Study Abroad Opportunities in Biological Sciences


Madagascar Past and Present: Biodiversity, Extinction and Conservation

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 experiential knowledge of: 

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

Students and instructors will begin the field school in Antananarivo, where we will have an opportunity to hear guest lecturers and observe fossils of the giant extinct lemurs. From there, we will go on to briefly visit Parc Zoologique d’Ivoloina where students will observe captive and free-ranging lemurs (and practice data collection methodologies) as well as learn about local conservation initiatives. Third, we will travel to Tsinjoarivo where we will spend the majority of our trip.


Tsinjoarivo is a unique, high-altitude rainforest found at the escarpment dividing Madagascar’s central high plateau from its eastern lowlands. Tsinjoarivo is ideal for studies of forest fragmentation and disturbance because of the existence of an east-west fragmentation gradient over a distance of less than 15 kilometers. Here students will see the lemurs that have been studied for 12 years, and apply ecological and behavioral sampling techniques as they work on targeted brief research projects in the surrounding forests.

For more information contact:
Short-term Study Abroad

International Programs

Dr. Mitchell Irwin
NIU Department of Anthropology

Dr. Karen Samonds
NIU Department of Biological Sciences 

Also, check out the NIU Study Abroad website and Sadabe Madagascar


Photo of Mitchell Irwin 

Dr. Mitchell Irwin
Dr. Irwin has studied the ecology of living lemurs for more than 10 years, focusing on how habitat disturbance affects the ecology, behavior and health of individuals and populations. This work has included feeding ecology, nutrition, body mass and condition, and parasitology, mainly focusing on the diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema).

Photo of Karen Samonds

Dr. Karen Samonds
Dr. Samonds is a paleontologist whose research integrates comparative anatomy, systematics, and biogeography with field paleontology to address topics in vertebrate evolution. Her paleontological field research aims to shed light on the origin and evolutionary history of Madagascar’s modern fauna, one of the most unique and endemic on the planet.