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SIT Madagascar Biodiversity & Natural Resource Management

Fast Facts

Sessions Offered:

Fall, Spring


Fort Dauphin, Madagascar



Program Features

Affiliated Program


- 2.5 GPA

- Good academic and disciplinary standing

- 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

Application Due:

Fall 2/24

Spring 9/27

beach in Fort Dauphin

SIT Study Abroad offers more than 60 accredited semester and summer study abroad programs in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. SIT also offers the International Honors Program, which is multi-locational.

The SIT Experience

  • Rigorous academic programs through a field-based, experiential approach
  • Undergraduate research through an Independent Study Project
  • Cultural immersion through fieldwork, language classes, and urban and rural homestays with local families
  • A small group of students in each program, supported by SIT faculty and staff, homestay families, in-country experts, and community members
  • Access to SIT's extensive local resources and networks
  • A commitment to reciprocity as the foundation of our educational philosophy

Academic Program

Experience the natural wonders of Madagascar’s rainforests, dry forests, 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.

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, savannahs, gallery and littoral forests, mangroves, and coral reefs—and within multiple economic, sociopolitical, and cultural contexts.

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

For more information, see SIT's webpage.

Program Structure

Baobab trees
Baobab Trees

Interdisciplinary Seminars

Thematic seminars merge student experience with academic theory to examine critical issues from multiple perspectives. Students learn from SIT faculty as well as guest lecturers from local universities, research institutes, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and community and professional associations. Field-based activities and assignments complement readings, discussions, and research papers, allowing students to engage in a variety of study methods.

Intensive Language Study

Programs typically offer language study at the intermediate and advanced levels and/or beginning instruction in a less commonly taught language spoken by the local community. Language courses incorporate formal classroom instruction, discussion, and field exercises designed to enhance student engagement while improving oral and written competence. Select programs are taught entirely or partly in the target language.

Research Methods and Ethics

Students learn appropriate methodologies that prepare them to undertake fieldwork on topics connected to the program’s theme and specific cultural context. Students develop research skills and approaches including cross-cultural adaptation and skill building; project selection and refinement; contact and resource cultivation; observation and interviewing skills; gathering, organizing, and presenting findings; and maintaining a field journal. Students also examine the ethics and impact of their research on local communities and are required to follow the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy, which serves as an approval process and guide for ethical field study practices.

Independent Study Project (ISP)

Typically conducted during the last month of the semester, the ISP allows students to pursue original field-based research on a topic of their choice within the program’s thematic parameters. The academic director advises each student on developing a project plan. Students also identify an ISP advisor who works with the student on the design, implementation, and evaluation of the student’s research project. Final projects generally include a 20- to 40-page paper and presentation to peers, academic staff, and interested members of the host community.

University of Iowa students who complete an Independent Study Project (ISP) must follow University of Iowa Institutional Review Board (IRB) policies and procedures. For more information on the Iowa IRB process please visit the Undergraduate Research Abroad webpage. An additional pre-departure orientation session, hosted by the Iowa IRB, will be offered on campus to help answer questions and ensure compliance.

Cultural Activities

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 (ITASY REGION): The Itasy region has a high number of endemic freshwater fish. You will visit the Ampefy Lake, Lily Waterfall (Ampefy) and Analavory Geyser. You will also visit the Arivonimamo Silk Trail to see the Tapia forest, one the rare remaining forests in Madagascar’s central highlands. The Tapia tree houses the silk moth Borocera cajani, which produces wild silk.

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 managed. Visit the Ambatovy mining company to see its efforts toward biodiversity preservation. 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.

NOSY BE: Your marine study will take place at Nosy be Hell Ville, followed by excursions to northern Madagascar to see the rich biodiversity of this part of this island. Visit the ylang ylang transformer on Nosy Be to see the production of ylang ylang essential oil; Ankarana National Park and Montagne d’Ambre National Park in Joffreville.

Program Dates

Spring Semester: Late January - Mid May

Fall Semester: Early September - Mid-December

For more information

Steps to Studying Abroad

  1. Before initiating an application with SIT, students must complete a Discover Study Abroad session at the University of Iowa. 
  2. After completing the Discover Abroad session, students must call the Study Abroad office at 319-335-0353 to be assigned to the appropriate study abroad advisor.
  3. Once assigned, students must meet with their study abroad advisor to receive program application instructions.

