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Overseas and Off-Campus Programs

New Zealand Regional Area Study


Spring 2018


Early January to mid-April

Program Focus:

General Culture with emphases on biogeography, ecology, and science studies.


Minimum 2.75 GPA is highly recommended                                                                                                 
Spring 2018
Program Leader:

Mitch Reyes
Associate Professor of RHMS
Ext. 7619

Program Design:

As a “lost” part of the ancient Gondwonan super-continent, New Zealand has a rich ecological and cultural history that exemplifies the theme of isolation and repeated colonization. The program focuses on both the cultural and ecological nuances of this unique location, allowing students to immerse themselves in the cultural history and biodiversity of New Zealand. The program is open to all students and will emphasize science from a non-specialist perspective.

Students will benefit from the opportunity of experiencing a unique culture and by gaining a thorough understanding of sociopolitical issues and the ecology of both islands. The goal will be to experience another culture while participating in a rigorous program of scientific merit. Students with majors from throughout the College are encouraged to apply. Many students have already expressed interest in the program and we anticipate a large qualified applicant pool, therefore be sure to submit your application in a timely manner.

New Zealand is a fascinating place and exists as an effective parliamentary democracy while being one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth. As a “lost” part of the ancient super-continent it has a rare diversity of species and remains incredibly unspoiled. This diversity and preservation allows for study of science and ecology that can occur nowhere else in the world.  Additionally, it is served by seven regular universities and several specialized language and culture associations. Infrastructure, health care, and technology are very comparable to what we have in the United States. These characteristics make New Zealand an ideal place for an undergraduate overseas experience.

Requirements Fulfilled:
This program fulfills the two-course International Studies requirement. BIO 115 fulfills the Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning Category A laboratory requirement.

4 courses per semester/16 credits


IS 294: Cultural Ecology of New Zealand (4 credits)

Introduction to Pacific Islander and Maori culture and language. Extended Maori visit. Indigenous art and relevant cultural artifact production. Contemporary business and recreational activities.

IS 295: Repeated Colonization, a History of New Zealand (4 credits)

Emphasis on original colonization by Polynesians, and secondary colonization by Europeans. Effect of history on the political system, present-day economy, and the environment. Will cover pre- European history, current government and legislative processes, health, education, and other services, New Zealand’s current role in the international community.

BIO115: Explorations in Regional Biology, New Zealand Flora & Fauna (4 credits)

Learn how New Zealand’s natural history has evolved to be so different from that found on continental landmasses. Lecture-based material will cover New Zealand’s geological origin, the basic principles of island ecology and historical biogeography, the evolution in isolation of New Zealand’s flora and fauna and provide an explanation of its special vulnerabilities. Field trips will give hands-on experience with native plants and animals, and demonstrate principles covered in the lectures. 

Topics include:

  • Origin and evolution of the New Zealand landmass – Zealandia explained
  • Modern New Zealand – late Cenozoic evolution of the New Zealand landmass and interpretation of the landform we see today
  • What is historical biogeography?
  • ‘Islandism’ – flightlesness, body size/leaf size differences, fearlessness
  • New Zealand forests - sources, evolution and relationships
  • Alpine vegetation
  • Ancient vegetation, the fossil record and other evidence
  • Birds and bats
  • Marine mammals
  • New Zealand spiders – how different are they and what relationships do they have?

IS 296: Environment, Society & Natural Resource Management (4 credits)    

Examines the major environmental issues and challenges New Zealand faces today, highlighting the policy and management frameworks that are in place to address these environmental issues. Students will critically appraise the role of citizen science and science communication in shaping New Zealand’s future and examine how well currently employed policy and management mechanisms achieve the goal of environmental sustainability. Field trips will provide a hands-on insight into current environmental issues in New Zealand.

Topics include:

  • Climate change and New Zealand’s future
  • Indigenous perspectives on natural resources
  • Water quality - the clean green myth
  • Sustainable farming
  • Sustainable energy
  • Citizen science
  • Science studies
    • Communication and persuasion
    • Science writing

Both of the last two courses will explore some of the most revolutionary ideas in the history of science. Continental drift, for example, was not universally accepted by the mainstream scientific community in the 1970s, and its implications have still not fully been integrated into our understanding of patterns of distribution of species. Likewise, scientific understandings of anthropogenic climate change remain much in dispute. These courses will explore these and other scientific controversies in the history of science while immersing students in the rich biodiversity of New Zealand.

Required Reading: 

Ghosts of Gondwana: The History of Life in New Zealand - 2006, by George Gibbs

New Zealand


-41.28646; 174.776236