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Australia: Great Barrier Reef

Dive into the conservation and education opportunities of the Great Barrier Reef, the global center of marine biodiversity.

Course Overview

One of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef lies in the clear blue waters off the northeast coast of Australia. Spanning 14 degrees of latitude, this complex reef system is not only the greatest expanse of coral in the world, it is the Earth’s largest living structure, a massive, beautiful, and ancient biological phenomenon of bewildering diversity and immense ecological significance. Habitats within the reef mosaic include the coral reefs themselves (some 3,000 individual reefs), sponge gardens, sea grasses, mangroves, continental islands, and coral cays, which together help support a rich assemblage of marine and terrestrial life, including more than 1,500 species of fish, 200 species of birds, six species of sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and dugongs.

This graduate course program is offered jointly with The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Reef Authority), which is responsible for the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef for future generations. Located in Townsville, Queensland, Reef Authority focuses on several goals including enhancing Reef resilience through partnerships, collaboration and education.



During the field portion of this course, we will spend much of our time exploring the work of Reef Authority, venturing forth on several excursions for direct research on the Great Barrier Reef, and hiking in some of Australia’s unique terrestrial habitats. Discussion topics include a range of marine science issues, Reef education and outreach, and citizen engagement in environmental and marine science.

Reef Authority promotes reef stewardship through public exhibits, field programs, sustainability certification for tour operators, virtual experiences offered through ReefEd, and through school initiatives such as the successful Reef Guardian program, which engages hundreds of schools in reef conservation. Reef Authority is also increasing its sea country partnerships with Traditional Owner to support indigenous land use agreements, traditional ecological knowledge, and stewardship of reef environments. This course supports advanced study of coral reefs and education as well as on-land participation in integrated methods for involving communities in promoting healthy marine environments.

Prior to and following the field experience in Australia, students will complete coursework via Dragonfly Workshops' web-based learning community as they apply experiences to their home institutions.

Course Details
In-person travel dates:

July 16-24, 2024

Students arrive at least one day before and depart on last day of course

On the Web:

Pre-travel preparations: February-March
Login to online course: April
Summer course: May 16-August 9
Fall course: Late August- early December

Credits: Summer course: 5 graduate credits

Follow-on Fall course: 2 graduate credits

All Miami University credits can be applied to the GFP or AIP (or other programs if approved)
Costs: Summer course: $3,550* + $1,000 additional transportation fee + your own airfare Townsville, Australia. Snorkel included; SCUBA certification is not required for this course. Accepted students who opt to participate in SCUBA during the course will need to complete SCUBA (at least Open Water Diver) certification at their own expense before the course starts. SCUBA diving insurance and equipment rental during the course at your own expense.
* $3,550 calculated as = $455 per credit tuition x 5 graduate credits + $1100 program fee + $175 Miami global fee


Course Themes

  • Coral reef ecology
  • Conservation of marine and coastal systems
  • Design of public research exhibits
  • Inquiry-driven learning
  • Community-based conservation and participatory education

A typical day is likely to include:

  • Study at field conservation sites
  • Lectures
  • Student-led discussions of key course topics
  • Engagement with local communities
  • Hikes
  • Open inquiries
  • SCUBA or snorkel experiences
  • Journal writing

Australia Student Reflection:

"I now joke that nothing that I do in the future will ever matter because I have completed my life goal of studying conservation in Australia, which I once thought was unachievable (part of me is not joking though)" -Meghan Manary

Katherine Leavitt's student reflection on her trip to Australia

Queensland, Australia

The state of Queensland, nicknamed “The Sunshine State,” is located on the northeast coast of Australia. Covering an area three times the size of Texas, Queensland is home to tropical rainforest, mountains, white sandy beaches, islands, and the incomparable Great Barrier Reef.

