Tropical Biodiversity Conservation
Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea, Africa
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For over 10 years, the Bioko Study Abroad program has taken students to the remote island of Bioko, part of the Spanish-speaking central African country of Equatorial Guinea. This unique program includes individual field research projects at the Moka Wildlife Center in the Southern Highlands of Bioko, academically rigorous coursework at the National University of Equatorial Guinea in the capital city of Malabo, expeditions into Bioko's tropical forests and up its vertiginous mountains, and cultural excursions to explore Bioko's diverse and storied past. Our students have come from a wide array of backgrounds, but they all leave transformed, with a broadened worldview and a depth of experience that can only result from study of complex environmental challenges in a global context. To maintain this high level of individualized study, the program is offered twice a year (September - December and January - March) to a class of eight students.
The program offers a unique opportunity for undergraduates and recent graduates to:
- Study tropical biodiversity and its conservation, with an emphasis on field work that takes advantage of Bioko Island's pristine rainforests ranging from sea level to over 10,000 ft in altitude, its seven species of rare monkeys, and its four species of nesting sea turtles.
- Work in collaboration with an experienced African field biologist on an individual research project, thereby adding to the biodiversity database being created for Bioko Island .
- Work in collaboration with an established conservation program on the political, economic and ecological issues involved in biodiversity conservation, thereby building personal credentials and contacts.
- Explore the linguistic and cultural diversity of Equatorial Guinea by collaborating with local university students on research projects and on Spanish language skills.
The Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program (BBPP) runs this program in conjunction with its academic partners, the National University of Equatorial Guinea and Drexel University. Formerly (through Spring 2008) the program was offered by Arcadia University's highly respected Center for Education Abroad. Beginning Fall 2008, sponsorship of the program has been assumed by Drexel University's Study Abroad Office because the principal scientist affiliated with BBPP (Dr. Gail Hearn) relocated to Drexel University.
The island of Bioko is one of the most beautiful and biologically-significant places in all of Africa. It is home to Africa's greatest concentration of endangered primates and to more than fifty unique species of plants. During the dry season (November to February), butterflies gather in the rainforest and endangered marine turtles come ashore to nest on the black sand beaches. Nearly 200 species of birds fly amongst the island's three volcanic peaks, the highest over 3000 meters above sea level (≈ 10,000 ft).
Located 20 miles (37 km) off the coast of Cameroon in west central Africa, Bioko is a part of the African country of Equatorial Guinea. At Bioko's northern tip is the country's capital city, Malabo (population: 100,000), a city pulsing with petroleum wealth and easily accessible from many European capitals. Moving south the island becomes increasingly rural, devolving into large swaths of undisturbed virgin rainforest.
The cornerstone course of the program is ENVS 344 - Field Research in Tropical Ecology (6 quarter credits= 4 semester credits), which takes advantage of the unspoiled rainforest adjacent to the Moka Wildlife Center, a university-affiliated research station located in the highlands of Bioko Island. This course has been taught by an exciting combination of both prominent (Dr. Tom Butynski; Dr. Esteban Sarmiento) and emerging (Dr. Drew Cronin) field biologists, who have focused on cooperative learning techniques to span cultural differences and impart a sound foundation for ecological research and conservation best-practices.
Dr. Drew Cronin is a Postdoctoral Researcher with the BBPP whose main research interests include primate ecology and conservation, and the drivers and dynamics of bushmeat consumption. Drew first traveled to Bioko as a undergraduate student in 2005, and after completing his bachelor’s degree at Arcadia University, he then served as the Resident Director for the Bioko Study Abroad Program from 2007 to 2008. Drew received his Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Drexel University focusing on patterns of bushmeat consumption and the effect of hunting on primate populations on Bioko. As such, he has first hand knowledge of conservation work from many viewpoints, and is able to relate this to students on many levels.
The Field Research in Tropical Ecology takes place at the Moka Wildlife Center in Bioko's comfortable southern highlands, home to many of Bioko's most interesting forest animals.
A second shorter field course, ENVS 343. Field Methods in Tropical Ecology (3 quarter credits = 2 semester credits) involves a one-week expedition to Bioko's undisturbed southern coast (during the fall term) or the Gran Caldera Expedition (during the Jan-Mar term). This expedition gives students the opportunity to census forest animals, especially the seven species of monkeys which occur at high densities in this area, and also to record nesting activities by the four species of sea turtles.
