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Borneo: Primate Conservation

Study Borneo’s primate denizens, including the orangutan. Develop new ways to engage communities worldwide in primate conservation.

Course Overview

Nestled in the Malay Archipelago, tropical Borneo has captured the imaginations of explorers and naturalists for centuries. Borneo is the third largest island in the world and home to remarkable cultural and ecological diversity. Borneo’s primate community is exceptionally rich—the Earth Expeditions course site along the Kinabatangan River in Sabah (East Malaysia) is home to ten primate species, including proboscis monkeys, which occur only in Borneo, two species of leaf monkey, two species of macaque, gibbons, as well as the large-eyed, nocturnal tarsier and slow loris. Of greatest conservation concern is the orangutan, which occurs naturally on only two islands in the world, Borneo and Sumatra, and is under increasingly severe pressure, primarily from habitat loss. Researchers have projected that the orangutan, the only great ape in Asia, may completely vanish from the wild within two decades.

We will join researchers from the NGO Hutan and the Danau Girang Field Centre, and villagers of the Kinabatangan region who are responsible for model community-based efforts to preserve orangutans, Bornean pygmy elephants, and other species. In addition to becoming familiar with primatological field methods and their applications, students in the course will work with local groups and develop new ways to engage communities worldwide in saving orangutans and other wildlife. Possible field studies include: social behavior of primates, habitat selection, census methods, impact of forest fragmentation and reforestation, and the use of social networks in great-ape conservation campaigns.

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

Course Details
In-person travel dates: July 9-19, 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* + your own airfare into Sandakan, Malaysia.
* $3,550 calculated as = $455 per credit tuition x 5 graduate credits + $1100 program fee + $175 Miami global fee


Course Themes

  • Primate conservation
  • Introduction to the ecology of Southeast Asian rainforests
  • Inquiry-driven learning
  • Community-based conservation and participatory education
  • Public engagement in science

A typical day is likely to include:

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

Borneo Student Reflection:

"I am not sure how these experiences fit into my journey through life, but I know that I was meant to experience this place for a reason. I am thankful for all the amazing experiences and people that Borneo introduced me to" -Stephanie Quihuiz

Stephanie Quihuiz on an Earth Expeditions trip to Borneo


Straddling the Equator, the island of Borneo is divided between Malaysia and the Sultanate of Brunei in the north, and Indonesia in the south. Borneo’s unique plants and animals helped inspire the great 19th century naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace to formulate his theories on natural selection, concurrent with, but independent of, Darwin’s. Today, Borneo remains remarkably varied with more than 30 ethnic subgroups, some of the most species rich coral reefs on Earth, and a host of notable species such as Storm’s storks and flying frogs. Borneo is also under serious threat from a number of human activities including logging, mining, and large-scale rubber and palm oil plantations.

Planned Sites

Google Earth map of Borneo with two locations marked. A second image zoomed in of the marked locations labeled Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and Dana Grange Field Centre

Sukau and the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

The Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary consists of approximately 27,000 hectares of fragmented forest along the banks of the mighty Kinabatangan River. We will work with the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project (KOCP), founded in 1998 by Drs. Marc Ancrenaz and Isabelle Lackman of Hutan, a French non-governmental organization, in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department. KOPC is run by trained staff from the nearby village of Sukau and has been the source of significant data regarding the ecology and behavior of wild orangutans in secondary forest habitats. KOCP seeks to restore harmonious relationships between people and the orangutan and supports local socio-economic development compatible with habitat and wildlife conservation.

Danau Girang Field Centre

Located in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, this modern research facility, directed by Dr. Benoit Goossens and supported by Cardiff University and the Sabah Wildlife Department, is surrounded by a mixture of lowland dipterocarp forest types, ranging from primary forest to disturbed secondary forest, in a matrix landscape that includes significant human impact including villages, small-scale agriculture, and oil palm plantations. It is thus an ideal location to study wildlife and the effects of anthropogenic habitat alteration on biodiversity.

Earth Expeditions student groups are regularly featured in Danau Girang’s newsletter The Jungle Times!

(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

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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