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Tropical Field Biology in Borneo


Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo (Sabah)

Program Description

Borneo is considered a global biodiversity hotspot because of its tremendous biological diversity –– including charasmatic megafauna such as Orang-utan, Sumatran rhinocerus, elephants, Sambar deer, sun bear, and bearded pig. In addition it is home to more than 300 species of amphibians and reptiles. This course provides students with the opportunity to learn and use field research skills and take part in documenting aspects of the island's rich biodiversity (primarily amphibian and reptile diversity). Participants will also be presented with conservation problems that these ecosystems face (e.g., human population, habitat destruction, and introduced species) and challenged with the exercise of thinking about potential solutions. Students will be introduced to the scientific method and will have the opportunity to design and conduct independent research projects.

The course emphasizes cross-cultural interactions and students will have the opportunity to work with local students, faculty, and conservation workers. Plenty of opportunities will be provided for students to experience a breadth of cultural activities in the host country. Although knowledge of Bhasa language is not a prerequisite, it is expected that all participants engage in informal language learning during the course.

Location Description

This course will be based in Sabah within the Crocker Range National Park. Crocker Range National Park is the largest protected park in Sabah and is situated near the border with Brunei. The mountainous region reaches 1200–1800 m above sea level. The park has more than a dozen substations, the highest elevation station is beautifully equipped to accommodate groups and research. The forests of Crocker Range are home to a tremendous number of species endemic to the area.


David McLeod | | Biology


This course will be located in two locations in Sabah. We will spend the beginning and end of the course in Kota Kinabalu. The field component of the trip will be at a substation of the Crocker Range National Park approximately 1.5 hours from Kota Kinabalu. Excellent dormitories, kitchen facilities and working areas are available at the Tambunan station.

Meals will be prepared by the student team with locally sourced food. All meals will be provided as part of the program and the team will enjoy family style meals together each day.

Additional Items to Consider

  • A passport valid 6 months beyond our travel dates will be required.
  • No visa is required. A 90-day tourist visa will be obtained upon entry.
  • Routine immunizations are required. Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid are recommended by the CDC. Areas we will visit are not identified as malarial areas. (See:
  • Cell phones that use a SIM card can be used while in Sabah, but coverage in the field may be limited. Pay-as-you-go phone and internet plans are available for a modest fee in Sabah. It is recommended that you don't bring anything you couldn't bear to loose (including your cell phone).

The course is intended for advanced undergraduate and graduate students. Exceptional applications from students entering their sophomore year will be considered.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0

This program is intended for Biology majors, but applicants from any major who meet the eligibility requirements will be considered.

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short essay 
  • Faculty letter of recommendation
  • Interview with Program Director
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU students

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

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Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


BIO 426: Topics in Biology: Tropical Field Biology (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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