Australia

Center for Rainforest Studies

Australia

This is not the Australia you know. Towering strangler fig trees and rare animals like the southern cassowary and Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo can be found in these ancient rainforests. Far North Queensland is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, preserving more than 500 million years of evolutionary history. Just off the coast is Earth’s largest living structure – the Great Barrier Reef.



semester

14 Weeks

|

16 Credits


Fall 2023

 Sep 1 - Dec 4

Closed

Spring 2024

 Jan 30 - May 3

Waitlist


PROGRAM COSTS

Tuition:

$21,000

Room & Board:

$5,500

Total Cost:

$26,500


Sample Itinerary


Sample Itinerary:

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semester PROGRAM

Rainforest to Reef

Tropical North Queensland


Immerse yourself in the rich biodiversity of the rainforest and learn about ecological resilience in the face of environmental threats like climate change. Explore the multitude of environments that exist in Northern Queensland and the complex relationships between them – rainforests to dry forests, savannahs to wetlands, and mangroves to coral reefs.

Join large-scale restoration ecology experiments and study sustainable food systems while developing skills in field research and data collection. In the final weeks of the semester, you’ll spend your time out in the field conducting an extensive research project.

  • Live, work, and study at our most remote Center – a 153-acre rainforest property surrounded by UNESCO World Heritage Forests.
  • Journey to the ancient forests at Daintree National Park, a biodiversity hotspot and, at over 110 million years old, possibly the oldest rainforest in the world.
  • Connect with a representative of the area’s Aboriginal Mob for conversation around agriculture, land rights, and First Nations people’s connection with their land.
  • Explore the biodiversity and diverse ecosystems on the Atherton Tablelands and engage with locals through community service.
  • Snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef while learning about its ecology and socio-environmental challenges.
  • Conduct a comprehensive field research project: Develop a research question, collect and analyze data, write a paper, and present your findings. Read more about SFS Directed Research projects.
  •  
    Application deadlines:
    Spring – November 1
    Fall – May 15

    Follow SFS Australia on Instagram




    Academics

    This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Australia. Read more about the SFS program model. Major academic themes include:

    • Rainforest ecology and conservation
    • Climate change
    • Habitat restoration ecology
    • Threatened species conservation
    • Aboriginal ecotourism
    • Development and settlement in the rainforest
    • Rainforest fragmentation and recovery
    • Forest ecotones
    • Animal behavior

    Courses

    On the Rainforest to Reef program, you will take three 4-credit disciplinary courses and a 4-credit capstone Directed Research course. Courses are participatory in nature and are designed to foster inquiry and active learning. Each course combines lectures, field exercises, assignments, tests, and research. All courses are taught in English. Click on each course to view a description and download the syllabus

    SFS 3021
    Environmental Sustainability and Socio-economic Values
    4 credits
    SFS 3691
    Tropical Biome Ecology & Climate Change
    4 credits
    SFS 3701
    Wildlife & Conservation Biology
    4 credits
    SFS 4910
    Directed Research
    4 credits

    SFS 3021 Environmental Sustainability and Socio-economic Values (4 credits)

    This course explores the contemporary environmental and sustainability issues and also touches broadly on the historical, social-cultural, economic and political factors that determine the use of natural resources, with particular emphasis on, but not limited to, the Wet Tropics of Australia. Topics to be covered in this course include; environmentalism, sustainable food production and livelihoods, the impact of human activities on terrestrial and marine biomes, conservation conflicts, resource governance and so on. In addition, students will be introduced to social science research methods, while a visit to a local Aboriginal community will help them gain a better understanding of the first Australian’s enviro-cultural heritage values. Throughout the course students will be introduced to, and are expected to gain hands-on experience on social research techniques. View Syllabus

    SFS 3691 Tropical Biome Ecology & Climate Change (4 credits)

    In this course, you will obtain a broad appreciation of the diversity and dynamics of tropical terrestrial & marine biomes. You will be introduced to the current and past distributions of tropical rainforests, dry forest, savannas and coastal biomes, their biodiversity, and their relationships with the abiotic environment, human use, present threats, and restoration practices. This course aims to bring together an understanding of the underlying ecological processes that affect different biomes with the role of human society in shaping the present and future rainforests of the Wet Tropics & the coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. The course will take the rainforest Australian Wet Tropics & the coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) as case studies to investigate this field, yet many of the skills you learn here can be transferred to other systems. Topics covered will include: biophysical determinants vegetation and coral reef distribution; past, present, and future threats to Wet Tropics rainforests & GBR; and the theory and practice of rainforest and coral restoration. The course also has a practical component. You will be taught field techniques for carrying out field research, data analysis, and communication of results.   View Syllabus

