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Summer: Rutgers- Primatology, Wildlife Ecology, and Conservation in Kenya

Various, Kenya

Program Overview

Term Start Date End Date Application Deadline
Summer 2019
Jun 27, 2019
Jul 23, 2019
Mar 15, 2019
Language(s) of Instruction
Class Standing
Good Academic Standing


Program Advisor

The Program

Study African wildlife and conservation in an experiential environment.

Work with resident experts across a vast array of habitats and primate species, including some of the most endangered on earth, for an unparalleled breadth of experience. In addition to the scientific component, explore debates around wildlife preservation in East Africa and emerging innovative solutions that are contextually and culturally different than any found in the United States.

Rutgers Summer - Primatology, Wildlife Ecology, and Conservation in Kenya

Program Locations




Endowed with stunning ecological richness and biodiversity, Kenya offers a premiere classroom for an up close encounter with a broad range of native wildlife.  Students will discover and conduct research in environments ranging from the mangroves on the Indian Ocean, to the dry savannas of the Laikipia plateau, to the riverine forest along the Tana River.  With its diversity of habitats, Kenya boasts a particularly wide range of wild species. While the country leads other African nations in species and habitat protection, the future of its wildlife is still in the balance. More work needs to be done toward understanding the behavioral biology of Kenya’s wild species in order to ensure their survival.


To view a program’s sample syllabus, please click here.  Please note this is a sample syllabus, all of its content is subject to change.

The curriculum will comprise lectures, readings, and discussions on important concepts in primatology and conservation biology. Important notions in primate behavioral ecology will be reviewed, and students will learn about primate behavior and ecological data collection.

The core of the field school will be the training and practice of field methods, and in-depth analysis of previous field studies. Participants will learn how to census primates, study social behavior and habitat use, practice animal identification, conduct time budget analyses via scan and focal animal sampling, and measure habitat use.

In order to expose the participants to methods used to study primates found in different habitat types, the field school will be conducted in various ecologically different sites. Past field school highlights have included:

  • Mugie Ranch: At this extensive privately owned game ranch, students will explore the Laikipia grassland environment; learn to identify flora and fauna; debate conservation and anti-poaching efforts; conduct studies to assess the carrying capacity for the animal populations in relationship to the available vegetation. The ranch hosts a whole range of savanna animals living within the borders of the ranch, including two prides of radio-collared lions, which we will follow during day and night safaris.
  • Mt. Kenya: The Laikipia Plateau located in the central highlands of Kenya is one of the most scenic regions in Kenya. At the William Holden Foundation and Education Center, students will learn about a project on protecting and rehabilitating the Bongo – one of the most beautiful and rare species of antelope. At the Mt. Kenya Animal Orphanage students will see how primates, ungulates and other savanna animals are being rehabilitated to wild environments.
  • Twala: Students will have the extraordinary opportunity to see the wild baboons made famous by the long-term research of Dr. Shirley Strum. The site affords excellent conditions to observe wild baboons.
  • Kibwezi Ground Water Forest Reserve: This is a unique Acacia woodland ecosystem in the middle of a markedly arid region. The gallery forest and closed woodland are supported by a high water table (rather than rain), with a system of water holes and rivers. 
  • Gede/Mida Creek: On the way to Tana, we will visit the fascinating ruins of Gede, and learn about the groups of blue monkeys that inhabit them, studied by Dr. Wahungu and colleagues. Furthermore, in the nearby Mida Creek we will see one of the most remarkable mangrove forests in the world, with trees over 20 m / 65 ft tall. Conservation efforts, sustainability, and human-wildlife issues are explored.
  • Tana River Primate National Reserve: This is the only reserve in the world dedicated solely to the conservation of primates.  There are eight non-human primate species in the reserve: the Tana River red colobus, Tana River mangabey, Sykes’ monkey, yellow baboon, vervet monkey, and three bushbaby species. Both the red colobus and mangabey are endemic to the area and have been ranked among the world's top 25 most endangered primate species. This is where students will conduct their own research projects.
  • Mombasa coast: This is where students finalize their projects and prepare and take the final exam. We will also visit the Colobus Trust, engaged in mitigating the impact of urban expansion on the local population of black and white colobus.

For information about study abroad credit transfer, registration, and transcripts please visit the Academics section of our website.


Housing and Meals

Hotel accommodation will be provided for students in Nairobi on the first and last night of the program. You will live in your tents for most of your time in Kenya. At all field sites, you will have access to simple toilets and showers. The sun rises every day at 6:30 a.m. You will be in the field by 7:30 a.m.

Most of the food served in the program consists of canned vegetables and meats, pasta, rice, and bread, integrated with the fresh vegetables available in the different areas we will travel through. Fast foods, sweets, soft drinks, are not readily available, so stave off those cravings, or bring a supply of candy or other kinds of snacks. Vegetarians will find that there is plenty to eat during regular meals, but any special dietary needs should be brought to the attention of the Center for Global Education early on in the application process.

Please, keep in mind: you will be living in a populated region of a developing country.  Although Americans generally find Kenya easier to live in than most other developing countries, you will undoubtedly be inconvenienced.  In the U.S. we assume that as the sun rises every day, so will water flow through the pipes when we turn on the faucet. This is not the case in Kenya. Be prepared to laugh off delays and inconveniences, or rustic conditions when we would most like to be pampered. Access to electricity is spotty at best. The program mantra is: Patience and Flexibility.



Available to all Rutgers students participating in a Rutgers Global–Study Abroad program. Applications can be found inside of your study abroad program application. For more information, please visit the Scholarship section of our website.

 Available to SEBS students only.  For more information please visit the SEBS Scholarships web page.


Ryne Palombit

DrPalombit's research focuses on how the diversity of social and mating strategies in animals (both human and nonhuman) has evolved. He currently leads Project Papio, a Comparative Study of Infanticide and Anti-Infanticide Strategies in Baboons in Central Kenya.


Summer 2015

"Studying abroad is a unique experience because it gives you insights about the world that you would have never gained if you stayed inside your own bubble. I never thought I would study abroad when I first enrolled at Rutgers, yet I ended up doing it twice. Why did I do it twice? Well, because I fell in love with the experience. I didn't do it for a resume builder or as a way to get easy credits over the summer, I studied abroad twice because I genuinely love the sense of discovery and feelings of wonder that you get when you first discover a new area of the world or a new culture that is so unfamiliar to you it shakes your beliefs to their core. I think everyone wants to change the world in their own way, but how can you possibly leave your mark on the world if you've never stepped outside of your own world view?"