Wildlife Conservation & Political Ecology

Explore the balance between ecological concerns and socioeconomic objectives in the vast wilderness expanses of northern Tanzania.

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework

Language of Study


Courses taught in



Aug 31 – Dec 13

Program Countries


Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate & Environment

Climate & Environment Icon

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon


Why Tanzania?

Tanzania is a beautiful and diverse country, home to the Serengeti Plains, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Zanzibar archipelago. You’ll spend 30 nights camping in these wilderness areas to see the variety of Tanzania’s landscapes and wildlife, including lions, zebras, elephants, and ostriches. As you learn ecological field techniques and national park management, you’ll see how human development and population growth affect natural habitats and vice versa. You’ll learn to reframe notions of sustainability in relation to local population needs, perspectives, and values.

In addition to wildlife ecology, you will study Tanzanian history, politics, economics, and current events. You’ll learn how to integrate both social science and ecological field techniques through anthropological and field ecology projects.

The program has several major in-country partners: Sokoine University of Agriculture, the College of African Wildlife Management-Mweka, Klub Afriko Cultural Orientation Center, and the host communities. Many students have returned to work with these partners in future endeavors.


  • Spend time at Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Parks. and Loliondo Game Controlled.
  • Speak with local communities to understand issues of deforestation, agriculture, gender, culture, and population growth.
  • Explore conservation through multiple lenses.
  • Network for your academic and professional careers.


Previous college-level coursework or background in environmental studies, ecology, biology, sociology, anthropology or related fields, as assessed by SIT.


Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem

You will explore the fragmented ecosystem of two national parks, Lake Manyara and Tarangire. Tarangire National Park is famous for its many African elephants per square kilometer and baobab trees. Depending on the season, the 1,100-square-mile park is home to diverse wildlife species including threatened and endangered species such as ebony trees, African wild dogs, gerenuk, elephants, and more. Lake Manyara National Park is 240 square miles of arid land including underground water, forests, and a 163-square-mile lake that is nearly nonexistent in the dry season. Flamingos, hippopotami, leopards, blue monkeys, and gazelles are easily spotted here. The Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem gives an opportunity to examine the western conservation model of national parks and get insight into the ways various ethnic groups interact in their landscapes.

Serengeti-Ngorongoro Ecosystem

You will go on a 7-day safari through the 25,000-square-kilometer Serengeti-Ngorongoro ecosystem. Serengeti National Park is home to a large and diverse population of wildlife including the “big five”: lions, leopards, elephants, black rhinoceros, and African buffalo. You will also visit the Ngorongoro volcanic Crater, Enashiva Nature Reserve, and the Loliondo Game Controlled Area, where tourism has had a profound impact on the local Maasai. The Serengeti-Ngorongoro ecosystem also includes Oldupai Gorge, the most famous archaeological site in east Africa.

Northeastern Tanzania

Visit the privately owned, 11,000-acre Ndarakwai Ranch, which practices sustainable ecotourism, preserving seasonal elephant routes and a variety of habitats for more than 70 mammal species and 300 bird species. Near the Usambara Mountains, you will see the Mazumbai Forest Reserve, a pristine tropical forest.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Apply language skills confidently and function independently both in formal and informal settings, particularly in homestays and during the Independent Study Project period. 
  • Examine the genesis of wildlife conservation approaches, their associated challenges, and how they have changed the current use of natural resources by the community and impacted their conservation.  
  • Articulate the ways resource use is organized and transmitted through particular social relations and how they impact the resources in an environment. 
  • Recognize the plurality of positions, perceptions, interests, and rationalities in relation to the environment.  
  • Investigate the complex and deep ways in which the dynamics of asymmetrical social and political power affect ecological systems. 
  • Compare and contrast social science and natural science research methodologies with emphasis placed on critical cultural, human, and environmental analysis and ethical considerations in working with study subjects. 
  • Apply appropriate basic statistics to analyze and present data and compose and deliver an original interpretation of Independent Study Project findings with professional proficiency. 

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

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.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Wildlife ecology
  • Conservation, environmental issues, and national park management
  • Life and culture, history, politics/economics, and current events
  • Relationships between socioeconomic objectives, ecological parameters, and cultural transitions from multi scale/actor perspectives

Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology Seminar

Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology Seminar – syllabus
(ENVI3000 / 4 credits)

An interdisciplinary course conducted in English, with required readings, examining the relationships between socioeconomic objectives, ecological parameters, and cultural transitions from multi scale/actor perspectives in various Tanzanian landscapes. Lecturers are drawn from institutions such as the Sokoine University of Agriculture, the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, and various nongovernmental organizations.


