Primates, Ecology, and Conservation in Indonesia

Course overview

We are offering a new four-week study abroad program entitled "Primates, Ecology, and Conservation in Indonesia" to be offered during summer sessions beginning in 2014. This program is a unique opportunity for students to gain a hands-on immersive educational experience within Indonesia. Instructors will include faculty members from both Rutgers University (Drs. Erin Vogel, Rob Scott, and Wendy Erb) as well as Universitas Nasional Jakarta (UNAS). The program will consist of two modules: "Advanced Primate Behavior and Ecology" and "Applied Conservation and Ecosystem Management". These courses will provide students with a scientific foundation of information and skills necessary for successfully conducting graduate studies in these areas. Successful completion of this course will require a brief, independent research project, report, and presentation. Further information about each module is detailed below:

"Applied Conservation and Ecosystem Management": The first module will take place in Halimun National Park in West Java and will focus on the challenges posed by climate change, human impacts on the ecosystem, and extinction risks. The field component of the course will include hands-on training in survey, census, and data collection. These methods are critical skills for survey positions with NGO's and government organizations and will make students more competitive in the international market. Students will also take several organized field trips focused on the interface between human activities and the ecosystem.  

"Advanced Primate Behavior and Ecology": The second module will take place at Tuanan Biological Field Station in Central Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. Students will be familiarized with collecting behavioral data on wild orangutans, quantifying habitat characteristics, collecting biological samples, using GPS units and GIS software to record home ranges, and analyzing and summarizing data in the form of a scientific report. Lectures at the field station will be complemented by field-based demonstrations in the forest. This hands-on model of learning has proven most successful in education programs and field courses around the world. At the end of the course, students will be required to present their research project results in a short PowerPoint presentation to the faculty, students, researchers, community members, and field assistants at the station.

The full program will take four weeks, which includes about 10 days for each module and a brief field trip to Seribu Islands at the end of the program, where students will have the opportunity to assist with a sea turtle release program and explore the coral reef diversity of Indonesia.

An immersive experience

During this program, students will be fully immersed into the Indonesian way of life. They will gain first-hand experience with numerous aspects of the local Indonesian culture, language, religion, and cuisine, as well as the unique ecology and wildlife, and will develop an appreciation for the cultural and biological diversity that exists in the archipelago during their visits to two of the country's major islands. Students will live and study at two working biological field stations, working side by side with tropical biologists from around the world. In Tuanan, they will get to know the unique Dayak culture that is indigenous to Borneo, while they share the camp with residents of the local community.

After four weeks of intensive coursework and study, students will spend their last days in Indonesia soaking up some sun in one of Indonesia's coastal habitats, Kepulauan Seribu (Thousand Islands), located just off the coast of Java. The Thousand Islands Marine National Park is well known for its beautiful coral reefs and as a protected sanctuary for sea turtle breeding. Lodging will be provided in small homestays, providing students with further interactions with the local communities. Students will explore this unique marine environment, with opportunities for swimming and snorkeling, while learning about the local fishing culture in the islands. Courses will be co-taught by faculty members from the Biology Department at Universitas Nasional Jakarta. Rutgers students will study closely with Indonesian students from UNAS who will also participate in the program. For both courses, guest lecturers will be brought in from local NGO's in the area including the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation and Flora Fauna International. These guest lectures will further promote connections relevant to future employment opportunities for the students. This brief and intensive program will not include any formal language training. However, students are expected to develop a working knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia during their stay in Indonesia. This language is typically easy to pick up quickly, as the writing and pronunciation are familiar to English speakers, and the grammar is relatively simple. Since courses will be led by American and Indonesian faculty, and attended by both American and Indonesian students, both English and Indonesian will be used throughout the program. Frequent interactions with Indonesian participants and staff will enable students to practice their spoken language skills on a regular basis.


Students will arrive at Jakarta International Airport, and will be met there by program coordinators, to ensure that all students are safely accompanied at this busy airport. We will charter a large van to transport students from the airport directly to and from Halimun National Park, a five-hour drive. We will fly as a group from Jakarta to Palangkaraya by local air carrier, and will spend one evening in Palangkaraya before traveling to Tuanan. In Palangkaraya, program participants will stay in dorms within a large house rented by the Tuanan Orangutan Research Project. From Palangkaraya, we will charter several cars and boats to make the three-hour journey to the Tuanan filed site. During excursions into the forest, students will always travel in groups of at least four people, and will be accompanied by guides, faculty, and/or teaching assistants to ensure their safety. Program personnel will be trained in first aid and CPR, and basic medical supplies will be available at both field stations. Students will be encouraged to get the appropriate immunizations, prescription drugs (e.g., antibiotics), and prophylactic treatments for malaria, as advised by a travel medicine physician. Security of students will be ensured at all times by the accompanying program faculty from Rutgers and UNAS.

At both sites, students will be housed at field stations, where sleeping, bathing, and cooking facilities are available. Students will have their own beds and mosquito nets, but will share dormitory-style rooms. Indonesian-style restrooms will be available in camp for toilets and bathing. All meals will be prepared for students by staff at the field stations. Breakfast and dinner will be eaten at the station, while lunch will be carried into and eaten in the forest most days. Meals will feature local cuisine, which typically includes rice, fish, egg, and vegetables. Kosher, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan meals can be arranged and provided. The field stations have open-air meeting rooms/classrooms for instruction. Lectures will primarily feature PowerPoint presentations made with a laptop and projector. We will also show a limited number of documentary and educational films to supplement lecture material. Much of the course activities, however, will be hands-on and will take place in the forest. Students should expect to spend about half of their instruction time in the camp, with the other half taking place during field trips and excursions into the forest.

The ideal participant

This program features advanced training for students wishing to acquire skills critical for entry into graduate school or for field-based work in ecology or tropical biology. As such, we anticipate primarily juniors and seniors to enroll, in particular those with a very strong background in anthropology, biology, and/or ecology. Students will be expected to work and study for long hours and to design and execute independent research projects. Thus, we would recommend recruiting students in good academic standing (minimum GPA of 2.5) who have demonstrated their commitment to their respective fields, and who have some experience in research activities.

Click here to read about our Summer 2013 field course.

Click here to visit our Facebook page.

Click here to download our presentation.

Click here to download our flyer.

Apply online by March 1 at Rutgers Center for Global Education!

For more information, email Dr. Vogel or Dr. Scott.


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