Tanzania-Zanzibar: Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management

Key Features

"This program was a life-changing experience for me, and the Independent Study Project (ISP) proved to be the most rewarding. During the ISP, I was able to live and travel safely on my own for three weeks in rural areas of Zanzibar as I studied beliefs in spirits and sacred sites. I was forced to put myself out of my comfort zone, but in doing so I realized that I had learned much more of the culture and language than I had realized throughout the semester."

—Julie Bardenwerper, Gustavus Adolphus College

Kiswahili instruction

Zanzibar's geographic and ecological assets, including its extensive coastline, flora, fauna, and tropical climate, create an optimal environment to examine coastal ecology and natural resource management. The area also provides students with an exceptional opportunity to conduct research on rare endemic species such as the Pemba flying fox, the largest fruit bat in the world, and the coconut crab, the world’s largest land crab. Through thematic seminars and hands-on learning with academic and professional experts, students explore the diversity and natural resources of Zanzibar (known locally as Unguja), Pemba, and coastal Tanzania, challenging themselves to understand the larger questions of conservation practice in the region.

The program consists of the following main phases:

  • Orientation followed by a four-week homestay in Stone Town during which students take Kiswahili language classes and attend lectures at the Institute of Marine Sciences
  • A four-week period during which students participate in seminars and conduct field assignments as part of the Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management Seminar and the Environmental Research Methods and Ethics course (this includes time on Pemba Island, on Chumbe Island, and in Jozani Forest)
  • One week at the University of Dar es Salaam on Tanzania’s mainland for lectures at the university and a brief safari to Mikumi National Park
  • A four-week period during which students undertake an Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP may focus on marine biodiversity, terrestrial ecology, issues in resource consumption, or socioeconomic factors in natural resource management.

Each program phase exposes students to different perspectives on natural resource management and development through interactions with a variety of stakeholders.

Program highlights include:

  • Lectures and excursions in conjunction with the University of Dar es Salaam and its affiliate, the Institute of Marine Sciences, in Zanzibar
  • A marine biodiversity module focused on field methodology at two marine reserves (Mbudya Island and Sinda Island) and one unprotected reef (Bawe Reef)
  • Kiswahili language study and the opportunity to practice the language during two homestays: one in Stone Town, Zanzibar, and the other on Pemba Island
  • Wildlife exposure during visits to the new Zanzibar Butterfly Centre, Jozani Forest to view rare birds and endemic red colobus monkeys, and Mikumi National Park on the Tanzanian mainland, among other places
  • Excursions to Pemba Island, Misali Island Conservation Area, Chumbe Island Coral Park Ecotourism Project and Reserve, and the Kidike Flying Fox Ecotourism Project
  • Snorkeling off Bawe, Changuu, Misali, Mbudya, and Sinda Islands

By utilizing SIT's extensive regional networks, students have the opportunity to learn through a wide array of academic, professional, and community experts. Collaboration with both government and nongovernmental agencies, as well as with the Institute of Marine Sciences, provides outstanding experiential components to the program.

Major partners include:

Stone Town
The program is based in the remarkable city of Stone Town, a UNESCO world heritage site, distinguished for its impressive cultural and architectural legacies. The city boasts magnificent Arab architecture, bustling markets, narrow streets and alleyways, mosques, and museums. From their base in Stone Town, students examine issues in marine and coastal environments through lectures and short excursions arranged through the Institute of Marine Sciences. Additionally, students begin Kiswahili language classes and have the opportunity to live with a host family, ensuring further immersion in the local language and culture. 

Environmental Field Study and Research
Throughout the program, students participate in educational excursions that complement and enhance classroom learning. One of the first is a ten-day excursion to Unguja's sister island of Pemba. Pemba, a more rural community, is the base for addressing issues affecting villagers and local fishermen. Students typically take field trips to locations such as salt farms, an essential oils distillery, a rubber plantation, a forest reserve, the Misali Island Marine Reserve, and a farmer's field school that teaches local farmers about improved agricultural techniques. Later in the program, students spend ten days in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city. Students live in a guest house near the University of Dar es Salaam, where thematic lectures and educational excursions are presented by relevant professors from different departments at the University.

Excursions relate directly to the program's Environmental Research Methods and Ethics course, which instructs students on the techniques, methods, and ethics necessary for successful field research. Throughout this section of the program, students establish ideas for their Independent Study Project (ISP) and learn to properly develop their research topics.

Independent Study Project
Students spend the final part of the semester focused on an Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP provides students with an opportunity to critically examine a topic relating to the coastal ecology and natural resource management in the region. Research on certain topics can only be done in Zanzibar, as some of the examined species are unique to Zanzibar.

Past ISP topics have included examining a variety of conservation, social, and ecological issues such as pesticide use and awareness, coral reef biodiversity, amphibian ecology, alternative income projects such as butterfly farming and oyster farming, sustainable use of natural resources for building materials, the changing value of fish in a subsistence economy in relation to tourism, and the expression of environmental ethics through storytelling. Past research conducted by students on this program has served as a valuable resource to the Zanzibari government and other organizations in the region.

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Stone Town, Zanzibar

Language Study: Kiswahili

Prerequisites: Coursework in environmental studies, ecology, or biology; swimming or snorkeling ability recommended Read more...


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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