UMD: A Globally Connected University

UMD-Summer: Australia: Natural History and Geology (BSCI)

Sydney, Australia
Terms offered: 
Program Type: 
Credit Type: 
Minimum GPA: 
Non-UMD Students Eligible to Apply: 
EA Advisor: 
Language of Instruction: 



Australia holds the imagination like no other place on earth because everything is different: the landscape, the plants, the animals, the seasons. Even the cars are on the other side of the road. College Park Scholar–Life Sciences invites you to join us for a 19-day trip this summer to explore the culture, the geology, and the natural history of Australia.

The focus of this travel-study experience is the ecology, geology, and environment of the Australian deserts, tropical rainforests, and coral reefs. At each stop, we will discuss the lives of the Aboriginal peoples who settled these lands and their interactions with the environment as well as how they were subsequently affected by European colonial settlement. Your guides will be biology, geology, and ecology faculty or professionals from the University.

We begin with two days in Sydney touring the world-famous harbor, the iconic Sydney Opera House, the Taronga Zoo, the Sydney Aquarium, and the Royal Botanic Gardens. The zoo and aquarium are noted for their collections of Australian animals. Next, it is on to Darwin at "The Top End of Australia" and a 3-hour drive into the outback to Kakadu National Park. Kakadu is a World Heritage Area for both cultural and natural characteristics. We will visit Aboriginal rock painting sites and observe a variety of animals, including kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes, exotic birds, and salt- and freshwater crocodiles. The third part of the experience will center on the tropical environment of North Queensland, including Cape Tribulation and the rainforest surrounding the Daintree River. The academic focus here will be on the ecology of the tropical rainforest, as well as the negative consequences of population growth and agricultural land use on the loss of rainforest and biodiversity. The fourth and final leg of the trip will be spent on the Great Barrier Reef snorkeling along the reef and working on small group research projects.

To prepare for the travel-study experience, you will meet with faculty three to four times in the spring prior to departure. Meetings will cover the logistics and expectations of the trip as well as prepare you with information on the history, culture, biology, and geology of Australia.

Once in Australia, you will present an oral report on an Australian plant or animal, keep a daily journal, and work in groups on some small projects.

You must be in good academic and judicial standing and you must not have any registration blocks to participate in this program. The minimum GPA for this program is listed above.

UMD and non-UMD freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students are eligible to apply.

If you are interested in this program but do not meet the eligibility requirements, reach out to the program director (listed in the Contacts tab) to discuss your interest in the program.

After you commit to the program, Education Abroad will enroll you in the following three (3) credit UMD course:

  • BSCI339N Natural History, Ecology, and Geology of Australia

The credit you earn during this program will count as resident credit.

In Sydney, Darwin, and Cairns, we will stay in shared accommodations in hostels and hotels. In Kakadu (Jabiru and Gunlom), Nitmiluk, and North Queensland, we will stay in full-service campgrounds.

These costs are current for Summer 2017.

Application Fee $50
Billable Costs
Billable costs are charged to your student account. They are due based on the Bursar's payment schedule. Be sure to check your statements when they are available.
Education Abroad Fee $500
This fee is charged to your account when the application status changes from "Accepted" to "Committed." This fee includes Education Abroad services including registration, billing, advising, risk management, and pre-departure orientation.
International Health Insurance $40
Tuition $1740
This fee is charged to your UMD account upon course registration. This fee includes: Tuition, in-country transportation, course related activities, group meals, and teaching services.
Housing Fee $320
This fee represents the housing provided during the program.
Out-of-pocket Costs
Meals (estimate) $100
Visa $20
Passport $140
Roundtrip Airfare (estimate) $2,600
Course Materials $0
Optional Activities/incidental expenses $300
Optional trip cancelation/interruption Insurance (estimate) $180

NOTE: If you are a non-UMD graduate student, you will need to pay a $75 application fee to the UMD graduate school to participate in this program.

Please refer to the following resources for more information on funding study abroad

PLEASE NOTE: All University of Maryland study abroad programs are financially self-supporting and, therefore, subject to cancelation due to low enrollment.

Dr. Reid Compton is the Program Director and has been on the biology faculty at the University of Maryland since 1997. After 10 years as the Undergraduate Program Director and Associate Chair of Biology, Dr. Compton became the Director of the College Park Scholars Life Sciences program in 2009. In addition to his teaching of introductory biology, cell biology, developmental biology, and histology, Dr. Compton also teaches seminars and colloquia for College Park Scholars. Dr. Compton has led four travel-study trips to Alaska, four trips to Belize, and this will be his eighth student trip to Australia, the last five as the principal leader.

Ms. Jess Wilke has been at the university for more than 3 years as the Assistant Director of the College Park Scholars Life Sciences program. She traveled extensively before coming to UMD. Since coming to UMD, Jess has traveled with Dr. Compton and University students to Alaska, Belize (2 times) and Australia. She has a Master's degree in College Student Development and extensive experience in resident life as an RA and Resident Director at other universities.

Dr. John Merck is has been on the faculty in Geology and the Associate Director of the College Park Scholars Science and Global Change program since 1999. Dr. Merck has an excellent rapport with students. He has a command of issues and content in geology, earth science, paleontology, and organismal biology. He has been a leader on this program to Australia two times and annually takes students to the Grand Canyon and the Southwest US each March.

For course, itinerary or in-country information, please contact the Program Director. For general questions or assistance with applying, contact EA Short-term Programs.

As a part of this program, you will engage in the following activities:

  • Living with experts who are passionate about teaching students and make everything we see come alive. 
  • Interaction with traditional Aboriginal Owners of the land in Kakadu National Park to learn about their ancient culture and how it is being preserved today by tribal elders. 
  • Traveling to remote and hidden natural spots such as Jim Jim Falls, Nitmiluk National Park, Cape Tribulation, and Granite Gorge. 
  • Travel to 4 ecologically distinct regions of Australia (Temperate Forest, Dry Season Desert, Tropical Rainforest, Marine Barrier Reef). 
  • Faculty guided small research projects. 
  • Analysis of human effects on biodiversity through the introduction of invasive species, converting ancient tropical rainforest into agricultural land, and anthropogenic climate change. 
Term Year Application Deadline Admission Notification Program Start Program End
Summerterm 2017 03/15/2017 03/11/2017 07/25/2017 08/12/2017