    SFS 3701 Wildlife & Conservation Biology (4 credits)

    This course identifies threats to wildlife populations, how to obtain data on the impact of these threats on wildlife populations and how to select and apply appropriate conservation methods to mitigate these threats. We will look at these aspects in general and then demonstrate them in case studies of species in the Wet Tropics. To formulate a background understanding of habitats of the Wet Tropic’s wildlife, we will explore the origin of the main landscape formations of this part of Australia by looking at geological and biogeographical factors that shaped the landscape and its biota. You will be introduced to Australia’s fauna and the unique species that inhabit the diverse habitats of the Wet Tropics. We then will deal with some basic ecological concepts of biodiversity and why so many species can co-exist in one place. The course is a mixture of class lectures, field lectures, field laboratory courses, workshops, field trips, and readings to complement the material presented in the lectures. A major emphasis is placed on field skills, the collection, management and analyses of data, and skills of writing a scientific paper. View Syllabus

    SFS 4910 Directed Research (4 credits)

    This course prepares students to distinguish hidden assumptions in scientific approaches and separate fact from interpretation, cause from correlation, and advocacy from objectivity. Students learn specific tools including: experimental design; field techniques; basic descriptive statistics; and parametric and non-parametric quantitative analysis. Emphasis is placed on succinct scientific writing, graphic and tabular presentation of results, and effective delivery of oral presentations.   View Syllabus

    Core Skills

    You will gain practical skills in the field such as: GIS use and applications, species identification and population monitoring, forest survey methods, citizen science protocols, research design and implementation, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, and research presentation.

    Field Sites

    You will visit different ecosystems and communities which may include primary and secondary tropical rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, tropical savanna, wet sclerophyll forests, coastal scrub and mangrove, Melaleuca (paperbark) swamps, Indigenous communities, and local conservation and restoration groups.

    summer session I

    04 Weeks

    |

    04 Credits


    Summer 2023

     Jun 3 - Jul 2

    Closed

    Summer 2024

     Jun 3 - Jul 2

    Open


    PROGRAM COSTS

    Tuition:

    $5,670

    Room & Board:

    $2,580

    Total Cost:

    $8,250


    Sample Itinerary


    Sample Itinerary:

    APPLY NOW

    summer session I PROGRAM

    Marsupials of Australia

    Tropical North Queensland


    In a land of strange and fascinating wildlife, spend your summer observing tree-climbing kangaroos, egg-laying mammals, flightless birds, giant lizards, and the many other iconic animals that live in Australia’s ancient rainforests and dry savannas. Learn how each of these species has developed special adaptations to Australia’s unusual habitats and consider the policies and actions needed to preserve these precious ecosystems.

  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Forests of north Queensland – the only place in Australia home to marsupial tree kangaroos.
  • Go spotlighting during night hikes in the rainforest and observe hopping bandicoots and gliders emerging from trees. Learn about these species’ history of connecting people with the land.
  • Connect with a representative of the area’s Aboriginal Mob for stories highlighting First Nations people’s connection with their land and wildlife.
  •  
    Application deadlines:
    Summer 1 – April 1

    Follow SFS Australia on Instagram




    Academics

    This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Australia. Read more about the SFS program model. Major academic themes include:

    • Evolution, biogeography and taxonomy of major wildlife groups of Australia
    • Physiology and behavioral ecology of marsupials
    • Adaptations of Australia’s wildlife to different environments
    • Impact of climate change and human development on Australia’s unique wildlife
    • Mitigation and conservation policies

    Courses

    On the Marsupials of Australia program, you will take one 4-credit course. This course is participatory in nature and is designed to foster inquiry and active learning combining lectures, field exercises, assignments, and tests. This course is taught in English. Click on the course to view a description and download the syllabus

    SFS 3272
    Marsupials of Australia
    4 Credits

    SFS 3272 Marsupials of Australia (4 Credits)

    In this course you will understand the factors that resulted in the dominance of marsupials on the Australian continent and current factors that jeopardize their survival into the future. You will become familiar with a wide array of marsupial species that inhabit different habitats of Australia today and which threats they are facing. Mitigating these threats requires knowledge of their ecology and behavior, the application of sophisticated and preferably non-invasive field research methods and the introduction of effective conservation policies. This course will introduce you to some of these field research methods that Australian scientists are using to study marsupials and other mammalian species and to the current legislative and community-driven conservation tools.  