The remaining courses (Natural Resource Economics; Society and Environment; and Spanish Language Study) are taught at the National University of Equatorial Guinea in the capital city of Malabo.
The courses offered in this program have been specifically designed to reflect the realities of biodiversity conservation in developing countries. The following five courses are required for students participating in the program:
- ENVS 344: EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Field Research in Tropical Ecology (6 quarter credits = 4 semester credits) An Intensive Research course that takes advantage of the unspoiled rainforest adjacent to the Moka Wildife Center, a university affiliated research station located in the highlands of Bioko Island. Opportunities exist for student research on topics including primates, antelope, birds, chameleons, butterflies and plants.
- ENVS 343: EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Field Methods in Tropical Ecology (3 quarter credits = 2 semester credits) A field excursion course based out of the University of Equatorial Guinea (UNGE), the Moka Wildlife Center, and various other field sites throughout Bioko. This course combines instruction in standard methods for studying rainforest communities (expedition planning; GPS and mapping, forest diversity and productivity; wildlife population monitoring) with multi-day field experiences in Bioko Island's remote protected areas.
- ENVS 342: EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Natural Resource Economics (4.5 quarter credits = 3 semester credits) A lecture course that combines instruction in the economic implications of natural resourcees (renewable and non-renewable resources, efficient utilization, market performance, government controls, sustainability and discounting) with a university-wide guest lecture series addressing local issues.
- ENVS 341: EQUATORIAL GUINEA : Society and Environment (4.5 quarter credits = 3 semester credits) A lecture and community outreach course based at UNGE that combines instruction in mankind's relationship with the natural environment (human population, natural resources, environmental degradation, pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change) with environmental outreach activities specific to Equatorial Guinea.
- LANG 180: SPANISH LANGUAGE AND AFRICAN CULTURE IN EQUATORIAL GUINEA. (4.0 quarter credits = ≈3 semester credits) This course is tailored to fit the language needs of our students. For those students proficient with Spanish, we offer a lecture and discussion course that explores the social and cultural traditions of Equatorial Guinea through readings of significant works (poetry, fiction, social and cultural commentary) in Spanish by Equatoguinean authors. We also offer more introductory language-based courses for students without prior experience.
Students take all 5 courses for a total 22 quarter credits (= 12 to 15 semester credits) during each 11-week term (Drexel students take 20 credits in order to not be charged for a credit overload). There are opportunities for service learning, especially teaching English as a Second Language, as well as volunteering in local schools, clinics and at BBPP's Moka Wildlife Center.
The courses in the program are taught in English and the professors (some US citizens; some Equatoguinean citizens) typically have advanced degrees from accredited universities in the United States.
While all coursework on this program will be in English, the national language of Equatorial Guinea is Spanish, thus it is preferred if students have at least one year of university level Spanish (Spanish 103) or the equivalent or several years of university level French, the second language of Equatorial Guinea.
To advance their language skills more quickly before studying abroad, Drexel students should consider taking more language courses during their freshman summer vacation term or on campus during their co-op terms. For more information please contact the Drexel Modern Languages Program at 215-895-5816.
Drexel students will receive Drexel credits and Drexel grades. The grades will be tabulated in their GPA.
Visiting students will receive one official Drexel transcript sent directly to your home institution. It is your responsibility to make sure that you understand how you will receive credit for the work you do on Bioko Island. Please check with your study abroad and academic advisors before you leave in order to avoid future disappointment.
Students live in tents while on the Field Research in Tropical Ecology course, and while taking the Field Methods in Tropical Ecology course, a total of about 4 weeks of the program, but during the rest of the program live in a group house in the capital city of Malabo. The house is located in the Los Angeles section of Malabo on a busy street 15 minutes walk from the University. The house has hot water, electricity, A/C, and intermittent email. Every student is issued a cell phone, thus there is no land line in the house. In prior years the group has employed a maid/cook to clean, purchase food, and prepare meals. This cost is not included in the program fee. Students should budget about $650 on communal fund expenses (breakfast, dinner, occasional lunch).
Due to fluctuations in costs and schedules, the following dates below are presented as approximate, but are subject to change:
- Fall Term
- ~September 15 - December 15
- Winter Term
- ~January 2 - March 30