Experience the natural wonders of Madagascar’s rainforests, dry forests, mangroves, and coral reefs while you explore environmental challenges, conservation, and development in a biodiversity “hot spot” that has been isolated from neighboring land masses for more than 100 million years.
Study in a world apart, an island nation evolving from a set of unique, isolated environmental circumstances.
This program offers classroom and field-based instruction in natural and social scientific methods to encourage you to analyze environmental issues in an array of ecosystems—rainforests, dry and transitional forests, mangroves, and coral reefs—and within multiple economic, sociopolitical, and cultural contexts.
Live near mountains, rainforests, and beaches.
You will be based in Antalaha, a town of approximately 35,000 people in the northeast of Madagascar on the Indian Ocean. Antalaha, one of the administrative centers for the SAVA region, is a buzzing coastal town, renowned for its fragrant vanilla plantations, lush vegetation, beaches and reef flats. The region has a wide range of ecosystems within a matter of hours of each other as well as diverse economic and cultural activities, making it an ideal location for fieldtrips to explore Madagascar’s diverse cultures and environments.
Enhance your French while learning Malagasy.
Studying in part of francophone Africa, you will improve your French and learn Malagasy, which allows you to connect more deeply with Malagasy people. Improve your speaking skills in both languages in the classroom, on field excursions, and with host families, friends, and Malagasy students.
Study and work with Malagasy students.
You will use a range of social and natural science field techniques alongside Malagasy peers from the Centre Universitaire Regionale de la SAVA as you study environmental management. During a village stay near Andapa, you will use participatory rural appraisal techniques to gain an understanding of natural resource management by rice and vanilla farmers on the fringe of the Andapa basin and build on the interview techniques learned in villages in the hinterland of Antalaha. During field courses in Marojejy National Park and Daraina you will study plant community ecology and lemur behavioral ecology, respectively. In the Cap Est area, you will learn hands-on techniques for the study of coral reef systems and mangroves and work with local fisher folk and aquaculture producers to understand the human side of marine resource management.
For each of the field courses, you will collect data, analyze it, and present your findings on the physical and social aspects of the topic in French .
Visit sites that reveal Madagascar’s contemporary ecology and conservation challenges.
You will be directly exposed to a diverse range of natural resource management models from state-managed national parks, private reserves, and community-managed forest and marine areas. This will allow you to witness the threats weighing on the environment including forest clearance for farming, artisanal mining, dynamics with cash crops, and the production of timber and fuel for local subsistence. The range of environments, management approaches, and challenges you will see will give you a solid insight into the different perspectives held by local customary land users, NGOs, and the state parks management.
Visit national parks and community-managed reserves at Marojejy, Ambodirafia (Cap Est), Daraina, Ankarana, Amber Mountain, and Makirovana.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Climate | Environment
Previous college-level coursework in environmental studies, ecology, biology, or related fields, as assessed by SIT. Three recent semesters of college-level French or equivalent, and the ability to follow coursework in French, as assessed by SIT.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Malagasy biodiversity, evolutionary history, and extinction
- Diversity of forest ecosystem types and land use dynamics
- History and diversity of Malagasy culture
- Marine and coastal ecosystems and management
- Environmental and social impacts of mining, cash crops, and tourism
- Issues pitting conservation against development and possible solutions
- Conservation through different models of protected area and natural resource management
- Root causes of biodiversity loss, including habitat clearance for agriculture, climate change, and macroeconomic drivers such as cash crops and mining
- Balancing environmental protection with livelihood needs from local to global scales
- Lemur conservation and behavioral ecology
- Ethnobotany and the interactions between culture and the environment
Classes are conducted mainly in academic French, with university professors and experts in relevant fields teaching the Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management seminar.
The Environmental Research Methods and Ethics seminar, conducted mainly in English, focuses on research techniques and cross-cultural adjustment skills and is intended to prepare students for the Independent Study Project. Readings and classroom sessions for the Research Methods and Ethics course are supplemented by a short field research project undertaken in a rural village.
The program’s French language course builds students’ capacity through a focus on conversational French and aims to enhance their use of French in the context of the natural sciences. Coursework in Malagasy provides students with the foundational and essential tools required for daily use.
