The South Africa Project: Oceans, Coasts And Wildlife

Meeting Location              George, South Africa
 Program Dates        Spring 2018: April 14 - May 28, 2018
   Spring 2019:
April 8 - May 22, 2019

 Accommodations    Primarily camping, occasional youth hostel or rural lodge
 Language    English instruction
 Courses    ESCI 437A, ESCI 437B, ESCI 437C
 Credits    15 quarter credits or 10 semester credits
 Prerequisites    One college level course of ecology or similar              
   18 years of age


   South Africa Program Costs, Spring 2018
   $  150      Application Fee
   $4150      Program Fee
   $2750      Estimated In-Country Group Fee
   $2400      Estimated Airfare/Visa
   $  700      Estimated Food Money/Personal Spending
   $10150   Total Estimated Cost

  Spring 2018: Program fees due by February 1, 2018 

   South Africa Program Costs, Spring 2019
   $  150       Application Fee
   $5500       Program Fee
   $2900       Estimated In-Country Group Fee
   $2400       Estimated Airfare/Visa
   $  700       Estimated Food Money/Personal Spending
   $11,750   Total Estimated Cost

  Spring 2018: Program fees due by February 1, 2019 


Join us for an incredible opportunity to explore the diverse marine, terrestrial, and cultural environments that comprise South Africa’s uniquely spectacular Southern Cape. Our field studies will be geared toward understanding the interrelationships of an area that has shaped the origins and history of humankind. We will evaluate perplexing questions in wildlife management, participate in vital ecological monitoring, and examine resource conservation in a country with ever-present socioeconomic challenges. Through knowledge exchanges with researchers, managers and community members, and in-depth immersion in “biodiversity hotspots” regions, we will investigate how our field studies can sustain local conservation efforts. We will observe South Africa’s impressive array of wildlife, from terrestrial “mega-fauna” (elephants, black rhinos, lions, etc.) to a dazzling diversity of birds, insects, and plants. We will also study the region’s marine and coastal ecosystems, home to iconic oceanic species such as dolphins, whales, and sharks.


Our program will traverse some of the world's most unique biodiversity hotspots along the Southern Cape. We will begin with an initial examination of the region's amazing natural history and biogeography, while evaluating the social-ecological interfaces which have defined the area as being the birthplace of our first human ancestors. The Southern Cape is well-known for its rich coastal and marine life, from diverse intertidal zones to charismatic marine wildlife, such as pelagic birds, seals, sharks, dolphins, and whales, which thrive off these richly productive waters. Our field work will move between sandy shores, intertidal zones, Mediterranean shrubland (fynbos), and Afrotemperate coastal forests to spectacular rocky cliffs and slot canyons. We will study cutting-edge scientific research, conservation action initiatives, challenges in ecosystem management, and emergent opportunities for deepening human understanding in these important areas.

Our field studies will then move inland to examine ancient ecosystems which support an array of mega-fauna that have roamed the continent for millennia but now face complex conservation conundrums, from increasing habitat fragmentation to incessant poaching. As we conduct wildlife surveys and ecological monitoring we will encounter contrasting perspectives on ecological restoration and sustainable resource utilization. We will discuss and evaluate whether these approaches benefit or impede the management of threatened and recovering wildlife populations, which may challenge our preconceived ideas of conservation.   

 An overarching goal of the course is to fine-tune our scientific and field naturalist skills across diverse environments. We will sharpen our observational, sensory, interrogative and analytical skills by becoming intimate with our surrounds. Aided by the use of field guide keys, we will learn to identify resident wildlife species through various techniques, from physical traits and tracks to calls and nuances in behavior. We will join local organizations and participate in ongoing wildlife monitoring efforts to help further our understanding of the dynamics of these iconic African land and seascapes, including the sensitive and entangled interface between human and wildlife communities. Through this program each of us will take part in an integral approach to ecology; one that instills a deeper understanding in identifying, addressing, and uniting the multiple perspectives available for learning about, relating to and engaging with the natural world.


Ph.D. in Conservation Ecology/Transdisciplinary Doctoral Program in Sustainability, Stellenbosch University, 2014
Matt is a conservation ecologist with experience in facilitating action research approaches for collaborative landscape restoration and stewardship in South Africa and Australia. His research interests lie in coastal-marine ecosystems, naturalist mentoring and community-focused outreach. Matt’s Ph.D. research drew on integral ecology, psychology and education to explore how meaningful nature experience supports transformative learning for sustainability. Matt has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 2009 and has taught in Australia, South Africa and Tasmania. Matt currently leads our South Africa and Tasmania Projects.