Planned Sites

Google Earth map of Australia with locations marked. There is a close up image of the marked locations labeled Wheeler Reef, Magnetic Island, and Reef HQ Aquarium


Home to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville, Australia, is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Townsville boasts many Reef Guardian programs, including a network of schools taking action inside and outside the classroom to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Magnetic Island

Just offshore from Townsville lies Magnetic Island. Over half of this rugged, mountainous island is a national park and supports eucalyptus woods, mangroves, sea grass beds, and fringing coral reefs. Rock wallabies scamper on granite boulders. Koalas forage in eucalyptus trees. Echidnas, black flying foxes, brushtail possums, and over 180 species of birds can also be seen on the island. Dugongs and sea turtles swim in the waters around the island.

Wheeler Reef

Part of the outer Great Barrier Reef, Wheeler Reef lies some 40 nautical miles off the coast of Townsville. Wheeler Reef is off the beaten track, making for pristine corals and crystal clear water with few divers or snorkelers in sight. In addition to a high abundance of fish — including fusiliers, parrotfish, and damselfish– turtles and manta rays are common. The reef is famous for gullies, canyons, and caves and is an ideal site for divers and snorkelers.

(Course locations are subject to change.)

2024 Costs Include:

In addition to covering the price for five graduate credits of Miami University tuition, field course costs cover all basic expenses, including:

  • Meals (incidental snacks and drinks not included)
  • Lodging
  • Field station fees
  • Course activities (optional activities are not included)
  • Ground transportation (van, boat, train, etc., as needed)
  • Park entrance and guide fees

*NOTE: The Australia course carries a required extra charge to cover additional boat transportation costs. Students will also cover 2 dinners on their own in Townsville during the course. Snorkel equipment rental is included; students who opt to SCUBA will rent equipment at their expense directly from our in-country operators.

Course costs do not cover personal expenses, such as airfare to the course, personal gifts, or ancillary costs, such as passport fees, country entry fees, required course readers, and any additional course texts.

Airfare: To estimate fares applicants may wish to visit an online fare finder or call a travel agent. Bear in mind that airlines have seasonal fluctuations in fares.

Miami University also requires all international workshop participants to purchase travel health insurance for about $40. (Successful applicants will receive more details in their web-based learning community course workshop.) In some classes an additional textbook is required. In some countries, you may have to pay entrance and departure taxes/fees at the airport.


Because of support from Miami University, the course costs listed above are a fraction of actual program costs. Earth Expeditions recommends that accepted applicants to the program check with their school district or employer to see if professional development funds are available to further offset costs.

We offer some further ideas on Helping to Fund your Degree and Scholarships for Current Dragonfly Students

U.S. Students and Students Living Abroad

To support involvement by a broad range of professionals nationally and globally, Miami University discounts tuition for participants accepted to an Earth Expeditions graduate course. Applicants must be over the age of 18 and hold bachelor’s degrees. Upon successful completion of both the field and Web-based components of the Earth Expeditions course, participants earn seven graduate credit hours.

Students Seeking Undergraduate Credit

Undergraduate students at Miami University or elsewhere may apply for an Earth Expeditions course and earn five credits for the field component, with the option to complete two additional credits for the fall Web component. Normal Miami tuition rates apply, as do eligible summer tuition waivers and scholarships. Contact Project Dragonfly for more information.

Course Options for Miami Students

Are you a current Miami University undergrad or grad student interested in participating? Check out our Miami Students page to learn more about program requirements.

*Note that costs shown above are for graduate students only. Course costs for undergraduate students are based on each student’s tuition rate. If you have questions regarding your tuition promise rate, please contact the Bursar.

Inquiry & Action Follow-on Course

The 2-credit follow-on course, Inquiry & Action, puts the Earth Expeditions course ideas and concepts into practice. Students in this course will choose a research topic and construct a multidisciplinary semester-long project of their choice that includes inquiry-driven learning, participatory education, and community-based conservation to experience and promote action in real-world contexts. Students will connect and collaborate with peers and their instructional team throughout the semester working to make a positive difference in their local communities. This class is a required part of the Global Field Program (GFP) master's course sequence. Inquiry & Action is recommended though optional for non-GFP students.

Course cost: $910 (2 credits)


Do you have questions? Go to our Frequently Asked Questions page for some answers.

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