Madagascar Field School

Location:   This is a photo of Ranomafana National Park.

  • Centre ValBio Research Station - Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar

Program Sponsors:

  • California University of Pennsylvania - California, PA
  • Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania - Shippenburg, PA
  • Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments - Stony Brook, NY and Antananarivo, Madagascar

Trip Leaders:  

Important Dates:

  • December 2013: Applications become available (rolling admission until deadline)
  • February 28, 2014: Final application deadline
  • Late March: Purchase plane ticket
  • April 15 & May 1: Program fee due (in two parts)
  • Early May: Program orientation
  • May - July: Madagascar travel (Depart the week of May 26th, return the week of June 30th - precise dates will be set based on airline schedules and ticket prices)
  • Late July: Final papers due

During this five week trip, students will live alongside scientist and scholars in Ranomafana National Park as they explore the unique ecology and biodiversity of a tropical rainforest and gain hands-on experience in the research techniques used by professional field biologists and natural resource managers. Classes will take place in a combination of settings, from traditional classrooms to the heart of the rainforest and in traditional Malagasy villages. The program will include a cross-country trek to explore Madagascar's famed the spiny desert and coral reefs, and conclude with the completion if an original research project examining the impact of habitat disturbance on the rainforest. Students will also gain the experience of living within a new cultural environment and meet grass-roots conservation leaders working to preserve both the unique animals and plants of Madagascar and the culture of the people who call the Island home.

This is a photo of a mouse lemur.

  • Madagascar’s Biodiversity: Students will explore Madagascar’s unique plant and animal species and practice the methods used by field biologists to study biodiversity within a tropical forest. Instruction will include exposure to techniques such as: behavioral sampling of non-human primates, mist netting of understory birds, stream ecology assessment, botanical sampling methods, pitfall trapping of invertebrates, small mammal trapping, and herpetological assessments.
  • Comparative Ecosystems Excursion: A cross-country trip will provide students with the opportunity to explore and compare ecosystems as diverse as rainforest, dry deciduous tropical forest, spiny desert, mangrove swamps and coral reefs. At each stop, students will learn about regional climate and geology, the evolutionary adaptations that make that region unique, and current conservation threats to local biodiversity.
  • Ecological Monitoring Project: Students will contribute to a long-term study of invasive plant and animal species within the forests of RNP. In carrying out this project, students will have an opportunity to apply the field methods techniques that they have learned and provide much needed information to the conservation community and Park management officials.
  • Malagasy Culture and Language: Students will attend formal classes with Malagasy researchers employed by the Centre ValBio to learn about the country's fascinating history, culture and language.  Outings to meet with local authorities, community and school groups, and the participation in a variety of cultural activities within the villages that surround RNP will give students an opportunity to practice their skills and expand their understanding of what it means to be Malagasy.

This is a photo of students learning in a lab.

Students participating in the program are responsible for the following costs:

  • Program fee: $3,500 (includes room and board, ground transport, and all entrance fees and activity costs within Madagascar)
  • Round trip airfare: ~$2,800 (exact cost to be determined at time of booking)
  • Cal U/Ship tuition for 6 credits of off-campus instruction
  • Incidentals: passport/visa fees, textbooks, personal equipment, spending money, travel insurance, etc.

This is a photo of the class standing in front of a local tree.