East Africa: Biology

Program Snapshot
Semester: Fall
Offered: Every three years
Upcoming: Fall 2026
Estimated Dates: Late August to early December
Program Focus: Regional Area Study with Biology Emphasis
Prerequisites: BIO 110 and 201, and 202 and all prerequisites associated with those classes. GPA of 3.0 or higher is expected. Students must satisfy the Words and Numbers CORE requirement before participating in an overseas program.
Housing: Varies throughout the program
Fall 2026
Program Leader:
Greta Binford
Professor of Biology
binford@lclark.edu, 503-768-7653

Program Design

In cooperation with Dorobo Safaris, Lewis & Clark College offers a program of cultural and biological studies focused on human culture and history, as well as the diversity and ecology of tropical organisms in both marine and terrestrial habitats. This program is intended for biology majors. Over the course of the semester, the group travels to different parts of northern Tanzania to study Swahili language, culture, history, and ecology in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. A defining characteristic of this program is its mobility; accommodations during the semester include homestays, camping in tents, and staying in remote lodges and small hotels. The program includes an independent research component, giving students the opportunity to conduct field research and develop a project focused on tropical ecology.

Itinerary Overview: This program takes place in northern Tanzania, in East Africa. It begins in the village of Olasiti, just outside the city of Arusha. Here, students receive a general orientation to the program, along with Swahili instruction (WLL 101) and lectures on culture and history (IS 210). Instruction in these topics continues as the program moves on successive weeks to Magi ya Chai, at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and Mambo View, a village in the western Usambara mountain chain. Next, the itinerary shifts to coastal Tanzania, beginning with a visit to forests near Amani, in the eastern Usambaras and followed by travel to the island of Zanzibar. While on Zanzibar, students continue their Swahili language instruction and finish their IS 210 coursework with studies of coastal Swahili culture and history. After Zanzibar, students move to the coast of Tanzania, near Pangani, to begin their biology curriculum (BIO 325 and BIO 490). This coastal component includes snorkeling on coral reefs, along with boat travel. After this, the group returns to Arusha in preparation for an extended safari (approximately four weeks, with stops in Oldoinyo Sambu, Tarangire, Nou Forest, Yaida Valley, Soitorgos, and Lake Natron). This exposes students to various terrestrial habitats for continued biological studies and allows for cultural immersion with the Hadzabe (traditional hunter/gatherers) and Maasai (including homestay in a traditional Maasai boma). The final three weeks of the program are spent conducting independent terrestrial and marine ecological research projects as part of the BIO 490 course. 

Onsite Staff: This program is supported by an excellent team of Tanzanian residents who oversee curriculum and logistics throughout the semester. They have worked with Lewis & Clark programs for nearly 20 years to build a curriculum specifically designed for our students. With diverse backgrounds and decades of in-country experience, they offer a remarkable opportunity to explore a variety of habitats, people, and contemporary issues across the breadth of northern Tanzania.

To learn about one student’s experience on the program, check out this photo essay, titled “Where we Learn(ed)” and created by Makayla Simmer ’21. Makayla participated in the East Africa: Biology program in Fall 2019, and she created this photo essay as a follow-on service project for the Gilman Scholarship.


Requirements Fulfilled:

General Education - This program fulfills the Global Perspectives general education requirement for students who successfully complete 8 or more semester credits. IS 210 fulfills the Culture, Power and Identity, or the Historical Perspectives general education requirement.

Major Requirements - BIO 325 and BIO 490 may be applied to the Biology major. BIO 325 counts as a lab course.

Credits: 17 credits (4 courses)


IS 210: Area Studies, East Africa: History, Culture, and Change (4 credits)

East Africa is a region of extraordinary ethnic, cultural, and biological diversity. Beginning with the dawn of humanity, this course examines the movements and settlement patterns of various peoples of the region. Special attention is given to the impact of overseas influences during the last millennium, particularly those of the Arab-Muslim world during initial contact, and those of the Western-Christian world during the colonial period. The course also considers the rise of African nationalism, the end of colonial rule.

WLL 101: Swahili Language Instruction (4 credits)

Introduction to basic vocabulary and structural patterns of Kiswahili. Present, past and future tenses. Practice in using the language: oral comprehension and development of skills in speaking, reading, and writing basic Swahili in order to function in everyday-life situations in Tanzania. 

