Location: Pretoria, South Africa; Kruger National Park, South Africa; Cape Maclear, Malawi

Date: June 18 - July 18, 2022

Program Overview

Upcoming Info Session: Feb 7th at 11:00 am - Register Here

Students participating in this program will learn about Evolution and Fish Biology through fieldwork and experiences in South Africa and Malawi. In Southern Africa, we will begin our journey in Pretoria where we will be staying at a farm outside of the city. We will spend time at Sterkfontein Caves which is one of the world’s most important archeological sites and is known as the Cradle of Humankind, due to the discovery of early human fossils. Next, we will venture towards Kruger National Park, where we will be staying at Research Station and viewing evolution and evolutionary strategies such as sexual and kin selection first hand in one of South Africa’s largest game reserves. Midway through the program we will fly to Cape Maclear in Malawi and visit the UNESCO world heritage site, Lake Malawi National Park daily. This is an underwater park where students will be snorkeling and doing hands-on experiments on how fish biology is performed in the field, specifically focusing on the huge variety of cichlids native to this region.

Language of Instruction: English


  • BIOE-157A Ichthyology (Fish Biology) (5 units)
  • BIOE- 157B Evolution (5 units)

Max Enrollment: 25

Faculty Leader: Dr. Giacomo Bernardi

Contact: globallearning@ucsc.edu 

Program Highlights

  • The Sterkfontein Caves and Cradle of Humankind (The Maropeng Visitor Centre) - The Maropeng Visitor Centre is an award-winning, world-class exhibition, focusing on the development of humans and our ancestors over the past few million years. Take a journey through time, starting with the formation of the planet and moving all the way through the evolutionary processes that culminated in the world as we know it today. See fossils, learn about how humankind was born, view stone tools that are up to one million years old, and much more. This self-guided, interactive tour allows you to take all the time you need to ponder humanity’s fascinating origin story. The Sterkfontein Caves are world-famous for their fossil finds and are a popular visitor destination. The Sterkfontein Caves are owned by the University of the Witwatersrand, whose scientists have been responsible for the main excavations at this World Heritage Site. They are credited with many of the most notable discoveries in the caves, including the world-famous fossils of Mrs. Ples and Little Foot, the latter being an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton dating back more than three million years. The tours at the Sterkfontein Caves, start above ground and then take visitors deep into the caves.
  • Bothongo Wonder Cave - The cave was discovered by Italian miners in 1898. They mined out approximately 15% from the formation and brought them to the surface. The formation consists of calcite which they placed in a self-built oven for 2 weeks at about 1100 degrees. This formed a powder which was taken by ox wagon to Pretoria & Johannesburg to make cement, toothpaste, used to extract gold, and the like. Mining was stopped in 1902 due to the outbreak of war and low productivity. This is the 3rd largest chamber is South Africa, the largest being Cango Caves and second-largest Sudwala Caves. The cavern is estimated to be 5 to 10 million years old and you will see amazing cave pearls, towering formations up to 15m high, a rimstone pool, stalactites & stalagmites, an amazing animal shadow zoo, old mining activities, the African Madonna structure, and even intriguing ancient fossils! 

    Note: Bothongo Wonder Cave Entrance - The entrance to the cave is going down 87 stairs at a 45 degrees angle dropping 22 meters below the surface. You will then go down an elevator with a drop of a further 18 meters into the cave. 

  • Kruger National Park - Kruger National Park has a history of being the site of research on savanna ecology and adaptive management of ecosystems. The park is part of the  Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, which is an area designated by UNESCO as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve. During our stay at the Research Station, we will be entering the park daily to view wildlife in their natural habitat. 
  • Lake Malawi National Park - This particular area in the southern end of Lake Malawi is of notable importance for biodiversity conservation due to its fish diversity. Lake Malawi is one of the deepest lakes in the world, and is isolated from other bodies of water which creates adaptive radiation and speciation in the fish varieties. We will be primarily focused on the cichlid fish, known locally as “mbuna”. All but five of over 350 species of cichlids are endemic to Lake Malawi. We will be snorkeling and observing the water ecosystems and biodiversity for the majority of our time in Malawi.


How to Apply

  1. Review the below eligibility criteria, prerequisites, and specific requirements for this program
  2. Apply in the Global Learning Portal

All applications will be processed first-come, first-served. Students are encouraged to apply early due to limited capacity.

General Eligibility Criteria

  • Good Academic and Disciplinary Standing at the time of application and every quarter prior to departure
  • 2.5 cumulative GPA or higher at the time of application and every quarter prior to departure
  • Be at least 18 years old by the time of departure
  • Sophomore, junior, or senior class standing by the time of departure (45 units completed at time of depart.)

Program Specific Prerequisites and Application Requirements

  • Students applying must have taken the following Biology Series Courses 20A, 20B, and 20C by the end of spring quarter, 2022. 
  • Students must have proficiency in swimming.
  • Students will be required to meet with the faculty leader prior to being accepted into the program.