Context courses | Arts courses | Science courses | Teaching staff members |Institutional bases


The core curriculum

A full semester of credits is offered, with 2 required "context courses" that engage all participants in structured observation, theoretical interpretation, and thorough discussion of the ecological and cultural aspects of the trip, and with a selection of opportunities for advanced study with leading scholars in Arts or Science curriculum areas.

Courses will be run in three sessions, each of three weeks. At least two McGill faculty members will be with the group in each session.

We encourage students to take courses from outside their discipline to enhance both their academic experience and African experience of the Canadian Field Studies in Africa Program. If you are an Arts student, please consider taking a Science course, and if you are a Science Student, please consider taking a Humanities course. All students must take both context courses.

Note: The course list provided on this page is for reference only. Note that the courses are subject to change and are not necessarily offered every year.

Context Courses

ANTH 451 - Res in Society & Dev in Africa
or GEOG 451 - Res in Society & Dev in Africa


BIOL 451 - Res in Ecol&Develop in Africa
or NRSC 451 - Res in Ecol&Develop in Africa

Arts Courses

ANTH 345
Archaeology of East Africa:
This course focuses on the Stone Age archaeology of east Africa, and human biological and cultural evolution, from the emergence of the first tool-using hominids to the end of the Stone Age period. Topics covered include: basic archaeological method and theory, lithic technology, Stone Age chronology, biological and cultural adaptations of early hominids, emergence and spread of modern humans. The course will examine archaeological evidence, concentrating on the processes underlying the transformations from stage to stage. The course will combine lecture, seminar discussion and experimental/field sessions. Field trips to archaeological sites and museums will also be incorporated whenever practical to supplement the lectures/discussions and readings.

ANTH 411 - Primate Studies & Conservation
This course is an advanced course critically evaluating theories in primate behaviour, ecology, and conservation that emphasizes direct observations, research design, and developing field methods. The course will be part of the African Field Studies Semester and is taught in Kibale National Park, Uganda. This is a field course that takes advantage of being at a location documented to have the highest biomass of primates ever recorded with 13 primate species including endangered red colobus and chimpanzees to facilitate students obtaining the skills needed to conduct rigorous research on primate behaviour, ecology, and conservation.

ANTH 416 - Environment/Dev: Africa
This course begins with an overview of East African environments and major forms of land use. It examines the environmental and economic effects of changes in organism practises and the development experience. It will also examine the important consequence of the change in legal status of land, from common and state to private property.

GEOG 404 - Environmental Management 2
This course focuses on the principles and practices of environmental management as it relevant to developing areas. Basic concepts of the dialogue on "sustainable development" are considered and we will study historical and contemporary issues of environmental change, traditional ecological knowledge and local environmental action, bilateral and multilateral aid programs, and developing project impacts.

GEOG 423 - Dilemmas of Development

GEOG 493 - Health & Environment in Africa
This advanced course focuses on understanding the determinants of population health in Uganda from an epidemiologic and ecohealth perspective, with a focus on infectious disease. We begin by considering the differential burden of disease between developed and developing regions, a history of how infectious diseases have evolved in human populations, and how environments affect our health. Field trips include, among others, travel to local hospitals and medical facilities to understand rural health care, and community excursions (schools, markets, farms) to explore water and food sources and transmission pathways. Students will have the opportunity to conduct a short group research project related to an environmental health topic. Students will be expected to critically evaluate proximal and distal pathways for transmission and health burden.


HIST 413 - Independent Research
Topic for CFSIA/AFSS: Migrations, Slavery and Conflict in Pre-Colonial Eastern Africa
This research option is designed to give students an understanding of the historical relations between eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean World (IOW), and the impact of those relations upon eastern African history and society. The course comprises two parts: 1. a historical survey of East Africa’s links to the IOW; 2. an examination of the east African slave trade.