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management Seminar – syllabus
- (ENVI3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- An interdisciplinary seminar conducted primarily in French, with required readings, analyzing the environmental challenges and conservation and development strategies in Madagascar across scales, from local to global. The focus is on Madagascar's southern region. Resources utilized in the delivery of course content include the Libanona Ecology Center, Department of Natural Sciences at the University of Antananarivo and the Marine Studies Institute of the University of Tulear, as well as international and local environmental nongovernmental organizations such as Madagascar National Parks, WWF, Azafady, Blue Ventures, Reef Doctor, and Honko.
- Malagasy – syllabus
- Malagasy (French Version) – syllabus
- (MALA1003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Emphasis on beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Formal instruction is augmented by language practice with homestay families.
- French for Natural Sciences – syllabus
- (FREN2003-2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- French for Natural Sciences – syllabus
- (FREN3003-3503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Focusing on oral proficiency in the context of the natural sciences with a biodiversity and natural resource management concentration, language teaching is targeted toward the many activities in the thematic and research methods seminars in order to help students work more independently in the field. The objective is to facilitate students' interactions with a range of professionals in the field working to manage resources while promoting development within the local cultural context. In support of these objectives, course content provides additional focus on fundamentals of spoken and written French to increase student capacity. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in the appropriate level, with additional language practice in homestays and on field visits.
- Environmental Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (ENVI3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Conducted primarily in English, this is a course in social and natural sciences research methods. The focus is on learning how to collect, analyze, integrate, and report social and ecological data to critically understand and evaluate various environmental issues. The course serves as an introduction to the Independent Study Project and includes a focus on field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy. Field studies may include designing a research project; writing a proposal; interviewing; surveys; and maintaining a field journal. Specific ecological field study methods may include habitat surveys; biotic sampling and analysis; fauna and flora identification; biodiversity monitoring; population censusing; and animal behavior.
In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- Conducted primarily in southern Madagascar or other appropriate locations. Sample topic areas: reforestation; coral reef conservation; medicinal plants in the marketplace; ecotourism; carbon sequestration and financing; land tenure reform and agricultural production; conservation assessments of endangered species; cash crop production and links to local livelihoods; sacred forests; community-based resource management; behavioral ecology of lemurs; sustainable land use techniques.
- Internship and Seminar – syllabus coming soon
- (ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- You will gain valuable work experience and enhance your professional skillset in an international work environment, drawing on the wide network of community organizations, activists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and academics connected to the program.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
The semester begins in the capital city Antananarivo, commonly referred to as Tana, where you will begin the orientation process. You will hear speakers from the University of Antananarivo and visit the Queens Palace (Rova) and Tsimbazaza Botanical and Zoological park to begin your initiation to the diversity of Malagasy biodiversity and cultures.
From the program base in Antalaha you will undertake a wide range of field excursions to learn about the local environment and its management. These excursions will include:
Marojejy National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you will study its unique rainforest plants and encounter its incredible fauna
Daraina Reserve (Loky Manambato), where you will see the unique dry to humid forest ecotone and study the behavioral ecology of the critically endangered golden crowned sifaka, one of the islands rarest lemurs
The Andapa basin, where you will learn about Tsimihety culture, rice and vanilla farming, and different approaches to managing the forest of the COMATSA rainforest corridor
Ambodirafia (Cap Est), where you will explore the mangrove and coral reef ecosystems and work with local communities to understand marine and coastal resource management
The final excursion of the semester will take you to the far north of the island, where you will see the unique tsingy formations of Ankarana National Park, the rainforests of Amber Mountain National Park, and the historical Montagne des Francais. The landscapes of this region provide a juxtaposition of the island’s diverse geology, climate, and history, with a range of charismatic and locally endemic baobab, reptile, and lemur species.
Program in a minute-ish
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will live with a host family in Antalaha throughout your time at the program center. While here, you will go on trips to various ecosystems, nature reserves, and historical sites. Some students also choose to spend time with their host family during the Independent Study Project period.
This homestay is a gateway into the warmth and generosity of Malagasy family life and society and is a primer for language learning. Many Malagasy homes are modest and simple. Some host families cook outside on charcoal stoves, and it is not uncommon to have farm animals in the courtyard.
You will live for a week in a rural village near the town of Andapa, in the Sava region of northern Madagascar. Village conditions are very basic, with no electricity or running water. You may spend time in rice fields; at vanilla plantations; at the local school, medical clinic, or market; or in other local activities. Your host family will teach you about Tsimihety culture and the lifestyle of Malagasy farmers. You will also get the chance to learn songs and dances typical of the region. SIT staff members visit the village daily.
