of the longest-running ecological data sets in the tropics, spanning up to 40+ years.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Adaptability - being flexible to changing realities, markets, demands, environments, etc. will give an organization the best chance to be successful in the long-term. Organizations like OTS survive because they adapt. Initially, OTS was purely a graduate-level institution; however, over time it has developed a global reputation for research-oriented field courses for undergraduates, graduates, and professionals in tropical ecology and in specialized, advanced topics such as plant systematics, tropical medicine, and global health, conservation genetics, protected area management, agroecology, climate change, and field research methods.