Field Biology, Ecology,
and Parasitology in Africa
This course will provide students with an opportunity to 1) learn about biology and ecology of organisms outside of North America, 2) develop an appreciation for biodiversity and ecologic associations within southern Africa, 3) and develop an understanding of systematic relationships among mammals that may be encountered in field activities. Following orientation on campus during summer semester, an extensive field trip will be taken from Auburn, AL, to southern Africa. This course is a capstone experience for students that offers a rare opportunity to experience wild Africa through the eyes of a biologist. Past students have been united in calling this trip “an adventure of a lifetime”.
Students will visit study sites and will participate in field work for conservation research. Taxonomic emphasis will be on mammals, but additional information will be provided on invertebrates, plants, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. The course will stress African savannah and temperate ecosystems, and field techniques in mammalogy, parasitology, wildlife ecology, and invertebrate ecology. Students will be provided with an opportunity for hands-on learning in one of the most diverse and complex ecosystems on the planet. Conservation biology will be emphasized throughout the course. Excursions will be made to nature preserves and Kruger National Park to observe native flora and fauna and to provide bases for discussions of conservation programs. Informative lectures by local researchers and visiting faculty are planned. Opportunities to observe and participate in Swazi cultural activities also will be available.
Dr. Michael Wooten (email@example.com)
Dr. Christine Sundermann (firstname.lastname@example.org)
12 hours of course work in biological sciences or related area
A pre-registration interview is required
Enrollment is by consent of instructor
Fall 2016 (travel and pre-course activities in Summer 2016, course credit Fall 2016):
TBD April and July 2016: Pre-trip meetings, Auburn, AL (Attendance is required - remote meeting option will be available for off campus students)
22 July 2016: ePortfolio pre-trip projects due
27 July 2016: Start Date in Africa. Fly from U.S. to Johannesburg, South Africa, to arrive no later than 8 pm on July 28.
29 July 2016: Cultural Tour – Johannesburg or Gauteng, South Africa
30 July – 31 July 2016: Malolotja Nature Preserve, Swaziland
1 August – 11 August 2016: Mbuluzi Nature Preserve, Swaziland and day trips
12 August – 13 August 2016: Kruger National Park, South Africa
13 August 2016: Depart Johannesburg (pm)
14 August 2016: Arrive in U.S.
19 August 2016: Field Notebooks due for grading and digital images due
28 October 2016: Final ePortfolio projects due
This course is offered through the Department of Biological Sciences as BIOL 5160 / 6160 – Field Biology and Ecology for 6 hours credit. Students who have previously completed 5160 or 6160 can elect to take BIOL 4970 / 7970 – Field Biology in Africa for 6 hours credit.
While students will be traveling during the late summer, credit received from this program will be added to Fall 2016 student records.
Program fee(estimated): $4,500
AU Study Abroad fee: $619
Airfare (estimated): $2,300 (Independent purchase by student)
Personal Expenses: $200 (Snacks, gifts, phone card, etc.)
Participants are expected to have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after return to the USA (see below). For information on health concerns and immunization requirements, consult the Center for Disease Control (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/).
Partial scholarships are available for this program. Please contact instructors for information.
Accommodations will include shared hotel rooms (Johannesburg), shared cabins (Malolotja), a remote field camp with permanent tents (Mbuluzi), and tent camping (Kruger). Seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere with December being mid-summer and June being mid-winter. This course is offered in late-winter/early spring in Swaziland. A cool-weather sleeping bag, jacket or coat, and appropriate cool-weather clothing will be required. In August, temperatures average 75°F during day and 50°F or cooler at night. Rain is not common but can occur.
Course activities will be physically demanding (e.g., observing the biota, recording data from dawn to dawn, living in crowded quarters, camping in adverse conditions, tolerating extreme temperatures, awakening to calls of native birds and other wildlife, potentially donating blood to a variety of geological features, spiny plants, and invertebrates). The course offers a real-world field experience with associated discomforts, but the opportunity to participate in this international program and to be immersed in an area with unique flora and fauna should easily compensate for any inconveniences.
All accommodations are group based. Housing will be shared space. Tolerance for living in shared group settings is essential.
Food will be provided. Students will be required to participate in preparation of meals and cleanup on a regular basis. Because we will be working in remote areas, options to meet special dietary needs may be severely limited.
Venomous snakes, poisonous arthropods, and thorns may be abundant at some the sites we will visit. Please be aware of your surroundings and watchful of yourself and others. Safety is especially important considering we will be in remote locations.
Kingdom of Swaziland, Africa
The Kingdom of Swaziland (about 26°30'S, 31°30'E) is a land-locked country that is bordered on the east by Mozambique and on other sides by South Africa. It is the smallest country in the Southern Hemisphere; about 120 miles north to south, about 80 miles east to west, and is similar in size to New Jersey. Western Swaziland is mountainous and relatively cool, with elevations decreasing toward the east where temperatures are warmer. The eastern border is dominated by the escarpment of the Lebombo Mountains. There are savannas in the east, rainforests in the northwest, and several rivers flow through the country, including the Great Usuthu River. Inhabitants primarily are ethnic Swazis whose language is Swati; English is the second language. Subsistence farming accounts for most employment.