Science Courses

BIOL 428 - Biological Diversity in Africa

BIOL 429 - East African Ecology
This course deals in detail with aspects of ecology particularly pertinent to East Africa and conservation of biological diversity in the region. The course uses field settings in Uganda to impart training in ecological principles critical to tropical conservation with an emphasis on research design and field research exercises. It is taught at a series of locations in Uganda taking advantage of the variety of physical locations and ecosystems in the region to impart practical experience using real-world examples for ecological principles that pertain to the understanding and conservation of biological diversity. Numerous field exercises will introduce students to local ecosystems, local biodiversity, and field research methods.

NRSC 405 - Natural History of East Africa
Integrated study of African landforms, geologic history, climate, environments, biota, water resources and human influences, fostering a thorough understanding of the East African landscape and its inhabitants. Lectures, discussions on selected topics, use of museum resources and field studies will develop powers of observation, identification and enquiry.

NUTR 403 - Nutrition in Society
The nature and ecological significance of food and medicinal plants in traditional subsistence systems; scientific, institutional and ethnical issues in ethnobotany; evaluation, application and management of plants and Indigenous Knowledge of plants to address contemporary health and nutrition problems.

REDM 405 - Natural History of East Africa
Integrated study of African landforms, geologic history, climate, environments, biota, water resources and human influences, fostering a thorough understanding of the East African landscape and its inhabitants. Lectures, discussions on selected topics, use of museum resources and field studies will develop powers of observation, identification and enquiry.

WILD 420 - Ornithology
This is a course examining the biology of birds and considering the evolution of morphological and behavioural adaptations allowing birds to thrive in their chosen habitats. The Kenyan setting where the avifauna is one of the richest and most diverse in the world provides a magnificent backdrop within which to study these adaptations. There is an emphasis on East African birds and their adaptations.

Academic Director

Dr. Timothy Johns

McGill University, Professor, School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition; Director of the Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment, McGill University

Dr. Johns is an ethnobotanist whose research interests focus on the traditional uses of plants for food and medicine in relation to issues of nutrition and health. His field studies in Africa and Latin America focus on traditional subsistence systems, and his laboratory studies focus on the nutrient, phytochemical, and biological activities of plants identified in the field.
To find out more about Professor Johns, click here

Teaching Staff Members

Dr. Lauren Chapman

Canada Research Chair in Respiratory Ecology and Aquatic Conservation
McGill University, Professor, Department of Biology; Honorary Lecturer, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda; Associate Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society

Dr. Chapman's research interests include aquatic ecology and conservation, specifically the evolutionary and ecological consequences of respiratory strategies in fishes, ecophysiology, ecomorphology, and adaptive divergence, as well as the value of tropical wetlands in the maintenance of fish faunal structure and diversity in tropical inland waters of Eastern Africa.
To find out more about Professor Chapman, click here

Dr. Colin Chapman

Canada Research Chair in Primate Ecology and Conservation.
McGill University, Professor, Anthropology and School of the Environment; Associate Member, Department of Biology, McGill; Honorary Lecturer, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda; Associate Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society.

Dr. Chapman's research uses experimental and observational approaches to determine how plant communities influence animals (population regulation, determinants of group size) and how animals influence their environment (herbivory, seed dispersal, community restoration). He has conducted fieldwork in Canada, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, and has established a long-term research program in Kibale National Park, Uganda.
To find out more about Professor Chapman, click here

Dr. Lea Berrang-Ford

McGill University, Assistant Professor in Health Geography, Department of Geography

Dr. Berrang Ford’s interests relate to the impact of environmental and global change on infectious diseases, particularly in developing regions. She has worked extensively on the social and environmental determinants of sleeping sickness in Uganda, and more recently on the vulnerability of Indigenous Batwa pygmies in southwestern Uganda to the health effects of climate change. Her interests focus on infectious, vectorborne and zoonotic diseases. To find out more about Dr. Berrang Ford, go to:

Dr. John Galaty

McGill University, Professor, Anthropology

An authority on East African Pastoralism and the relationship between environment and development. Research Associate of the National Museum of Kenya. Past President, Canadian Association of Africa Studies.
To find out more about Professor Galaty, click here

Dr. David Green

McGill University, Director, Professor, and Curator of Vertebrates, Redpath Museum of McGill University.