The village stay emphasizes the importance of reciprocity as an integral part of the study abroad experience. In addition to sharing the experience of living in rural Madagascar, SIT and Malagasy students work together during field courses in Marojejy, the town and hinterland of Antalaha and Andapa, providing not only the opportunity for cultural exchange, but also learning field methods together. The students from the local university as well as other local associations and the homestays provide you with the opportunity to engage with the community.
Other accommodations during the program include campsites and small hotels.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Jim Hansen, MA, Academic Director
Jim received his BS in economics from Montana State University and his MA in geography from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. He has pursued further studies in the Département d’Etudes du Français Langue Etrangère at the Université de Toulouse le Mirail in Toulouse, France, and is currently an MA candidate in European languages and literature (French) at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. He was academic director of the SIT Cameroon program in spring 1994, the SIT Mali program in fall 2002, and SIT programs in Madagascar since fall 1994. Jim has worked as an energy analyst at the East-West Center in Honolulu, with the United Nations Pacific Energy Development Program, the World Bank, UNESCO, and Pacific Island governments in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Tonga. More recently, he taught English as a Second Language and French at the University of Hawai‘i and Punahou School in Honolulu. He has published in the fields of linguistics, cross-cultural communication, and energy economics.
Mamy Rajaonah, Program Assistant
A native of Antananarivo, Mamy has played an essential role in SIT Madagascar programs in Antananarivo and Fort Dauphin since 1998. He handles logistics for all aspects of the program, including transportation, communications, local staff, catering, and health and safety. He also provides valuable insight into Malagasy culture and advice and logistics for Independent Study Projects.
Barry Ferguson, PhD Candidate, Academic Coordinator
Barry has a broad academic background with a BSc in ecology from Durham University in the UK, and an MSc in environment and international development from the University of East Anglia in the UK. He is conducting doctoral research on the political ecology of the Mandrare Valley, focusing on land claims, customary tenure, and livelihoods of people living within newly protected areas. A native of Ireland, Barry has been involved in conservation, education, and rural fieldwork in southern Madagascar since 1999. He has supported this program in various capacities since 2001. He is an editor of the journal Madagascar Conservation and Development.
Rindrahatsarana Ramanankirahina, PhD, Diversity Coordinator for Student Affairs and Cultural Issues
Rindra received her PhD in zoology from the University of Veterinary Medecine in Hannover, Germany, where her dissertation focused on sociality and communication in woolly lemurs. After the completion of her doctorate, she worked as a project supervisor at Mikajy Natiora Association, which utilizes the newest scientific research in community outreach work to preserve lemur populations in northwest Madagascar. Since beginning her research, she has supervised many students and researchers from Madagascar, the UK, and the US and lectures at the Institut Supérieur de Géologie de l’Ingénieur et de l’Environment (ISGIE) in Antananarivo, Madagascar. She also teaches at the University of Antsirabe. At SIT she serves as the main student affairs contact for the program, advising students on a wide range of cultural, social, educational, and personal matters. In addition, she lectures on scientific methods and lemur ecology and conversation and leads debriefing sessions.
Luis Manera Raevoniaina (“Naina”), Language Coordinator and Academic Assistant
A native of Fort Dauphin, Naina received his degree in geography from the University of Tuléar. He Naina organizes and teaches French and Malagasy language classes and provides academic insight into Malagasy culture and traditions. His background includes community relations as a sports and culture specialist; teaching history and geography at Lycée Sacre Coeur; and working as a language formation consultant.
Martine Razafimandimby, French Instructor
A native of Fort Dauphin, Martine holds an advanced degree in French from the University of Antananarivo and is director of the Lycée Pole in Fort Dauphin. He is this program’s most experienced language teacher with more than 25 years at the lycée and 12 years at the Alliance Française in Fort Dauphin.
Melvin Joelson Razafimandimby (“Sosony”), Language Instructor
A native of Fort Dauphin, Sosony is a specialist in physical education through training at the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Ecole Nationale de l’Education Physique in Antananarivo. He teaches French and Malagasy languages and Malagasy culture on this program, supports students’ Independent Study Projects, and provides logistical support. Sosony is regional director of tourism and handicrafts in Anosy. He has also served Fort Dauphin as regional director for the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Culture.
