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Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management

Explore rainforests, mangroves, coral reefs, and the environmental challenges of Madagascar, isolated from neighboring land masses for more than 100 million years.

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework

Language of Study

Malagasy, French

Courses taught in



Sep 1 – Dec 14

Program Countries


Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate & Environment


Why study abroad in Madagascar?

A biodiverse island evolving from a set of unique environmental circumstances, Madagascar is one of the world’s globally recognized “megadiverse” countries, with flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth. Explore environmental challenges, conservation, and development across an array of ecosystems including tropical rainforests, mangroves, and dry deciduous forests in multiple economic and cultural contexts. Discover a world apart, where the vast majority of wildlife is endemic only to the island and witness the human side of natural resource management. Study alongside Malagasy university students, employing social and natural science field techniques in coral reef systems, national parks, and farming and fishing villages. Stay with local families, and study Malagasy or French. Visit the Ankanin’ny Nofy Reserve, where you can see the iconic aye aye and the carnivorous plant Nepenthes. See the amazing Sarodrano cave, a basin filled with crystal blue fresh water, as well as the beautiful canyon of Isalo National Park.


  • Explore the luxuriant vegetation, and fauna of the Ankafobe forest in the central highland.
  • Observe the island’s rare and charismatic baobab, herpetofauna, and lemur species.
  • Trek the rainforest of Andasibe, and the spiny forest in Tulear.
  • Build your résumé and skills with an internship or Independent Study Project.


Previous college-level coursework in environmental studies, ecology, biology, or related fields.

program map


Antananarivo (Tana)

Your semester is based in Antananarivo, where you will hear speakers from the University of Antananarivo and visit the Queens Palace (Rova), Tsimbazaza Botanical and Zoological Park to begin your initiation into Malagasy biodiversity and cultures.

Central Highlands (Ankafobe)

The Ankafobe Community Special Reserve is one of the few remaining forests in the central highland of Madagascar. It is located 132 km (about 82 miles) from Antananarivo. The uniqueness of this reserve lies in the presence of a tree called Sohisika, known by its scientific name Schizolaena tampoketsana. This plant species exists nowhere else and is among the rarest trees in the world.

East Coast (Andasibe and Akanin'ny Nofy)

The Andasibe habitat is home to a vast number of species, many of them rare and endangered. Among the 11 lemur species is the Indri, the largest of the lemurs. Visit the Amphibian Breeding Center, Mantadia National Park, and two community-based conservation reserves. Akanin’ny Nofy Reserve is a picturesque location on the east coast of Madagascar where you can see the iconic Aye-aye lemur as well as the carnivorous Nepenthese plant.


Your marine study will take place at Tulear, followed by excursions to  southern Madagascar to see the rich biodiversity of this part of the island. Visit the Sarodrano cave; Foniala spiny forest and Isalo National Park.

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:

  • Identify contemporary threats to biodiversity.
  • Explain the importance of protected areas and their relevance in Madagascar and beyond.
  • Conduct an individual research project in the field of biodiversity and natural resource management.
  • Formulate research objectives using ethical and appropriate methods.
  • Clearly present and communicate findings orally and in writing.
  • Demonstrate basic conversational skills in Malagasy and enhance communicative proficiency in French.
  • Synthesize the learning acquired on the program in an Independent Study Project or internship paper.

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

  • Marine and coastal ecosystems, conservation, and resource management
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  • Malagasy biodiversity, evolutionary history, and extinction
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  • Diversity of forest ecosystem types and land use dynamics
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  • Environmental and social impacts of mining, cash crops, and tourism
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  • Addressing issues pitting conservation against economic development
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  • Ethnobotany and the interactions between culture and the environment

Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management Seminar

Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management Seminar – syllabus
(ENVI3000 / 3 credits)

This interdisciplinary course introduces students to a range of key policies and practices for the management of the unique and endemic natural resources in Madagascar. Using conceptual approaches drawn from environmental justice and political ecology, students explore diverse terrestrial and marine resources in a range of locales and consider the realities and challenges of developing effective and equitable natural resource management systems. Key themes through which these issues are explored during the course include livelihoods and stakeholder analyses, protected area and community based management systems, basic tools for understanding and monitoring natural resources, and cultural practices and their influence on natural resource management.


Malagasy – syllabus
Malagasy (French Version) – syllabus
(MALA1003 / 3 credits)

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

French for Natural Sciences – syllabus
(FREN2003-2503 / 3 credits)

French for Natural Sciences – syllabus
(FREN3003-3503 / 3 credits)

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

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ENVI3500 / 3 credits)

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.

Independent Study Project or Internship

In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:

Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted primarily in northern 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.

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
  • Ecotourism
  • 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

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


Internship and Seminar
Internship and Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

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.

Sample internships:

  • Supporting agroforestry efforts, monitoring the locally endemic wildlife, and promoting the area through communications with the Missouri Botanical Gardens
  • Conserving and breeding the endangered Malagasy frog Mantella auriantiaca in Andasibe at the Mitsinjo breeding center
  • Undertaking ecological monitoring and environmental education and developing interpretative materials in one of Madagascar’s National Parks
  • Developing and monitoring sustainable natural resource use projects—including fuel efficient stoves, aquaculture and environmental education—with the Duke Lemur Center Sava Conservation Program
  • Monitoring populations of critically endangered lemurs and building local capacity in Ankirihitra in the Boeny region and/or in Mahajeby in the Bongolava region
  • Supporting ecological restoration and monitoring in the Analamazaotra and community development and livelihoods activities with the Mitsinjo Association
  • Developing sustainability initiatives—including urban agriculture, recycling, youth climate and environmental outreach—through the Think Green Madagascar center in Hell Ville Nosy Be



Your home base will be with a host family in the capital city Antananarivo, often referred to as Tana, a beautiful city built on hills, with buzzing open-air markets, and distinct neighborhoods reflecting a mix of 19th century Malagasy and more recent European influences. Your family will introduce you to the warmth and generosity of Malagasy life. Here, you will learn from academics and experts in the field of biodiversity and conversation management in preparation for field studies and excursions to nature reserves and historic sites.

Village Stay

Stay in a rural village for more than a week in the Alaotra-Mangoro region of eastern Madagascar. Conditions will be basic, with limited electricity or running water. Learn from your host family about Bezanozano culture and the lifestyle of Malagasy farmers, including songs, dances, and food of the region. Study alongside Malagasy students during field courses in the Analamazaotra, VOI.MA and Mantadia forest around Andasibe. Biodiversity and natural resource management study combined with cultural exchange will make your stay in Andasibe unforgettable.

Excursion & Orientation Accommodations

Other accommodations include campsites and small hotels.

Career Paths

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.

Faculty & Staff

Madagascar: Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management

Andolalao Rakotoarison, PhD bio link
Andolalao Rakotoarison, PhD
Academic Director
Alida Hasiniaina bio link
Alida Hasiniaina
Site Coordinator
Lalaina Randriamanana bio link
Lalaina Randriamanana
Student Affairs and Homestay Coordinator

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 nearly 1 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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