Chair of COSEWIC (the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada). National Co-ordinator of the Canadian working group of the IUCN/SSC Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force and a member of the international Board of Directors since 1998.
To find out more about Professor Green, click here

Dr. Thom Meredith

McGill University, Professor of Geography, Department of Geography

Dr. Meredith studies the management of natural biological resources and the role of local communities in conservation decision-making, and has worked in East Africa, Mexico, and Canada.
To find out more about Professor Meredith, click here

Dr. Jon Unruh

McGill University, Associate Professor, Department of Geography

Dr. Unruh's research interests are in the field of postwar land tenure: the relationship between land tenure and environmental change. Current research includes migration, land tenure and environmental change in southern Zambia, and postwar property rights and sustainable livelihoods.
To find out more about Professor Unruh, click here

A network of institutional bases

The program is run through facilities operated by reputable international research organizations. These facilities are run at international standards of health and safety, they provide lab, library and computer facilities, and allow students to be part of active research communities. The field stations will provide secure, comfortable, hubs for teaching and for student projects. The institutions are:


International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology 

ICIPE has several field sites in Kenya, including its Nairobi campus, which hosts the US Agency of International Development. As partners with ICIPE, we have access not only to their facilities but also to the medical network and the security system, which is linked to the UN system.

Our four ICIPE base sites are:

  • on the outskirts of Nairobi, which we use as a base for exploring the famous National Museum, the international headquarters of the United Nations Environment Program, and issues of urban development;
  • on an escarpment near Lake Magadi;
  • on the shores Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world and head of the Nile River;
  • on the Indian Ocean, where we explore reefs, coast forests and wetlands, and Swahili culture.

ICIPE's research agenda:

  • Human health research contributes to the reduction of malaria and other vector-borne diseases by developing tools and strategies that control the vectors and break the cycle of transmission, which can be integrated with other disease management efforts;
  • Animal health research aims to increase livestock productivity through development of integrated strategies and tools for livestock vector control, thus leading to greater availability of meat, milk, hides and draught power;
  • Plant health research contributes to improved sustainable food security and environmental health through the development of integrated pest management (IPM) in field and horticultural crops and storage pests;
  • Environmental health research concentrates on conservation and sustainable utilization of the agricultural production base and important natural ecosystems by encouraging and utilizing arthropod diversity; cataloguing and sharing biodiversity data and discovering endemic wealth by bioprospecting for useful natural products.

Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute

The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) undertakes research in marine and freshwater fisheries, aquatic sciences, biological, chemical and physical oceanography, limnology, pollution, aquaculture, natural products and marine geology.

Makerere University

Established in 1922, Makerere University is Uganda's premiere institution of higher learning and one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Africa. Home to over 30,000 undergraduates and 3000 graduate students, it is located on Makerere hill, about 5 km to the north of the centre of Kampala, Uganda's capital.

The University also operates the Makerere University Biological Field Station (MUBFS) located in Kibale National Park in the foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains. Established in 1970, MUBFS has become one of Africa's premiere field stations that permits researchers access to a variety of ecosystems and a diversity of animals. This park illustrates the future of many tropical forests: it is an isolated forest island surrounded by humanized landscapes that range from small landholder agricultural plots to tea estates. As a result this park acts as a window through which researchers and students can easily study the conflict between wildlife and human needs, as well as addressing basic biological questions.

Mpala Research Centre

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) is McGill's partner in its successful field school in Panama. STRI is affiliated with the Mpala Research Centre: a modern, secure, and well equipped field site at Mpala, in Laikipia, near Mount Kenya, where we camp in a forest by a small river. This is an area where students can safely conduct field research projects involving wildlife, while being accompanied by knowledgeable local guides.

In addition, we will move between sites with professional, reputable and recommended safari operators. They will take us into the best of Kenyan wildlife sites and to remote cultural and archeological sites.