Join us in Australia this summer for an unforgettable two-week program highlighting Far North Queensland’s most striking ecosystems or in Fall 2023 for a six-week in-depth investigation of this wondrous tropical land and seascape. Each program will guide students across Far North Queensland, an area of national and international significance due to its abundance of unique and threatened ecosystems and wildlife. On both programs, we will study the stunning ecological diversity of the tropical north, from the coastal rainforests of the Wet Tropics (the world’s oldest tropical rainforest ecosystem), to the famed but imperiled Great Barrier Reef marine ecosystem, the world’s largest coral reef system.
SUMMER 2023: As a team on our two-week summer program, we will study the region’s diverse flora, fauna, and habitats ranging from tropical rainforests to coral reefs. Team members will take part in firsthand investigations of these ecosystems, the species they support, the people who depend on them, and the conservation challenges they face today. We will immerse ourselves in the region’s fascinating natural history and biogeography and explore how it is entwined with ancient cultural traditions and more recent socioeconomic activity. Throughout, our focus will be the interface of two ecosystems that are starkly contrasting, tightly linked, and spatially adjacent: coral reefs and coastal rainforests. We will gain intimate knowledge of the locally dominant species in both systems as we master field techniques and analytical skills of universal utility to environmental scientists working in any habitat.
FALL 2023: Our Fall six-week program we will deepen our investigations of the region. In addition to a firsthand examination of Australia’s northern tropical rainforests and Great Barrier Reef, we will extend our studies to the Atherton Tablelands, Australia's critically endangered Mabi Rainforest, inland to the desert ecosystems and fascinating caves of the Undara Lava Tubes, and extended time on the coast to explore the coastal mangroves and coral reefs. We will discuss the importance of maintaining connectivity between both terrestrial and marine ecosystems and the traditional and contemporary custodians of those landscapes to facilitate conservation strategies that effectively alleviate threats, such as land clearing, coastal development, the impacts of exotic species and climate change. All the while, we will hone our naturalist skills and become familiar with field survey techniques that are needed to monitor and conserve key flora and fauna. We will focus on the land-sea interface, studying indicators for determining the health of the reefs and rainforest, which we will compare and contrast between a number of locations up the coast.
As we gain familiarity with these ecosystems, we will carry out our own scientific field assessments by examining species interactions, patterns of diversity, and behavior. We will investigate how geological, ecological and human activity have played a defining role in the evolution, survival and success of the unique flora and fauna of the Wet Tropics. We will also engage with various stakeholders in an effort to understand their diverse and sometimes contrasting perspectives toward conservation “best practices.” Through these rich experiences, participants will have unique learning opportunities to assess the challenges and opportunities for biodiversity conservation and social-ecological resilience in modern-day Australia.
Students on both programs will gain a firsthand experience of the fascinating natural history and biogeography of this region, where 45 million years of isolation have supported the existence and evolution of species found nowhere else on Earth. Each team will investigate Indigenous and marine protected areas, national parks and/or privately owned lands to study the ecology, conservation, and management of ecosystems and threatened wildlife and plant populations, within changing social-cultural contexts and a regressive political climate.
Location: Cairns, Australia
Accommodations: Primarily camping, occasional youth hostel or rural lodge
Credits: 15 quarter credits or 10 semester credits