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  • Locations: Antananarivo, Madagascar
  • Program Terms: Summer
  • Budget Sheets: Summer
  • This program is currently not accepting applications.
Dates / Deadlines:

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.
Fact Sheet:
Area of Study: Anthropology, Biological Sciences, Environmental Sciences Program Type: Faculty Directed
Class Eligibility: Graduate Student, Junior, Senior, Sophomore, Student At Large Housing Options: Hotel
Language of Instruction: English Program Provider: NIU Faculty
Program Description:

Madagascar Past and Present: Biodiversity, Extinction and Conservation




Faculty Directors:
Assistant Professor Mitchell IrwinAssistant Professor Karen Samonds

Program Overview

This study abroad program is coordinated by the Northern Illinois University Study Abroad Office (SAO), in cooperation with the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the NIU Department of Anthropology, as well as the Department of Paleontology and Biological Anthropology of the University of Antananarivo, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and SADABE, an NGO based in Madagascar.

PROGRAM OVERVIEW/OBJECTIVES:  The primary purpose of this program is to provide participants with the opportunity to learn first-hand about primate biodiversity, extinction, forest fragmentation and conservation in Madagascar, one of the world’s foremost biodiversity hotspots.  The program will focus on building an experiential knowledge of:

1. Madagascar’s existing biodiversity, especially its >100 primate species.
2. The 16 primate species that have been lost to extinction in the past few thousand years.
3. The complexities and challenges of conservation in this third-world nation.

This course is intended to expand upon students’ theoretical background in either primatology, biology, or conservation biology.


1) See first-hand the world’s leading collection of subfossil lemurs at the Department of Palaeontology and Biological Anthropology at the University of Antananarivo, and have the chance to participate in research projects using these rare specimens.
2) See first-hand rare and threatened Malagasy lemurs, such as the diademed sifaka, the aye-aye, and the greater bamboo lemur.
3) Experience how primatological research projects are carried out, from the conception and design, through data collection, analysis and presentation.
4) Work alongside Malagasy students and research assistants
5) Meet with and learn about local community associations in rural Madagascar, and the unique challenges they face in basic subsistence, health and education.
6) Visit subfossil field sites in the Sambaina basin north of Antsirabe.

For more information, please download the complete description in the program

For the complete PDF please click: Madagascar Field School 2015

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Course Offerings

For satisfactory participation in the program, participants will receive 6 semester hours of undergraduate or graduate credit in one of the following NIU courses. The courses taken while participating in this program cannot be audited. Applicants must participate in the entire program and satisfy NIU admission and course requirements.

Note for students interested in Biology credit:  Students interested in receiving BIOS credit are encouraged to choose ANTH credit and then work with Prof. Ken Gasser, the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Biological Studies, so he can administratively transfer the ANTH credit to count toward required BIOS electives.  


ANTH 493D Anthropology Field Study: Physical Anthropology 6 semester hours
Description: Directed field study or field school. Each topic may be repeated to a maximum of 12 semester hours.

Program Director Prerequisites: ANTH 240 or consent of Professor. Suggested preparation includes one upper-division course in physical anthropology. Catalog

Prerequisite: Consent of department.

ANTH 593D Anthropology Field School: Physical Anthropology 6 semester hours
Description: Directed field study or field school. Each topic may be repeated to a maximum of 12 semester hours.

Prerequisite: ANTH 240 and at least one graduate-level course relevant to primatology, ecology or conservation, or consent of Professor.

Prerequisite: Consent of department.

These courses (ANTH 493D and 593D) will focus on Madagascar’s endemic primate radiation, the lemurs. Currently there are just over 100 known lemur species, and 16 more were lost to extinction in just the last few thousand years. Madagascar is universally recognized as a globally important biodiversity hotspot, yet its natural habitats continue to shrink due to human population growth and illegal exploitation. Its lemurs are a rich source of knowledge (including primatological knowledge which helps with understanding the evolution of humans), a cultural and biological heritage of the Malagasy people, and a key tourist attraction (ecotourism is currently the highest-grossing industry in Madagascar). Lectures will be combined topically based visits to Universities and Zoological Parks, and hands-on research experience to explore Madagascar’s past and present primate diversity, as well as the unique and urgent conservation challenges it faces.  A large component of the course is the cultural exchange between NIU students and students from the University of Antananarivo who will also participate. In addition to background knowledge about Madagascar’s primates, students will learn first-hand the step needed to conduct primatological research, from project design through completion and presentation of results.   They will also meet with local community associations at the field site to talk about local perceptions of lemurs and wildlife conservation, and the pressing basic needs faced by rural Malagasy communities today. 

