Duke University Organization for Tropical Studies
Get out into the field and gain first-hand experience studying Ecology and Conservation in South Africa
Immerse yourself in South Africa's immemorial landscapes and document the region's incredible flora and fauna
Surround yourself with South Africa's vast cultural and ecological diversity while being based in Kruger National Park
Based at Duke University, the Organization for Tropical Studies is a non-profit consortium of over 60 universities and research institutions. Founded in 1963, OTS provides hands-on field-based education and training for students interested in tropical studies, global health, and wildlife conservation.
The semester program in African Ecology and Conservation is based in Kruger National Park in South Africa. Kruger is home to over 150 species of mammals, including black and white rhinos, lions, elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, leopards, hippos, and zebras. There are nearly 2000 plant species (including 300 different types of trees), 49 species of fish, 34 types of amphibians, 166 different reptilian species, 505 species of birds, and countless less obvious insects. Students study and conduct research on-site, and live in the park's well-equipped rest camps.
Course of Study
Duke University's Organization for Tropical Studies in South Africa offers an exciting 16 credit hour semester program including:
BIOLOGY 137 – South African Ecosystems and Diversity (UNL equivalent: BIOS 3XX, 4 credits) This course provides a combination of field work and classroom instruction. Students explore South Africa's diverse ecosystems, including savannah, freshwater and coastal environments, and the world's smallest and most diverse floral kingdom, the fynbos.
BIOLOGY 138L – Field Research Skills (UNL equivalent: BIOS 3XXL, 4 credits) This course offers students hands-on opportunities for conducting research design, learning about research methods, and performing data analysis. Expert researchers will assist students through the process of designing field experiments and interpreting data.
ENVIRON 128 – Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in South Africa (UNL Equivalent: NRES 492, 3 credits; NRES 1XX, 1 credit) While based in Kruger National Park students will get the opportunity to examine the social, ecological and political influences that affect conservation around the world. Participants will learn about the policies and practices of managing protected areas.
HISTORY 100W –History through Culture of South Africa (UNL equivalent: HIST 1XX, 4 credits) In this integrated course students will learn about the socio-economic factors that surround the program's ecology and conservation courses. South African historians, artists, and social scientists trace the evolution of South Africa's culture from early hominid history to colonial, apartheid, and current South African events.
The coursework for this program has been pre-approved at UNL as detailed above. For more information, meet with your academic advisor.
This program is open to all undergraduate students in good academic standing who have completed at least two semesters of college-level biology.
Accommodations and Other Arrangements
During most of the semester students will be based in Kruger National Park, the largest park in South Africa. The OTS program is very mobile and students will live and study at various "rest camps" in the national park. The rest camps vary in size and amenities. All have potable running water and electricity. At Shukuza, the park headquarters, for example, students live in dormitories and have access to banks, telephone service, post offices, grocery stores, clinics, a library and restaurants. Some rest camps have cottages, safari tents, or bungalows. Many camps have swimming pools and laundry facilities. Access to email is generally limited, especially outside the main camps. Program participants receive three meals per day and can purchase additional food and snacks from park grocery stores.
In addition to Kruger National Park, students will visit numerous other sites in South Africa, including trips to Cape Town, Nylsvley Reserve (one of the top birding sites in the country), and the University of Witswatersrand, a base for rural-focused research.
See the Organization for Tropical Studies' website and the Financial page on the Education Abroad website.
Explanation of Costs
Please see the Cost Sheet and the program website for an explanation of program costs, withdrawal policies, and the payment process.
In addition to program costs, UNL students will pay a $150 Study Abroad Fee through MyRed.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
Please see the Education Abroad website for detailed information about financial aid and scholarships.
Below you will find links to resources for travel, health, and safety:
Organization for Tropical Studies
South Africa Embassy
Center for Disease Control
US Department of State
*UNL Education Abroad does not officially endorse, administer, or monitor the content of these links.
IMPORTANT: The deadline listed below is the UNL Education Abroad application deadline. Please see the Duke University Organization for Tropical Studies website for their program deadline. Remember to apply through MyWorld and directly to this program by the respective deadlines.