Beginning Kiswahili – syllabus
(SWAH1004-1504 / 4 credits)

Intermediate Kiswahili – syllabus
(SWAH2004-2504 / 4 credits)

Emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in intensive classes, with further language practice during homestays, lectures, and excursions.

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ENVI3500 / 4 credits)

A course in environmental research methods and ethics concerning both the social and natural sciences. The focus is on learning how to collect, analyze, integrate, and report social and ecological data to critically understand and evaluate program-related environmental issues. Topics include an introduction to the Independent Study Project; environmental field study ethics; and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy. Specific qualitative field study methods include designing research projects; writing a research proposal; interviewing; surveys; participatory rural appraisal techniques; maintaining a field study journal; and data set analysis. Specific ecological field study methods include micro- and macrohabitat analysis; wildlife population sampling and analysis; fauna and flora identification; animal behavior; geographic information systems; and statistical analysis of data sets.

Independent Study Project

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted in Arusha, Moshi, or surrounding areas or, with program approval, in other parts of Tanzania. Sample topic areas: impact of tourism on local cultures or the natural environment; perspectives on management options in designated wildlife areas; environmental education; soil conservation in Mayo Village; body modifications among Maasai at Ngare Sero; behavior of Colobus guereza in selected forests; canopy and habitat use in sympatric primate species; modernized farming methods in Mgwashi; Arusha youths’ views on population and the environment; vegetation analysis of elephant damage at Ndarakwai Ranch.

Sample topic areas:

  • Perspectives on human-wildlife conflict near conservation areas including wildlife corridors
  • Mweka College of Wildlife student perspectives on the new presidency
  • An analysis of facial expressions in olive baboons by habitat and group behavior
  • GPS mapping of elephant corridors in the Tarangire-Manyara landscape
  • Impact of tourism on the natural environment or cultures
  • Management options in designated wildlife areas
  • Environmental education
  • Soil conservation and agricultural practices
  • Youths’ views on population and environment
  • Wildlife-livestock disease interaction in the Kwakuchinja corridor
  • Behavior of primates, e.g., Colobus guereza and olive baboons at various forest locations
  • Wood use in various types of protected areas, including village forests
  • Bio-indicator studies, e.g., birds and butterflies at various locations
  • Perspectives on population and the environment
  • Vegetation analysis and elephant damage at Ndarakwai Ranch

Note: Because of restrictions on fieldwork in Tanzania, you should expect to spend all or most of the Independent Study Project outside the boundaries of Tanzania’s national parks. In addition, students are not able to study any topic that relates to any activity that is illegal in Tanzania. This includes poaching.

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.



You will spend three weeks living with a family in the peri-urban community of Ngaramtoni. This village, about 10 kilometers from Arusha town, is high on the slopes of Mt. Meru. Accommodations here vary, from wattle-and-daub homes to those with electricity. Families range from two-parent professional households (such as veterinarians, teachers, and doctors) to those headed by single-parent subsistence farmers.

Other Accommodations

Hostels, private homes, small hotels, and more than 25 nights of camping

Career Paths

Students on this program represent many different colleges, universities, and majors. Many have gone on to do work that connects back to their experience abroad with SIT. Alumni of this program are working with:

  • Princeton in Africa in the Usambara Mountains

  • An environmental NGO in Zanzibar

  • Ethiopian National Parks Service at Simien National Park

  • School for Field Studies in Tanzania and Kenya

  • The Peace Corps in Gambia, Chad, and Kenya

Faculty & Staff

Tanzania: Wildlife Conservation & Political Ecology

Oliver Nyakunga, PhD
Academic Director
Beatrice Kimaro
Kiswahili Language Coordinator
Mercy Felix Kamnde (Mama Juni)
Office Manager
Oscar Paschal Nyakunga
Academic Coordinator
Kaiza Rutachwamangyo Kaganzi
Research Assistant
Francis Makari
Wildlife Expert
Mwima Arbogast Maugo
Wildlife and Cultural Expert

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & 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.

    See Full Breakdown
  • Facebook

    SIT Study Abroad Tanzania: Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology

  • From an African Safari to an Area of Study

    Nathaniel Haviland-Markowitz, Cornell University, discovers an enriching life experience and a career path.

    Learn More
  • Gettysburg College student Venissa Ledesma says her Tanzania classroom was the national parks

    A Gettysburg College education is global and experiential. Venissa Ledesma ’19 explored elephant and lion behavior in the National Parks of Tanzania during a semester abroad with SIT Study Abroad.

  • My SIT Semester Abroad Changed My Life

    My PhD fieldwork was all about adapting to difficult situations and working with people to overcome challenges. Although it was nine years before I started doctoral work, my SIT semester was priceless.

    Learn More