NR 491/595
3 hours credit


Dr. Nichols - Lead Instructor
Dr. Shear - Instructor
Dr. McHale - Instructor


In this course, students will learn about the provision and sustainability of many ecosystem services in South Africa, including employment creation through biodiversity conservation, wood and fiber production, and ecotourism. Human demands on ecosystems are stressed, with many aspects of earth, life, and social sciences considered. Students will:

  1. understand the range of environmental and social impacts related to urban and rural natural resource management in South Africa, and
  2. delineate the varying South African perspectives on natural resource management, in order to
  3. critically evaluate natural resource management from the perspectives of different stakeholders and disciplines.

Students will hone skills in writing (informational handouts and daily recording), oral presentation (leading class discussions, final seminar presentation), and visual presentation (webpages and scientific posters). In the process, students will critically evaluate information sources, including webpages, and will become experts on natural resource management and policy concerns in one region of the world.


The course is roughly divided into three sections:

Phase 1. Pre-departure:

Invited speakers on history and current state of forest and natural resource management in South Africa.

Review of cultural practices important to travelers.

Student-prepared briefings on various topics in forest and natural resource in South Africa.

Phase 2. In South Africa:

Field practicums and site visits in South Africa

Phase 3. Return: 

Preparation and presentations of trip website and seminar.

Schedule of Class Activities (subject to change)
Phase 1
March 17
  Evening session / complete readings and quiz before session
Introduction/Assignment of Responsibilities
March 24
  Evening session / complete readings and quiz before session
Wooter/Biodiversity and Wildlife
March 31
  Evening session / complete readings and quiz before session
Camcore Presentation on Forestry in South Africa
April 7
  Evening session / complete readings and quiz before session
Movie or presentation on indigenous culture/history
April 14
  Evening session / complete readings and quiz before session
Movie or presentation on modern history of South Africa
April 21
  Field techniques practice at Schenck Forest
Phase 2
May 11
  Depart Raleigh
May 12
  Arrive Capetown
May 13
  Introductory Talk from University of Capetown
History Tour - Robben Island, District 6 Museum, as weather permits
Stellenbosch Gardens Tour (time permitting)
May 14 - 15
  Urban Ecology/Ecosystem Services Field Praticum - Edith Stephens Wetlands Park, Capetown
May 16
  Travel to Pretoria
Introductory sessions at University of Pretoria
Student Braee (mixer)
May 17
  Travel to Nelspruit
Visit Forest Plantations
Introductory session on forest production
May 18
  Visit Forest Nursery and Paper Mill
Travel to Phalaborwa
May 19
  Game Drive in Kruger National Park
May 20-23
  Multiple Resource Use Practicum - Village Wood Utilization from Kruger National Park
May 24
  Travel to Tshukudu Game Reserve
Short Game Drive
Visit rehabilitation/breeding programs at Tshukudu
May 25
  Morning Lion Walk
Travel to Hamakuya (through Kruger National Park)
Evening Presentation on Venda History and Culture
May 26
  Biodiversity Practicum at Tshulu Camp
May 27-28
  Biodiversity Practicum continued in home stay in Venda village
May 29
  Drive to Jo-Burg
May 30
  Morning shopping
Afternoon departure for Raleigh
May 31
  Arrive Raleigh
Phase 3
    Thank you letters due: local hosts, dean, and department head, etc.
    Posters due
    Website due
  Department seminar



Grades are determined by participation in course activities, and completion of assignments. The minimum standard for a passing grade is full participation in all activities. Students that participate fully will be letter graded, on the +/- scale, according to the following:

Preparation of briefing reports and participation in pre-departure briefings - 20%

Participation in practicums, tours, and activities in South Africa - 50%

Preparation of oral, poster, and web reports after return - 30%

Each instructor will provide input during grading.


All activities in this class are time sensitive, therefore late assignments are not acceptable. Incomplete grades will not be assigned.


The University policy on academic integrity is found in the Code of Student Conduct (POL11.35.1).

We hold all students to the University's Honor Pledge: "I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this test or assignment." We assume that submission of any assignment that requires individual work indicates that the student neither gave nor received unauthorized aid. Faculty expect honesty in the completion of test and assignments.

You are in effect ambassadors of North Carolina State University, the College of Natural Resources, and the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. As such, you are expected to conduct yourself in a professional manner at all times, both during organized class activities and during free time. 


Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with verifiable disabilities. In order to take advantage of available accommodations, students must register with Disability Services for Students at 1900 Student Health Center, Campus Box 7509, 515-7653. For more information on NC State's policy on working with students with disabilities, please see the Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities Regulation (REG02.20.1)


There are safety risks inherent in any field work, and in any travel abroad. It is critical that you follow all safety regulations at all times.

You must read and abide by the safety policies stated in our Guide to Safe Traveling in South Africa.

It must be possible for safety personnel to locate any student in case of an emergency.

The use of motor vehicles represents the greatest potential hazard experienced by field laboratory participants. Since travel and many field laboratories involve transporting students, certain precautions must be observed. 