Study Abroad
1111 University Capitol Centre
Iowa City, IA 52242

Phone: 319-335-0353

Fort Dauphin

Ocean, mountains, a bay in Fort Dauphin

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.


SIT places the highest priority on the health, safety, and security of all students. Through their 80-plus years of running international experiential education programs, they have developed sophisticated proactive and reactive risk management strategies. Their proactive risk management begins with in-country assessments of safety and continues through student orientation and emergency preparedness. Their reactive risk management strategies include 24/7 on-call availability, emergency/crisis response protocols, and comprehensive student insurance. Their structure also allows for rapid response and adjustment to changing situations.

Madagascar Travel Information

US Department of State Country Information

The US Department of State provides safety and security information for every country of the world to help you assess for yourself the risks of travel. Each country information page contains a Travel Advisory, Alerts, and other important details specific to that country that could affect you.

Pay close attention to the entry and exit requirements, local laws and customs, health conditions, and other details to help decide whether traveling to any given country is right for you. Non-US citizen travelers may also wish to seek guidance from the embassy of their country of citizenship. The UI International Travel Policy for Students addresses restrictions on student travel to high-risk locations and engagement in high-risk activities abroad.

Living Arrangements

Rocks in bay covered in green

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

You 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.

Educational Excursions

Fort Dauphin Region

Field 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

Spend 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

Travel 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.


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.


US Citizens

If you do not have a passport, it is important that you apply for one as soon as possible to ensure you receive it before the program begins. US citizens can find more information about how to apply for a passport on the US Department of State’s website.

Important notice for students without a valid passport or whose passport will expire within the next 12 months:

US citizens can find more information about how to renew a passport on the US Department of State’s website.

Students without a valid passport should apply for a new passport or a passport renewal as early as possible.

Students with a valid passport should check the expiration date. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months AFTER the anticipated return to the US from studying abroad. If your passport is not valid for at least 6 months after your anticipated date of return to the US, you must renew your passport before applying for the visa you will need to enter your host country.

Expedited processing service is available for US passports (although this still takes several weeks and is at an additional cost). UI Study Abroad encourages students to ask the passport agency at the time of application whether expedited service is recommended.

Non-US Citizens

Students who are not US citizens should contact Ryan Ourada ( for information on how to ensure that their passport is valid for the duration of their time abroad.


Students will work with their program provider to make travel arrangements to their program site. The cost of travel is not included in the course fee. UI Study Abroad will not arrange a group flight to your study abroad destination.

Do not purchase plane tickets until you have received instructions on how to do so from your program provider.

Local Transportation

Within your host city and around the country, students will utilize public transportation such as buses and trains. Excursions and general travel require a lot of walking, so bring some comfortable shoes!


Students must have a 2.5 GPA or higher. Previous college-level coursework in environmental studies, ecology, biology, or related fields, as assessed by SIT, is also required. Students must also have taken three recent semesters of college-level French or equivalent, and have the ability to follow coursework in French, as assessed by SIT. Good academic and disciplinary standing is a must, including at the end of the semester. If you are not in good standing at the end of the semester, your acceptance will be revoked and you will be responsible for the associated withdrawal fees.


The UI cost sheet for this program is forthcoming. General cost information can be found on SIT's webpage.

This document outlines the total estimated costs associated with participating in this program and can be used for financial aid purposes. It includes fees charged on students’ U-Bill as well as out-of-pocket expenses. Actual out-of-pocket expenses will vary from individual to individual. Quoted estimates are conservatively high, yet realistic.

The cost sheet includes the Study Abroad Administrative Fee and Mandatory Iowa Regents CISI Travel Insurance. Please see the respective websites for further details. If the fee is inclusive of UI tuition, it is calculated by Current Tuition. Please contact your study abroad advisor with questions regarding this cost sheet – call 319-335-0353 to schedule an appointment.

Upfront, out-of-pocket expenses

Some costs are incurred prior to departure and will be due before financial aid/scholarship disperse. Here are the expected upfront costs for SIT:

  • Iowa application fee: $50
  • Airfare: $1,000-$1,500
  • Passport: $135

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Most financial aid (scholarships, grants, and loans) is applicable to study abroad programs. Please check the Study Abroad website for information on financial aid and how it may be applied to studying abroad. You are also encouraged to speak with someone at the Office of Student Financial Aid to explore financial aid options.