Lecturers on this program include:
Gabrielle Bakolimalala Ramamonjiarisoa (“Bakoly”), PhD
Bakoly teaches biodiversity, conservation, and the relationships between plants and animals, and leads the program’s field course on botanical inventories. She teaches at the Department of Natural Sciences at the University of Antananarivo, where she served as department chair for 12 years. A native of Antananarivo, she earned her doctorate in botany at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is an internationally known expert on plant systematics, agroforestry, and biodiversity. Currently, she is classifying newly discovered plant species. She is Madagascar’s scientific authority for the International Convention for the Trade of Endangered Species, and works closely with Missouri Botanical Gardens and Kew Gardens.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
During the final month of the semester, you will focus on an Independent Study Project (ISP) in which you will conduct primary research on a selected topic. You will be able to take advantage of the program’s extensive in-country networks to work with top practitioners, academics, and environmental NGOs. The ISP is conducted throughout Madagascar in appropriate locations.
Sample ISP topic areas:
- Community-based resource management
- Conservation assessments of endangered species
- Coral reef management and conservation
- Cash crop production and links to local livelihoods
- Medicinal plants in the marketplace
- Behavioral ecology of lemurs
- Carbon sequestration and financing
- Land tenure reform and agricultural production
- Payments for ecosystem services
- Sacred forests
- Sustainable land use techniques
- Social impacts of land use change from mining and agriculture
The four-week internship provides you with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with an organization in Madagascar. You will have the option of choosing an SIT-arranged internship or seeking out your own opportunity (with approval from the academic director). The scope of the internship will depend greatly on the nature of the organization and may deal with local, national, or international issues, on topics as diverse as natural resource management, conservation, scientific research, environmental advocacy, education, community development, industrial food production, or sustainable agriculture.
In addition to completing the internship, you will submit a paper that describes, assesses, and analyzes your learning. The paper will also outline the tasks you completed throughout the internship, knowledge you acquired, professional relationships you developed, and challenges you encountered and how you overcame them.
- Supporting agroforestry efforts, monitoring the locally endemic wildlife, and promoting the area through communications at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in the Makirovana-Tsihomanaomby protected area
- Working on a project to conserve and breed endemic Malagasy fish in Andapa with Guy tam Hyock from the APPA Association des Producteurs Privee des Alevins
- Undertaking ecological monitoring and environmental education and developing interpretative materials at the Antanetiambo Nature Reserve with award winning conservationist Desire Rabary
- Developing and monitoring sustainable natural resource use projects—including fuel efficient stoves, aquaculture and environmental education around Marojejy National Park—with the Duke Lemur Center Sava Conservation Program
- Monitoring populations of critically endangered lemurs and building local capacity in the Anjanaharibe Special Reserve with the Lemur Conservation Foundation
- Supporting ecological restoration and monitoring in the Macolline Nature Reserve and community development and livelihoods activities in collaboration with CALA
- Developing sustainability initiatives—including urban agriculture, recycling, youth climate and environmental outreach—through the Think Green Madagascar center in Hell Ville Nosy Be
Students on this program represent a variety of colleges, universities, and majors. Many of them have gone on to pursue academic and professional work that connects back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Director of international programs and global health fellowships at Norfolk Academy, Norfolk, VA
- Executive director of EduFood, Oxford, MS
- National Science Foundation fellow and PhD candidate in Virginia Tech’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Blacksburg, VA
- Assistant professor of environmental studies at Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT
- Chief of party for USAID forest land tenure programs in Africa
Alumni are also working in climate change and sustainable development, renewable energy, sustainable living design, permaculture, business development and strategic growth, medicine, and law.
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Biodiversity and natural resources
- Malagasy society and cultural values
- Environmental Research Methods and Ethics seminar in preparation for the Independent Study Project
- Intensive language instruction in French
- Intensive language instruction in Malagasy
- All educational excursions to locations such as Kianjavato rainforest; the Spiny Desert; Andasibe, Andringitra, and Isalo National Parks; and the barrier reef of Tuléar, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $2,290
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Fort Dauphin), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays (four to five weeks in Fort Dauphin, two weeks in Manakara (fall semester only), and one week in a rural village)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $ 60
Books & Supplies: $ 40
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.