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Student Life

In Antananarivo, participants will reside in hotels, in twin bedded rooms with private and/or shared bath and toilet facilities and will be provided three meals daily throughout the period of residency.

At Andasibe and Antsirabe, participants will reside in hotels, in twin bedded rooms with private and/or shared bath and toilet facilities and will be provided three meals daily throughout the period of residency.

At Tsinjoarivo, participants will reside in tents that they supply themselves. The camp contains leveled, covered tent sites, one research lab/storage building, one refectory (covered eating area), one rudimentary toilet and one rudimentary shower. Participants will be provided three meals daily throughout the period of residency in addition to snacks.

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Application Information

APPLICATION FORMS AND DEPOSIT:  Click Madagascar Past and Present: Biodiversity, Extinction and Conservation or visit the NIU Study Abroad Office website at (and search for “Madagascar” or the Madagascar Past and Present: Biodiversity, Extinction and Conservation program) to begin the online application process for this program. The online process provides guidance on requesting information, advising, or applying for the program. Please note that at the time of application, applicants will be expected to submit a signature verification form and copy of their ID to the Study Abroad Office. More detailed instructions can be found on the website
$200 APPLICATION FEE/DEPOSIT:  A $200 application fee/deposit is required of all applicants.  The $200 is broken down into $100 for the non-refundable application fee and $100 for a program deposit.  Both the application fee and the deposit will be applied to the total balance of the program cost.  The $100 deposit is refundable only if the participant withdraws prior to the withdrawal deadline indicated on the program materials or for medical reasons verified by a physician if the withdrawal takes place after the deadline.
NIU Students - The $200 application fee/deposit will be charged to NIU students’ NIU Bursar account.  (Checks and money orders cannot be accepted from NIU students).  
Non-NIU students must submit a check or money order in the amount of $200.  More detailed instructions can be found on the application website mentioned above.  

    IMPORTANT – All applications will be categorized as “Pending – No Deposit” until the $200 application fee/deposit has been received (or, in the case of non-NIU students, once a check has been received).  The Study Abroad Office will not consider or process applications without the $200 application fee/deposit.  In order to reserve your place in the program you must submit the $200 deposit within 14 days of application.  After 14 days applications without a deposit will be inactivated. 


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Space is limited and qualified applicants will be accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis. The content of this field course will be geared towards students interested in (1) Anthropology (especially, but not exclusively, physical anthropology and primatology); (2) biology (especially those students interested in ecology, animal behavior and conservation); and (3) students interested in conservation biology and environmental studies. However, students from all majors would be welcome if a tangible link between their specialty and the course content can be established. Non-traditional students as well as non-NIU students are welcome.

  • Brief essay questions on the field school application will ask you to outline your background in physical anthropology, your interest in this program, as well as how the program will assist you academically and in the future.
  • Approval from Professor Irwin and Professor Samonds.

APPLICATION AND ADMISSION PROCEDURES: The program is open to undergraduates and/or graduate level students who meet the NIU general admission requirements, and who are interested in Physical Anthropology. Currently enrolled students must meet College of Liberal Arts and Sciences course GPA requirements. Graduate level students must also meet NIU Graduate School admission, course and GPA requirements. Students must be in good academic and disciplinary standing at the time of application. Students who are on academic or disciplinary probation are not eligible to participate in study abroad programs. Applicants must participate in the entire program and satisfy NIU undergraduate or graduate admission and course requirements. Students cannot have any encumbrances against their NIU records. Any encumbrances placed on a student’s records by NIU (i.e., the Graduate School, Undergraduate Admissions, Bursar’s Office, Accounts Receivable, Registration and Records, Health Services, Parking Services, etc.) must be cleared before a student is granted admission to a study abroad program.

For undergraduate students to be admitted to the program, an applicant’s official transcript must be on file in the NIU Study Abroad Office. Students who are currently enrolled at NIU, or who have previously enrolled at NIU, do not need to request an official transcript; the Study Abroad Office will make this request on behalf of the applicant. Students who want to participate in the program and earn academic credit from NIU who have not previously enrolled at NIU, or who are not currently enrolled at NIU, should ask the Registrar at their institution to forward an official transcript as soon as possible to the Study Abroad Office. (Student-issued transcripts and photocopies are not acceptable.) Questions relating to the admission requirements or transcripts should be directed to the Study Abroad Office.