Scholarship opportunities exist for study abroad participants. Please explore Study Abroad’s websites for UI Study Abroad Scholarship Opportunities, and Non-UI External Awards.

SIT automatically gives students from Big Ten institutions a $1,500 scholarship. There is no application necessary — the amount is automatically credited to your account. SIT offers additional awards that can be found on SIT's webpage.

Pell Grant Recipients will have their application fee waived by SIT, are eligible for additional SIT scholarships, and are competitive candidates for the Department of State's Gilman Scholarship. Please talk to your Study Abroad Advisor for more details.

Withdrawal policy

SIT's withdrawal policy can be found here: Withdrawal and Cancellation. After applying and being accepted students will then be asked to confirm their participation in the program. After confirmation, students are responsible for the following:

Date of Withdrawal Student Financial Responsibility
After submitting the Confirmation of Participation Study Abroad Administrative fee: $400
Portion of course fee: As determined by the program contract with SIT
Less than 30 days before the program start date Study Abroad Administrative fee: $400 or 50%, whichever is greater
Portion of course fee: As determined by the program contract with SIT
On or after the program start date Study Abroad Administrative fee: 100%
Portion of course fee: As determined by the program contract with SIT

Consult with your Study Abroad advisor for any clarification about fees and billing. Note that when you withdraw from a program, any money already paid directly to a program provider and/or a host university will potentially be forfeited. Check with your specific provider/host university for details. Additional penalties for cancellation of airline tickets may also apply. Check with your airline for further details.

Application Deadline

Spring: September 27

Fall: February 24

How to Apply

You can find the application for this program on our website here: UI Study Abroad Application. Applicants must meet with a Study Abroad advisor before their application will be processed. You can schedule a meeting by calling 319.335.0353.

Participants must also complete the SIT application and complete all the application components by SIT's deadline. The SIT application can be found here: SIT Application.

Acceptance and Confirmation Materials

Coming soon.

Health & Safety Planning

In addition to submitting their Confirmation of Participation form, students should review the following:

Study Abroad Resources

Passports and Visas

Iowa Regents CISI Health Insurance Information

Students are also encouraged to complete the PDFHealth Preparation Guide for International Travel form with their medical practitioner. This document is intended to help you plan for your medical needs abroad. Please DO NOT turn this form in to UI Study Abroad.

Scholarships & Financial Aid

For more information about receiving financial aid while studying abroad, please review the following:UI Financial Aid Information

You can find more information about options for funding your study abroad experience including scholarships on Undergraduate Scholarships for Study Abroad.

In addition, take a look at SIT Scholarship website for information about scholarships offered directly through your program provider.


U.S. passport holders should follow the Visa batch process instructions provided by SIT. Make sure to submit all required documents by the submission deadline. Otherwise you will have to apply for your student visa independently.

U.S. Citizens will need a student visa if they are going abroad for a semester, or academic year. Typically, they will not need a visa for the summer sessions.

UI Study Abroad will hold advising appointments and/or information sessions to provide details on the visa application process. UI Study Abroad staff can provide some assistance on the Italian visa application process, but ultimately the individual traveler (the student) is the person who is responsible for providing correct information on the visa application and securing the visa and all other required documentation prior to travel.

Prior to starting the visa application process check in with SIT for more information; they have a preferred timeline that students need to follow.


In order to prepare for your time abroad, you are required by the University of Iowa to complete two orientations. These may be in addition to orientations provided by your on-site provider. See below for more information.

Online Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation

You are required to complete the International Programs ICON course "Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation" prior to departure. This orientation is mandatory for all students going abroad under the auspices of the University of Iowa. It covers many practical matters about living overseas, such as health and safety, communication, money, goals, and much more. You will be enrolled in this course by International Programs and an email will be sent to you once enrolled. If you have any questions, you can email

Program-Specific Orientation

This orientation will be facilitated by your study abroad advisor and will cover content specific to your program and host country. It could be conducted in a group setting or one-on-one depending on your type of planned activity abroad. Your study abroad advisor will send you more information about this mandatory in-person session.

Pre departure Resources

SIT will provide you with a variety of pre-departure resources to prepare you for your study abroad experience. These will include a packing list, cultural information, housing instructions, etc. Ensure that you thoroughly review any information provided to you by SIT and refer back to it if you have any questions.

These materials may be periodically updated to reflect new program information prior to departure. Be sure to check your SIT Account often.