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Programs : Brochure

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  • Locations: Rotorua, New Zealand
  • Program Terms: Spring
  • Budget Sheets: Spring
  • This program is currently not accepting applications.
Fact Sheet:
Field of Study: Anthropology, Ecology, Environmental Studies, Marine Biology, Political Science Language of Instruction: English
Course Number: 228 Program Host: St. Olaf College
Class Eligibility: Junior, Senior, Sophomore Prerequisites: Bio 150, ES 137, or Bio/ES 226
Department: OFFC Advisor or Instructor: Paul Jackson
Program Description:

This program is offered spring semester during alternate years (2018, 2020 etc.) and is open to all  students. Spring Semester 2018, pending faculty approval, begins with 4 weeks in New Zealand followed by three months in Australia.   You will be on the move throughout the semester, with stays ranging from two days to two weeks. Accommodations include university residences, hotels/motels, apartments, field stations, and tent camping.
The flora, fauna, ecological habitats, human history, and geology of Australia and New Zealand offer opportunities for study that are unique for their diversity and time horizons. The landscapes range from white sandy beaches to dry bush inland to broadleaf, temperature, and tropical rainforests. The diversity of mammalian fauna, over 600 species of Eucalyptus, and the Great Barrier Reef provide examples of how biological organisms have adapted to the isolation of the Australian continent and the islands of New Zealand.
The human history is no less fascinating.  Aboriginal Australians represent the oldest continuous culture in the world today and the Maori exemplify Polynesian expansion and settlement more than 500 years prior to Europeans. Students will learn how people’s adaptation to environmental conditions shows remarkable innovation, as well as how the recent European invasion significantly altered Indigenous lifestyle and affected many environmental parameters.
In addition to increasing our understanding of human behavior across cultures, cross-cultural psychology, we will explore how various animals and humans navigate their environment – an ability fundamental to species survival - as we navigate our own way around Australia and New Zealand.  A combination of lectures, extensive field experiences, and brief research projects enable students to learn about and appreciate this fascinating area of the world. All courses are taken concurrently and will be highly integrated to provide a strong interdisciplinary focus.
Students are free to travel independently after the program as well as during the breaks.
The prerequisite course requirement for this program is Biology 150: Evolutionary Foundations of Biodiversity OR Biology/Environmental Studies 226: Conservation Biology OR Environmental Studies 137: Introduction to Environmental Studies. Group size is limited to 24 students. The program is open to qualified students from other institutions. Selection is made on the basis of each applicant’s professional interest, scholastic standing, aptitude for rigorous travel conditions, class in college, faculty recommendations, and an interview. This program is ideal for travel in the sophomore or junior year.
Except during spring break, participants are required to remain with the group at all times and take part in all curricular and co-curricular activities, and to travel with the group in accordance with the planned program. Participants must provide their own transportation to and from the U.S. departure point on the West Coast.
In 2016, the program fee was $16,235 over and above St. Olaf tuition. The program covers: round-trip
international travel from the West Coast of the United States to New Zealand and Australia (arrive in Auckland and depart from Brisbane); all surface travel in New Zealand and Australia; all accommodations including equipment for tent camping; breakfast and one main meal per day as well as lunches on all field excursions. The program fee does not cover meals, accommodations, or transportation during the break periods.
The Itinerary (tentative)
•   Auckland & Rotorua
*   Wellington
*  Christchurch
*  Mt. Cook Nat’l. Park
*   Queenstown & Dunedin
*  Melbourne
•  Queenscliffe
•  Otway Mountains and Great Ocean Road
•  Phillip Island Nature Park
*  Sydney
•  Brisbane
•  Lamington Nat’l Park (rain forest)
•  North Stradbroke Island
•  Carnarvon Nat’l. Park
•  Heron Island (Great Barrier Reef)