  • All passengers are required to wear seat belts when in University vehicles.
  • Since field laboratories often involve frequent stops along busy roads, special care should be taken to look for traffic hazards when leaving or boarding vehicles, or when walking along highways. 
  • We will provide transportation to and from field trips, and students must use it.  

Always dress appropriately for field work. Long pants and closed toe shoes are appropriate for work in the woods; short pants and sandals are not.

A "buddy system" should be used for every field laboratory, such that each individual has a partner who knows his or her whereabouts at all times.

A small first-aid kit is carried by the leader of each field laboratory.

Each field laboratory leader is aware of the nearest location of emergency medical care (clinic, emergency center, park ranger station, etc.).

Students must report any special medical problems they may have to trip leaders prior to participating in field laboratories. Examples are allergies to insect stings, diabetes, asthma, physical disabilities, etc.

In addition to staying alert to environmental hazards (some of which are listed below), it is also important that students keep in mind that field laboratories are meant to be educational experiences, not endurance tests. Any student who is uncertain about the types of hazards that may exist should consult an instructor. Also, any student who feels that a particular activity exceeds his/her physical capabilities should alert an instructor of this IMMEDIATELY.

Students should be alert to environmental hazards they are likely to encounter. These may include, but are not limited to:

Stings from venomous insects, such as bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets. Medication for immediate relief from stings may be carried in the first aid kit, but students who know they react severely to such stings should be advised to carry any special medication they might need.

Bites from venomous snakes. Although far less likely to occur than insect stings, snake bites are a risk. Care should be taken to note and avoid poisonous snakes in the field. In case someone is bitten, the best plan is to return to the vehicle and seek medical attention immediately. Even if medical assistance is many hours away, such field treatments as tourniquets and cutting should NOT be applied by amateurs. Suction may be of some use, but other "common knowledge" treatments often do more harm than good. Healthy adults almost always survive bites from the poisonous snakes found in our region.

Poisonous plants. Students should be shown how to identify common poisonous plants and should avoid them. This precaution includes plants that can cause contact dermatitis and plants that might be poisonous upon ingestion. Students must not to eat plants or fruits collected in the field.

Ectoparasites (ticks, chiggers, leaches, etc.). Tick-borne diseases constitute a serious threat to individuals conducting field work during warm weather. Students must inspect their entire bodies carefully after returning from a trip in the field, and remove any ticks found. It is a good idea for to note the date you find a tick firmly attached, in the event that symptoms of a tic-borne disease appear later. A physician must be consulted if suspicious symptoms (fever, joint aches, swollen glands, reddish flushing of skin) occur in the weeks following a tick bite. Chiggers are annoying, although not likely to threaten health. In areas known to have either ticks or chiggers (practically any wooded or shrubby area in our region), students avoid contact (tucking and taping pant legs, using repellents, frequent tick checks, etc.).

Endoparasites. Students must exercise care to avoid contact with water- or soil-borne parasites (Giardia, tapeworms, etc.). Never drink untreated water. Always carry enough drinking water for anticipated personal needs. Most water from public taps in South Africa is potable, but your instructors will brief you on drinking water safety at each location. Water obtained from sources in the field should be boiled, filtered, or chemically treated before consumption. Wash hands after handling soil, especially before eating.

Lightning. Parts of South Africa experiences frequent electrical storms, especially during the warmer months. If a thunderstorm threatens, seek shelter in a building or vehicle. When this is not feasible, care should be taken to minimize the risk of being struck by lightning. Avoid open areas and exposed portions of the landscape (peaks, hilltops, ridges). Boaters should seek shelter on shore immediately. Never stand near or under isolated tall objects, such as trees or power poles. The safest places outdoors are in topographically protected areas (valleys or ravines), away from the tallest trees. Avoid sheltering under rock overhangs or in other situations where an individual could become part of the shortest path of lighting to ground.

Steep topography. Some trips may involve hiking in areas of steep topography, where a real risk of injury caused by accidental falls may exist. Students must exercise caution when hiking in steep terrain (such as rock outcrops). Similar precautions must be exercised in other areas where falls could occur (overlooks, observation towers, waterfall areas, etc.). Even wet or mossy rocks on a path can be a serious hazard. Students must not dislodge rocks or other objects that could endanger those below.

Aquatic field exercises. Special precautions should be taken for any field laboratories around or in water. Non-swimmers must identify themselves and wear appropriate personal flotation devices (PFDs) at all times. If hip or waist waders are in use in water greater than 1-2 feet deep, PFDs must be worn also.

Hot weather trips. Special precautions should be observed to avoid hazards of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Students must be able to recognize the symptoms of these two hazards and the field treatment should someone be affected.


The course fees cover most expenses. However, you will have additional expenses that are typical of any travel abroad. Examples include: passport acquisition; vaccinations and other medical needs like malaria prophylactics; snacks and souvenirs,


Transportation from RDU airport to South Africa, as well as all course-related transportation within South Africa, will be provided. You will need to make your own way to and from RDU.