    View Syllabus

    Core Skills

    You will gain practical skills in the field such as: wildlife observation techniques, non-invasive population assessments, habitat and biodiversity assessment, population viability studies, citizen science protocols, and human development impact assessment methods.

    Field Sites

    You will visit different ecosystems and communities which may include primary and secondary tropical rainforest, savannah habitat, caves, coastal scrub and mangroves, wetlands, and local conservation and restoration groups.

    summer session II

    04 Weeks

    |

    04 Credits


    Summer 2023

     Jul 7 - Aug 6

    Closed

    Summer 2024

     Jul 7 - Aug 6

    Open


    PROGRAM COSTS

    Tuition:

    $5,670

    Room & Board:

    $2,580

    Total Cost:

    $8,250


    Sample Itinerary


    Sample Itinerary:

    APPLY NOW

    summer session II PROGRAM

    Farming for the Future - Australia & Bali

    North Queensland, Australia


    The agricultural systems that feed the world lie precariously at the cross section of globalization, industrialization, climate change, cultural and indigenous heritage, and market demand. Spend your summer untangling the complex web of providing food for a global population and discuss ways of implementing sustainable agriculture in the face of environmental change. You’ll explore examples from the agricultural landscapes in both northern Queensland and on the Indonesian island of Bali as you consider matters of soil health, economic livelihoods, ethnobotany, economies of scale, meat production, distribution, and more.

  • Explore the agricultural landscape of the Atherton Tablelands, including the food systems of the area’s First Nations peoples, while based at our most remote Center – a 153-acre rainforest property surrounded by UNESCO World Heritage Forests.
  • Visit regenerative farms and the Cairns Botanic Gardens to learn how to identify multiple common tropical food plants in preparation for field excursions.
  • Embark on a 13-day excursion to the island of Bali where you’ll appreciate how agriculture and religion are intertwined. Visit agroforestry and permaculture farms, tour scenic World Heritage rice terraces, explore a Balinese market, and sample coffee, chocolate, and vanilla.
  •  
    Application deadlines:
    Summer 2 – May 15

    Follow SFS Australia on Instagram




    Academics

    This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of the historical, environmental, social, political, and economic issues that shape food systems. Read more about the SFS program model. Major academic themes include:

    • Agroecology 
    • Economic botany 
    • Agricultural landscapes 
    • Human development impacts 
    • Indigenous knowledge and histories 

    Courses

    On the Farming for the Future program, you will take one 4-credit course. This course is participatory in nature and is designed to foster inquiry and active learning combining lectures, field exercises, assignments, and tests. This course is taught in English. Click on the course to view a description and download the syllabus. Click on the course to view a description and download the syllabus

    SFS 3263
    Sustainable Food Systems
    4 credits

    SFS 3263 Sustainable Food Systems (4 credits)

    The Sustainable Food Systems course examines food systems broadly and aims to provide students an experiential learning opportunity while we explore tropical natural, cultural, and agricultural landscapes. The course provides an overview of agroecology, economic botany, and associated cultural, environmental and sustainability issues, and touches broadly on the historical, social, cultural, economic and political factors that shape food systems.   View Syllabus

    Core Skills

    You will gain practical skills in the field such as: botanical species identification, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, and the basics of permaculture.

    Field Sites

    You will visit different ecosystems and communities in both Queensland and Bali which may include coffee farms, cacao plantations, other agroecosystems and farms, agrotourism businesses, and the forests and rainforest ecosystems around agricultural areas.

    What Students Are Saying:


     
    “This landscape is alive, and you are a part of it. Not only for the moment that you’re imagining this, but for an entire semester. You have the opportunity and privilege to learn and experience all there is to learn about the Wet Tropics.”
     