BIO 325: Vertebrate Diversity (5 credits)

An examination of the ecological and evolutionary processes that promote and maintain patterns of form, function, and behavior of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Lectures, discussions, and readings of original literature will combine with field/lab exercises that explore regional patterns of diversity in natural settings.

BIO 490: Special Topics: Behavior and Ecology of Tropical Marine and Terrestrial Organisms (4 credits) 

Advanced study of behavior and ecology within two tropical habitats: Coral reefs and grassland savannah. Lectures and discussions will focus on the underlying ecological processes that generate community level pattern in these habitats.  Field observations will explore the behavioral mechanisms that contribute to coexistence and stability within two very different habitats. Students are expected to develop and implement relevant independent study projects.

Relationship to On-Campus Curriculum: The biology-focused East Africa program is intended for students majoring in biology, particularly those with interests in tropical field biology, coral reefs and savanna ecology. By offering a comparative perspective on democratic political institutions, international relations, gender roles, etc, the program is also attractive to students from a number of other major programs, including Environmental Studies, Sociology/Anthropology, Political Science, International Affairs, Economics, Rhetoric & Media Studies, and Psychology.

Irrespective of their major course of study, students may also relate their education abroad to various on-campus activities including regularly offered courses, self-directed independent study or practicum, and cultural celebrations such as the International Fair.  Relevant courses include various International Affairs and Sociology/Anthropology offerings (e.g., IA 230 African Politics; SOAN 255 Medicine, Healing, and Culture; SOAN 265 Critical Perspectives on Development; SOAN 349 Indigenous Peoples: Identities and Politics) as well as courses in Music, Art, etc.

Student Life

Housing: Accommodations vary throughout the program depending on location. Students stay with local families in the West Usambara Mountains for several nights and with Maasai families in traditional bomas. Students spend a significant portion of the program camping in tents as the program moves from one location to another. The group also occasionally stays in lodges and small hotels.


2023-2024 Fee Breakdown*

Total Fee (includes Tuition, Program Fee, and Health & Wellness Fee): $39,385

Tuition: $30,958

Program Fee: $8,390

Health & Wellness Fee: $37**

Included in the program fee are room/housing, board/meals, and administrative fees. Not included are airfare, passport and visa expenses, primary insurance coverage, photographs, books, immunizations, and incidentals. 

*Fees are updated every February for the following academic year.

**The Health & Wellness Fee supports the operations of Wellness Services staff in delivering pre-program orientation services, as well as in providing health-related consultation regarding participant health needs. All students in the College of Arts and Sciences pay a mandatory fee of $37 per semester.

Stipend: Students will receive a stipend to cover the cost of meals and transportation costs not covered by the program fee.

Estimated Airfare (Round Trip PDX to JRO): $1,500 - $2,000

Estimated Travel Document Fees: $175 - $225

Estimated Health Insurance Fee: $1,906

All students participating in overseas programs are automatically enrolled in iNext, a supplemental travel insurance program. The fee for iNext is covered in the program cost. However, students are also required to have comprehensive health insurance during their time abroad. All students participating in overseas programs, both abroad and domestic, are automatically enrolled in the College’s student health insurance program. Similar to a regular semester on-campus, students participating in overseas programs may waive enrollment in the student health insurance program if they have other comprehensive health insurance (e.g., through a parent, guardian or employer) that 1) provides coverage for them in the geographic region in which they will be studying and 2) includes mental health benefits. Click here for more information regarding health insurance & overseas programs.

Program Preparation

Application Process: Applications are due one year before the start of the program. The semester before the program, students who have been accepted will meet regularly for orientation. This orientation is meant to prepare the students for life in Tanzania by exploring literature and culture, and provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the logistical details of the program.

For more information about the application process, click here.

Travel: Students usually fly into Kilimanjaro airport (JRO), where they are met by onsite program staff.

Visa: Students will be required to apply for a visa in order to participate in this program. More information will be provided upon admission to the program.

Country-Specific Health Information: Click here to view specific health information for people traveling to Tanzania.

State Department Country Information: Click here to visit the State Department’s Tanzania page.

East Africa