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Tanzania: Zanzibar - Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management (SIT)


Todd Heidt

Director, Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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In this SIT program, you will discover the biodiversity and ecosystems of Zanzibar, Mafia, and Pemba islands and coastal mainland Tanzania.

Zanzibar’s unique ecological context is ideal for exploring specific environmental topics, including coral reef conservation, tropical forest management, and resource management. From the program’s base in Stone Town, you’ll examine issues in marine and coastal environments through lectures and short excursions. You’ll explore Misali Island Conservation Area and Chumbe Island Coral Park Ecotourism Project and Reserve; see marine biodiversity while snorkeling off Bawe, Changuu, and Misali and in the Mbudya and Sinda Islands reserves; and examine the unprotected Pange Reef.

You will learn the techniques, methods, and ethics necessary for successful field research. Throughout this section of the program, you will establish ideas for your Independent Study Project (ISP) and learn to properly develop your research topics. Zanzibar's geographic and ecological assets, including its extensive coastline, flora, fauna, and tropical climate, create an optimal environment to examine coastal ecology and natural resource management. The area also provides you with an exceptional opportunity to conduct research on rare endemic species such as the Pemba flying fox, the largest fruit bat in the world, and the coconut crab, the world’s largest land crab. Through thematic seminars and hands-on learning with academic and professional experts, you will explore the diversity and natural resources of Zanzibar (known locally as Unguja), and coastal Tanzania, challenging yourself to understand the larger questions of conservation practice in the region.

SIT’s partners include the Zanzibar government, specifically the Department of Forestry, the Department of Environment, and the Department of Fisheries; the Institute of Marine Sciences in Zanzibar; and The University of Dar es Salaam on mainland Tanzania). Through SIT’s extensive regional networks, you will have the opportunity to access experts in government and nongovernmental agencies.

Key topics of study include:

  • The challenges to the region’s fragile ecosystems posed by tourism and other industries
  • Sustainable management of the region's coastal forests, coral reefs, and vulnerable fauna
  • The complex dynamics of local ecosystems in relation to resident communities
  • Terrestrial, intertidal, and marine ecosystems

You will spend the final part of the semester focused on an Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP provides you with an opportunity to critically examine a topic relating to the marine biodiversity, coastal ecology, terrestrial ecology, issues in resource consumption, or socioeconomic factors in natural resource management in the region. Research on certain topics can only be done in Zanzibar, as some of the examined species are unique to Zanzibar.

Past ISP topics have included examining a variety of conservation, social, and ecological issues, and research conducted by students on this program has served as a valuable resource to the Zanzibari government and other organizations in the region.

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • Turtle conservation on Misali Island
  • Oral histories of a Zanzibari fishing village
  • A survey of invasive species in Jozani Forest
  • Environmental impact of hotels on Unguja
  • Pesticide use and awareness
  • Coral reef biodiversity
  • Amphibian ecology
  • Butterfly and oyster farming as alternative incomes
  • Sustainable use of natural resources for building materials
  • The changing value of fish in a subsistence economy in relation to tourism
  • Expression of environmental ethics through storytelling

Learn more about the Tanzania: Zanzibar - Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management program and other SIT programs

Credit:  4.5 for the fall or spring semester

Advisors: Professors Katherine Adelsberger, Jennifer Templeton and Jim Mountjoy

Click here for more information about the application process, program selection, and more!

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Printed on Monday, May 23, 2022