    – Bo, Gonzaga University


     
    “SFS offered the unique opportunity to truly live in the rainforest! This is an incredibly intimate view of an ancient and endangered ecosystem which boasts incredible biodiversity. As a participant of this program, I was not a visitor to the rainforest, but actually living inside it.”
     
    – Guthrie, Brandeis University


    Will Glenny

     
    “If living in the middle of a rainforest, surrounded by constant beauty and wonder is your idea of a typical study abroad program, then SFS Australia is right for you. You will learn more than you could ever have imagined about the people you live with, the community around you, the natural flora and fauna of Australia, and so much more.”
     
    – Will, Gonzaga University

     

    Where You'll Be Living

    At the end of a narrow, winding path, surrounded by lush rainforest, lies this remote field station. Our 153-acre property is surrounded by protected World Heritage forests, and you can observe incredible wildlife from the front steps of your cabin. The nearby towns of Yungaburra, Atherton, and Cairns are just a short drive away.

    • Group living in eight-person cabins
    • Main building with classroom, lab, and study spaces
    • Student lounge with scenic porch views and WiFi
    • Covered outdoor dining area, on-site cook, and garden
    • On-campus network of trails for rainforest hikes
    • Outdoor spaces for volleyball, yoga, and hammocks
    Click here to read stories from students, staff, and faculty on our blog

     
     
     

    Program Costs

    Study abroad is an investment in yourself – you’ll return home with new experiences, skills, knowledge, and friendships that will stay with you for the rest of your life. SFS program costs cover a variety of expenses, including:
     

    • Pre-program advising and on-site orientation
    • Tuition and research fees
    • Housing at the field station and on excursions
    • Daily meals and snacks
    • Airport transfers (for arrival/departure)
    • Field excursions and cultural activities
    • Student success and wellness team on site
    • 24/7 mental health and well-being support
    • Emergency evacuation and repatriation insurance
    • Official transcript processing

    View Australia Program Costs

    Financial Aid

    We know cost can be one of the biggest barriers to studying abroad. At SFS, we’re committed to making our programs accessible to students which is why we award a generous amount in need-based financial aid each year. Our Admissions Team has worked with thousands of students and are here to answer your questions about the SFS aid process, aid available through your home school, and funding from external sources.
     
    SFS Financial Aid: Need-based aid packages typically consist of a combination of scholarships, grants, and zero- and low-interest loans. SFS matches Federal Pell Grant funding for students applying to an SFS semester program.

    Home School Aid: Be sure to ask your home school study abroad office or financial aid office what financial aid resources might be available to support your study abroad experience.

    External Funding Opportunities: Organizations such as the Fund for Education Abroad or the Gilman International Scholarship Program award scholarships to students going abroad. These can be a great opportunity to reduce the cost of your program even more.
     
    Learn More about Financial Aid


     
     
     

     

    Research

    Research at the SFS Center for Rainforest Studies focuses on rainforest conservation, ecosystem restoration, the complex connection between the rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, and topics of environmental sustainability. Students and faculty engage with local communities, Indigenous groups, NGOs, and local landholders. As the oldest rainforest on the planet, management strategies developed here may serve as a model for conserving and restoring other rainforests around the world.
     
    Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

    • Rainforest fragmentation and recovery
    • Habitat restoration
    • Climate change
    • Marsupial behavior
    • Aboriginal ecotourism
    • Development and settlement in the rainforest
    • Ecosystem dynamics

    Community

    Queensland, Australia

     
    SFS is an active member of the Queensland community, where we have been based since the late 1980s.

    We have built long-term, collaborative relationships in the communities around the Center, and developed our research plans based on the environmental issues they and the surrounding ecosystems face. Throughout the program, students assist in local restoration projects, host community dinners, attend festivals, and socialize with local conservation groups and at sporting competitions.

    At the end of each semester program, we host a Community Research Night where select students will present their research findings to the community. SFS research data is shared with the community, local NGOs, and the Australian government.
     

    Read stories about our community in Australia

    Meet the Australia Team

    Deborah Apgaua, Ph.D.

    Lecturer of Tropical Biome Ecology
    Meet Deborah

    Sigrid Heise-Pavlov, Ph.D.

    Professor in Rainforest Ecology
    Meet Siggy

    Sophie M. Love

    Health and Wellness Manager
    Meet Sophie

    Emily Bischoff

    Health and Wellness Manager
    Meet Emily
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