Experience the natural wonders of Madagascar’s rainforests, spiny thickets, savannah, 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.

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  • 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 spiny thickets, alpine and transitional forests, savannah, gallery and littoral forests, mangroves, and coral reefs—and within multiple economic, sociopolitical, and cultural contexts.

  • Live near mountains, rainforests, and beaches.

    You will be based in Fort Dauphin, a town of approximately 50,000 people on a peninsula at the southern end of a mountain chain. The town is surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean and is home to some of the country’s cleanest and most beautiful beaches. There are five distinct ecosystems within a 50-mile radius of Fort Dauphin, making it a great base for excursions. 

  • 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.

    Use a range of social and natural science field techniques alongside Malagasy peers studying environmental management. During a village stay, use participatory rural appraisal techniques to carry out community ecology projects such as ecological inventories, community maps, resource flows, market studies, and interviews that illuminate how local peoples view and use natural resources, as well as their impacts on the environment. You will synthesize your data, and present your findings in French on the physical, cultural, and social aspects of the village.

  • Visit sites that reveal Madagascar’s contemporary ecology and conservation challenges.

    Witness deforestation for cattle grazing and mining, slash-and-burn agriculture, charcoal production and fuel wood use, production of non-food cash crops, and the illicit trade in endangered species. Madagascar’s national system of park management is juxtaposed against those who view the forest as a source of food, shelter, energy, and medicine.

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    Explore one of the world’s largest barrier reefs: the Great Barrier Reef of Tuléar.

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    Visit national parks and community-managed reserves at Isalo, Anja, Andringitra, and Andasibe.

Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate | Environment

Climate | Environment

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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

  • Biodiversity
  • Marine studies
  • Ecotourism
  • Forest types and land use
  • Environmental impacts of mining and economic development
  • Issues pitting conservation against development and possible solutions
  • Human pressures on Madagascar’s ecosystems
  • Conservation and protected areas management in Madagascar
  • Root causes of biodiversity loss, including deforestation, slash-and-burn agriculture, and cash crop production
  • Balancing environmental protection with livelihood needs from local to global scales
  • Lemur ecology
  • Ethnobotany




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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.
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.




Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

Fort Dauphin Region

Fort DauphinField excursions in the home-base region focus on fishing peoples in Evatraha, mining operations and conservation activities at Mandena, and botanical studies in the littoral forest of Sainte Luce.


During the program’s major excursion you will travel to Tuléar to begin your study of marine ecosystems and protected areas. Engage with traditional and industrial fishing practices; visit sacred areas protected by local customs and newly protected areas; debate issues concerning coastal resource management with NGO personnel; and explore key ecosystems, including spiny forests, calcareous plateaus, mangroves, and one of the world’s largest barrier reefs: the Great Barrier Reef of Tuléar.

Faux Cap Region

students on excursionSpend a week in a rural village, learning about rural life, resource use, and social aspects of conservation and development in southern Madagascar. The rural stay is typically in the Faux Cap region near the southernmost point of the island.

National Parks and Community-Managed Protected Areas

LemurTravel north through protected areas including spectacular national parks and community-managed reserves at Isalo, Anja, Andringitra, and Andasibe. Learn lemur ecology field techniques in the classified forest at Kianjavato. See a wide range of vegetation, including spiny forest, savannah, transitional forest, alpine, and rainforest.

Antananarivo (Madagascar’s capital)

The major excursion ends in the capital city of Antananarivo, commonly referred to as Tana, where you will further examine human adaptations and impacts on the ecosystems you’ve seen and integrate ideas on how to preserve Malagasy culture and biodiversity.

Program in a minute-ish

Program in a minute-ish

Line of lemurs on rocks view images full screen

Faculty and Staff


Faculty and Staff

Jim Hansen, MA, Academic Director

Jim HansenJim 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

Mamy rajaohahA 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 

BBarry Fergusonarry 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.

Vololonirina "Rina" Faramalala Francette, DEA, Coordinator for Student Affairs and Cultural Issues

Rina FrancetteOriginally from the provinces of Antananarivo and Fiarantsoa, Rina grew up in Tana. She earned her doctorate in primatology in 2014 from the University of Antananarivo. Rina works primarily with the Groupement d’Etudes et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar (GERP) in lemur conservation in Manombo in southeastern Madagascar. She has also performed fieldwork and consultancies for NGOs and foreign researchers in Madagascar. 

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. 




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.

Fort Dauphin

You will live with a host family in Fort Dauphin for one month. While here, you will go on trips to various ecosystems, national parks, and historical sites. Some students also choose to spend time with their Fort Dauphin 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.

Village Stay

Village stayYou will live for a week in a rural village, typically in the area of Faux Cap on the southern tip of Madagascar near the ocean. Village conditions are very basic, with no electricity or running water. You may spend time in bean fields or at the local school, medical clinic, or market, or you may engage in local activities. Your host family will teach you songs and dances typical of their village in preparation for a village dance party on the final day. SIT staff members visit each village daily.

The village stay emphasizes the importance of reciprocity as an integral part of the study abroad experience. SIT students travel to Faux Cap with Malagasy students studying environmental management at the Centre Ecologique de Libanona in Fort Dauphin. In addition to sharing the experience of living in rural Madagascar, SIT and Malagasy students work together to research local resources, land use, health, education, transportation, traditional governance, economic activities, communication, physical and cultural environments, and the ecology of each village area.

Other accommodations during the program include hostels, campsites, or small hotels.

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
  • 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.


Career Paths


Career Paths

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.

Tuition: $15,460

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

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $ 40

International Phone: Each student must bring a phone with them to their program.

Discretionary Expenses

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.

Speak With An Admissions Counselor

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