Study Abroad

2016 Biology in Australia and New Zealand Seminar

This program will introduce students to the thrill and challenges of doing biological research in the field, surrounded by the amazing environment of New Zealand and Australia. The group will spend the majority of its time at field stations or in remote locations in both countries. Australia and New Zealand offer a staggering richness of habitat variety and biological diversity. For example, of the 18,000 species of flowering plants in Australia, more than 80% are endemic, in addition, 80% of the mammals, 88% of the reptiles, 45% of the birds, and 92% of the frogs occur nowhere else in the world.  The New Zealand biota evolved in the absence of terrestrial mammals, so contains many unique species found nowhere else in the world.  The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef on Earth, and stretches for 2300 kilometers off the northeast coast of Australia.  It is a center of global biodiversity, and is home to over 1600 species of fish and 3000 species of mollusk. The remarkable diversity of organisms students encounter on the program will offer unprecedented options to explore the diverse adaptations of life on Earth.

Students will explore Australia and New Zealand with instructors McKone, Braker, and Wagenbach, along with a team of teaching assistants, local university instructors, and naturalist guides.  Logistical support is provided by International Studies Abroad, an outstanding company based in Australia that specializes in off-campus program design and coordination.

Faculty Directors

Mark McKone, Professor of Biology
Professor McKone is an evolutionary ecologist, with particular interest in plant-animal interactions, including both pollination and herbivory. His current work includes investigation of the process of succession in the restored prairies in the Arb, in the collaboration with Professor Hernández. Previously he worked in New Zealand alpine grasslands to determine the causes and consequences of mast flowering in the snow-tussock grasses that dominate that landscape. He has continued this work in ongoing research on the mast flowering behavior in North American prairie species.

Nancy Braker, Director of the Cowling Arboretum and Lecturer in Biology
Nancy Braker is a conservation biologist and oversees the restoration and management programs of the Arboretum.  Her background includes twenty years of work with the international conservation organization The Nature Conservancy. Her work with the Conservancy focused on conservation planning and large-scale restoration and land management, with a specialty in fire adapted plant communities.

Gary Wagenbach, Professor of Biology Emeritus
Professor Wagenbach’s interests include biology of invertebrate animals, and marine biology. Wagenbach is a leader in off-campus studies having directed and taught in 19 ecology-oriented programs in multiple locations including Heron Island, Australia.  He has worked on parasites of marine worms, water quality issues, and threatened species of freshwater mussels in Minnesota Rivers.  His most recent project is as a volunteer helping with teacher training and K-12 curriculum development for a Burmese school, located in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma).

Ecology in Australia