Students who desire to obtain graduate credit must either be admitted to a graduate program within the NIU Graduate School, or be admitted to the status of a "student-at-large" (SAL) within NIU's Graduate School. For students to be admitted to the program for graduate credit, the applicant's official transcript must be on file in the NIU SAO. Students who are currently enrolled at NIU, or who have previously enrolled at NIU, do not need to request an official transcript. However, students who will participate in the program in order to earn academic credit as an SAL (students who have not currently enrolled, nor are previously enrolled at NIU) must provide a transcript from the baccalaureate institution and from any institution at which graduate credit has been earned. This document must be provided to the SAO before a student can be admitted as an SAL to the program. (Student issued transcripts and photocopies are not acceptable.)


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Program Fees

NIU PROGRAM COST: The program cost pays for the following cost related services:
1) Housing throughout the program.
2) All meals.
3) Program-related land transportation in Madagascar.
4) Admission fees to cultural and historical sites visited as part of the daily schedule.
5) Fee for acquiring a visa to enter Madagascar.
6) NIU tuition for 6 hours of undergraduate or graduate credit.
7) NIU major medical insurance for the duration of the program.
8) International Student I.D. Card.


• Airfare
• Cost of acquiring a passport (approximately $135).
• Passport size photos.
• Additional costs associated with obtaining a visa for non-U.S. passport holders.
• Immunization fees (if immunizations are required)
• $40 Undergraduate application fee for non-NIU undergraduate students.
• Independent travel and visa costs associated with independent travel.
• Expenses for free-time pursuits.
• Expenses and purchases of a personal nature.

All prices quoted are subject to change. The information contained in the program documents and forms is presented in good faith and is believed to be correct as of the date presented. Northern Illinois University reserves the right to amend, modify, revise, or delete any information appearing in these documents, including but not limited to the cost of the program. Non-NIU students should consult with their home institutions regarding additional costs that may apply to study abroad. Non-NIU students are responsible for any study abroad charges imposed by their home institution.

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Financial Aid

As a participant in a study abroad program through NIU, you may be eligible for: Pell Grant, SEOG, Perkins Loan, PLUS Loan, Subsidized or Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, MAP Award or your privately awarded scholarship with consent of awarding organization. Tuition waivers do not apply. Please contact Pamela Rosenberg, the International Programs business manager, in Williston Hall 408, (815) 753-9530, for more information.

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Withdrawal Policy

WITHDRAWAL FROM THE PROGRAM:  Applicants withdrawing from the program April 1, 2015 will not be refunded the $200 application fee/program deposit.

Applicants withdrawing from the program after this date will also be held accountable for any funds obligated to overseas vendors and agents on the applicant’s behalf.  This provision is in effect even if the applicant has not submitted the $200 deposit or additional payments, and if the applicant is applying for financial aid.

If the applicant must withdraw after April 1, 2015 for medical reasons, funds obligated on their behalf to overseas vendors can only be refunded if:

1)    The request is submitted to the Study Abroad Office in writing and accompanied by a signed statement stating that travel is not advised from a physician on the physician’s letterhead; and
2)    NIU is able to obtain refunds from overseas vendors and agents.  
CANCELLATION OF THE PROGRAM: The Study Abroad Office reserves the right to cancel this program if the minimum required enrollment is not attained.  If, prior to the commencement of the program, a U.S. State Department Travel Warning is issued for Madagascar, all applicants will be notified promptly of the warning and the possibility of cancellation of the program.  If, during the course of the program, a U.S. State Department Travel Warning is issued for Madagascar, students will be promptly notified of the warning and the advisability of canceling the program.

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Passport/Visa Information

All participants are expected to possess a passport in order to participate in this seminar. Important Note: U.S. passports must be valid SIX months beyond the intended stay overseas.

Individuals who do not currently posses a valid passport should apply for one immediately.

Information on acquiring a passport is available at the U.S. State Department’s Website: U.S. passport holders do not need special visas for this seminar. Foreign passport holders may need special visas for travel in England and are responsible for obtaining all necessary visas.

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Contact Information


Please contact the Study Abroad Office
Williston Hall 417
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115
Phone: (815) 753-0700

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This program is currently not accepting applications.