Courses of Study
Four courses are offered (two biology, one sociology/anthropology, one political science); course content and specific field locations may vary somewhat from year to year.
Biology 226: Terrestrial Ecology
Focus on Australian flora and fauna as influenced by landscape and climate (past and present).The impact of past and present human activity will be examined from an ecological perspective. Lectures supplemented by extensive field trips and short term field research projects.  Counts toward biology major (biology majors see note below for information on core requirements), and environmental studies major and concentration (natural science or elective). GE: Oral Communications (ORC), Scientific Exploration and Discovery (SED).
Biology 224: Marine Biology
Covers abiotic as well as biotic factors and their relationships. Includes an examination of effects of geological and climatic influences. The environmental impact of human activity will be examined. Lectures supplemented by field trips from the cold waters of Southern Australia to the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef.  Counts toward biology major, (biology majors, see note below for information on core requirements) and the environmental studies major and concentration (natural science or elective).
Sociology/Anthropology 222: Cultural Anthropology
An introduction to the native aboriginal culture of Australia, their adaptations and role in the environment. Examines the European impact on the aborigines and on the Australian environment since settlement. Lectures supplemented by field trips and participatory experiences.  Counts toward environmental studies major and concentration (social science or elective).  GE: Multicultural Studies (MCG).
Political Science 221: Environmental Policy
Examination of the present political structure and organization of Australian government and political parties. Special emphasis on policies concerning the environment and aboriginal people. Lectures supplemented by field trips including visits to state or national parliament.   Counts toward environmental studies major and concentration (social science or elective). GE: Studies in Human Behavior and Society (HBS).

Letter grades are recorded on the student’s transcript. Only the course most connected to the field supervisor’s expertise will count in the grade point average. Cultural Anthropology will serve this role in 2018.  Students have the option of taking this course for a grade or for S/U (if S/U, no course credit is given where the grade earned is below C).
Special Note for Biology Majors:
Biology majors may choose to fulfill EITHER the multicellular organism core course OR the ecology core course of the major (not both). The other biology course will count as an elective in the major.

Gary and Sian Muir

Gary and Sian Muir were born and raised in Dunedin, New Zealand, making them “Kiwis” (named after the bird, not the fruit). Growing up in NZ instilled a curiosity about the rest of the world, and an appreciation for its diverse environs and cultures. They are deeply committed to St. Olaf’s mission, which challenges students to be active participants in “an inclusive, globally engaged community” and led Global Semester in 2011-12 with 27 students.
In 2004 Gary accepted a position in the St. Olaf Psychology Department, teaching courses in psychology and neuroscience. He has taught cross-cultural psychology and his research explores the neural basis of navigation. As Field Supervisor, Gary is excited to be leading a program exploring the critical influence that the environment and culture have had in shaping life in Australia and New Zealand.
Sian Muir obtained her MBA at Massey University, New Zealand and then worked at Dartmouth College in the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network. She also joined St. Olaf in 2004 where she was Associate Director of the Finstad Office for Entrepreneurial Studies. Sian is now full-time in the Management Studies Department teaching marketing, entrepreneurship, arts management and business strategy classes.
The duo has two sons, Mason and Finn (who will be 21 and 18, respectively, at the time of the program). Finn will be accompanying the program, so if students need a little brother to pick on, he will be available 24/7. The Muirs live in Northfield with their two cats, Harry and Cho.

Important Dates
Applications open                                                   November 4
Environmental Science Interest Meeting.                  February 15
                                                                             4:00-5:00 p.m.
                                                                             RNS 310
Applications due                                                     February 27, 2017
Interviews, Selection, and Notifications                    By March 16, 2017
Orientation Retreat                                                April 28 and 29, 2017
For further information, please contact:
Program Advisor: Paul Jackson, RNS 422; Ext. 3404; Email:
2018 Field Supervisors:
Gary Muir, RNS 222; Ext. 3138; email:
Sian Muir, Rolvaag 260C; Ext. 3904; email:
2016 Field Supervisor: David Nitz
RNS 262, x3619, email:
International and Off-Campus Studies
Tomson Hall 380, x3069; email:

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Academic Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring 2018-2019 03/01/2018
03/22/2018 TBA TBA

Indicates that deadline has passed

This program is currently not accepting applications.