Most of Swaziland is covered by grasslands, savannas, and mixed-shrubs. Highlands generally are forested and include such plants as aloes, orchids, and begonias. Large mammals are relatively scarce outside protected areas, but in game preserves and parks, there are blue wildebeests, greater kudus, impalas, Burchell’s zebras, waterbucks, and hippopotamuses. The listing of more than 100 species of mammals reported from Swaziland includes short-snouted elephant shrews, aardvarks, rock hyraxes, blue monkeys, southern African pouched mice, Cape porcupines, Cape hares, a variety of shrews, Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bats, Percival's short-eared trident bats, ground pangolins, leopards, common dwarf mongooses, spotted hyaenas, honey badgers, white rhinoceroses, common wart-hogs, giraffes, and hartebeests. Lowland rivers have crocodiles and other reptiles. Birds are plentiful and include marabou storks, sacred ibises, white-headed vultures, and gray herons.
Class activities will be conducted at several sites. The listing that follows are places that we are likely to visit as time permits.
Johannesburg and Soweto Township Culture Tour, South Africa
This will be a guided coach tour of the city of Johannesburg and the township of Soweto. The history of Johannesburg as a mining and industrial center will be explored was we travel thorough various points of interest. The tour will include a visit to the Soweto district to learn about the history of apartheid. Stops will be made to experience the diverse culture of urban South Africa.
Hlane Royal National Park, Kingdom of Swaziland
This is the largest reserve in Swaziland (about 75,000 acres). It is situated in a flat lowland area, covered with ancient hardwood trees, such as knobthorn, leadwood, and tambuti, with some grasslands. It has lions, white rhinoceroses, African bush elephants, and an abundant and diverse avian fauna that includes martial eagles, bateleurs, long-crested eagles, white-backed vultures, white-headed vultures, lappet-faced vultures, and marabou storks.
Malolotja Nature Reserve, Kingdom of Swaziland
This reserve contains nearly 4,500 acres of mountainous wildnerness. It has the second highest mountain (6,035 feet) and the tallest waterfall (292 feet) in the country, and habitats include grasslands to thick riverine scrub. There is a great diversity of mammals (e.g., reedbucks, blesboks, red hartebeests, leopards, servals, aardwolves, and bushpigs), birds (e.g., louries, sunbirds, sugarbirds, blue cranes, and swallows), and amphibians (e.g., Natal ghost frogs, plaintive rain frogs, and Gray's stream frogs).
Mlawula Nature Reserve, Kingdom of Swaziland
Containing 14,250 acres where the lowveld plains meet the Lebombo Mountains, the reserve is in the transitional zone between dry thorn savannas of the west and moister coastal thickets of the east. Wildlife includes crocodiles, hippopotamuses, Burchell’s zebras, blue wildebeests, waterbucks, common elands, and spotted hyenas. Among the 300 kinds of birds are bateleurs, martial eagles, five kinds of vultures, and rarities such as Narina trogons, pink-throated twinspots, African broadbills, and African finfoots.
Shewula Community and Nature Preserve, Swaziland
The Shewula Nature Preserve is the first community eco-tourism project in Swaziland and one of the most successful in the whole of southern Africa. The camp is fully owned and run by the community, meaning that all profits are shared by the community in an effort to continually improve the economic state of the area while carefully maintaining traditional culture. The Shewula community is an agricultural area, with traditional thatch and stone houses dotted neatly among fields of maize cotton and vegetables. In the community, there still survives the "ubuntu" tradition, based on the concept of solidarity and that all people are equal. In the "ubuntu" tradition, you are a person only with and through other people. In the community, all the families have access to the land and to other natural resources. The Shewula Nature Preserve straddles the 500 meter high Lubombo Mountains with a 100 km panoramic view of Swaziland.
COURSE PARTICIPANT REQUIREMENTS
The safety and wellbeing of all course participants is of utmost importance. As all activities are conducted as a group, it is essential that each student be capable and willing to fully participate and follow instructions. To ensure the safety of the group, mandatory minimum fitness and health standards are necessary. Long periods of travel combined with research activities under field conditions can be both mentally and physically stressful. Daily activities routinely start at 7am and continue throughout the day until 10pm. Walking 5-10 miles per day over mixed terrain is common.
To participate in this active course, students must be in reasonably good health, able to endure hikes in field settings, capable of sitting in vehicles for extended periods, tolerant of close group living, flexible relative to meal time scheduling, and mentally prepared for unexpected and sometimes stressful situations. For the safety of the group, we reserve the right to exclude anyone from participation for medical, safety or other reasons.
PASSPORT AND VISA REQUIREMENTS
If you do not have a passport, please check http://travel.state.gov for the nearest local passport office and forms. Auburn Abroad recommends that you apply for a passport as soon as possible. If you already have a passport: please check the expiration date. Passports should be valid for at least 6 months following your scheduled time abroad.
IMPORTANT: To travel to South Africa, your passport must contain three (3) unused pages.
U.S. Citizens do not need a visa for this program
Non-U.S. Citizens should verify visa requirements
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Field Research Supported by All Out Africa: http://www.alloutafrica.com/
All Out Africa Introductory Video: https://youtu.be/fbn0PBE_jXE
Contact the Faculty Directors for more program specific information.