Ecology, Evolution, and Culture of East Africa: Fall Semester 2019
*Applications for this program will open on December 1, 2018 and will be due by January 15, 2019.*
Fall 2019, co-requisite courses to be taught on the UP campus
- Biology 405, which counts for core science for non-biology majors, and for biology majors it counts for UD field lab and capstone
- Communication 405, which counts for social science core or UD social science
- Both courses also count for the Sustainability Minor in PSOB
- Both courses count for Environmental Studies majors.
- Fall semester begins August, 2019 and ends in December, 2019 (day and time of courses TBA).
- Travel in East Africa from December 28, 2019 to January 12, 2020.
- Two weekend retreats in Spring semester 2020, dates TBA.
Topics will include evolution and ecology, vaccinations and sustainability, cultural identity and social strife, marine ecology, slavery and trade, and globalization and relationships at the societal and biological level. As East Africa lends one of the richest sites of human and ecological histories, this course will address diversity and difference and offer students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study and “be” in the world; this experience will lend itself towards creating the socially just and informed leaders needed for the 21st century. Ultimately, students culminate with a deeply important and rich first-hand understanding of the interdependent and dynamic nature of connections between people and their environment.
Specific locations we will visit:
- Serengeti National Park
- Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- Oldupai Gorge
- Zanzibar Island
Students will adventure camp under the East African stars, where giraffes, hyenas, and elephants will visit our camp. See https://pilotsclassic.up.edu/web/holdt/tanzania
Program fee: ~$6,500
On the ground expenses for ~12 days in East Africa, including all meals and bottled water, all transportation, all park and visit fees, and the services of our personal guide, cook, and driver.
Fees do not include:
- Airfare to/from Tanzania
- Required tips
- Immunizations and Visa
- Marine rental equipment in Zanzibar
- Extra expenses for personal needs, entertainment, and non-program related activities
To learn some general information about traveling to Tanzania, visit
If selected, students must submit a medical evaluation form.
Note the following essential, functional requirements of being in Tanzania:
Sample Classroom Activities:
- take medication/vaccinations for malaria, typhoid, yellow fever, and Hepatitis A and B
- ability to walk five miles and lift 40 pounds
- ability to cope with increased stress of travel
- ability to cope with primitive hygiene facilities including the lack of showers and toilets
- comfortable camping and traveling on dirt roads in a large, uncomfortable vehicle
- ability to remain calm around exotic flora and fauna
- fairly flexible dietary needs (exception: vegetarian)
- Introductory lectures/discussion (biological evolution, ethology, biodiversity, ecosystems, cultural identity, social relationships, etc.)
- Readings and assignments on East Africa specific culture and biology (will be taken from primary literature, non-fiction texts, and the internet)
- Student presentations (2 or 3 a week, focusing on a taxa and cultural concept of their choice)
Peer-peer workshop time to develop field study (addressing a small but biologically and culturally relevant aspect of Tanzanian ecology)
Course Objectives and Learning Outcomes:
- Assessment/exam of their knowledge of biological and cultural principles
- Data analysis and conclusions from student field studies (will also serve as the assessment of their understanding of the scientific method)
The student should be able to ...
I. Demonstrate knowledge of theories and research related to ecology, evolution, and culture of East Africa.
- Describe how one’s culture of origin affects construction and interpretation of environmental messages.
- Demonstrate an understanding of how basic theories of evolution, ecology, and human communication function in nature.
- Analyze the role of culture in nature and the role of nature in culture.
- Explain variables that affect human relationships specifically as it pertains to environmental sustainability, vaccinations, and global conflict.
- Describe the various roles of people, flora and fauna in ecosystems.
Explain how human relationships impact the social and biological environment, locally and globally.
II. Demonstrate critical thinking in social and biological science.
Contributions to the University Core:
- Articulate the central tenets of natural and sexual selection.
- Use concepts and ideas from scholarly sources to enrich personal views about global awareness and cultural consciousness.
- Reflect on what it means to develop international goodwill and appreciating difference
- Apply the fundamentals of ecosystems across a variety of contexts.
The University believes that learning comes from seeking answers to important life questions. The University of Portland and the Communication Studies and Biology Departments have designed the core curriculum so that different courses provide different lenses through which to study these questions. CST 391 and BIO 391 adds to knowledge that informs responses these questions...
+ How does the world work? How could the world work better?
We have a multi-faceted approach to this core question. The first dimension is one based on an ecological and evolutionary balance. For example, students will consider what about the Tanzanian landscape “works” with respect to sustainable ecotourism and land use practices.
The second dimension is one based on cultural and identity between our students and the individuals in the communities of Tanzania and East Africa. Students will practice global consciousness raising and participation in a model of global citizenship.
+ How do relationships and communities function? What is the value of difference?
We will address relationships and communities from two perspectives, biological and social. First, an ecological and evolutionary perspective; students will learn to interpret Tanzania through the lens of food webs, succession, adaptations, and communal evolution.
Second, students will be evaluating and analyzing similarities and differences between and among communities by making comparisons between U.S American culture and East African cultures (i.e., patriarchal societies, poverty and oppression, communalism, and polygamy) - ideally resulting a deeper appreciation and understanding of the important of difference.
+ What is the role of beauty, imagination, and feeling in life?
Perhaps nowhere else on Earth is possible to see the beauty in biodiversity than it is in the people, flora, fauna, and culture of East Africa. Students will be exposed to a culture and ecosystem they have never seen before, and the impact of its beauty will no doubt have profound effects on the way they view the world.