Cover Photo Image


Kuching, Malaysia

Program Description

Are you excited about the idea of being wet, muddy, and working hard in the outdoors? Are you interested in conservation and the environment? Do you want to learn and work alongside peers from a different country and culture? Are you looking for some upper level Biology credit?  If so, consider coming to Borneo!

In this course, students will learn and use field research skills to document and study the rich biodiversity of Borneo. US students will work alongside students and faculty from the Universiti of Brunei and will 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. Student teams will work together to conduct independent research at the field site. 

The course emphasizes cross-cultural interactions and students will have the opportunity to work with local students, faculty, and conservation workers. Students will experience a breadth of cultural activities including traditional markets, temples, and mosques, visits to local communities, and spending time on the campus of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS). Bruneian students are fluent in English, but Bhasa language is spoken throughout Borneo (as are many dialects). It is expected that all participants will have opportunity to engage in informal language learning during the course.

Location Description

Borneo is the third largest island in the world and the largest in Southeast Asia.  This biodiverse tropical island is shared by three nations: Indonesia (Kalimantan), Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah) and Brunei.  Borneo is a global biodiversity hotspot, home to a fantastic array of fauna ranging from charismatic species such as sun bears and orangutan to many undescribed species of frogs, insects, and plants.  As is true across much of the globe, a tension exists on Borneo between economics and conservations.  Two of the greatest threats to this diversity is deforestation and human encroachment. The two states of Malaysian Borneo represent a complex patchwork of natural habitats, agriculture (especially oil palm plantations), and human developments. Students in this course will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the diversity, dynamics, and complexities of the Bornean tropical ecosystems.  


David McLeod | | Biology


While in Kuching, we will be staying at the Singgahsana lodge ( in the old part of downtown.  We will be walking distance from restaurants, shopping, and the river.  At Gunung Mulu we will be staying in researcher accommodations at the national park headquarters.  The park has excellent infrastructure including a dining facility (“canteen”), guest housing, and facilities to support scientific activities. 

Costs included in this course include all meals while in Sarawak. It will be relatively easy for vegetarians and others with dietary restrictions to eat the food provided and at the Park’s canteen.

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 Malaysia, but coverage at the field station is extremely limited. Pay-as-you-go phone and internet plans are available for a modest fee in Sarawak. It is recommended that you don't bring anything you couldn't bear to lose (including your cell phone).

  • This program is conducted in a tropical ecosystem. Participants should be in good physical health and excited to work outdoors in all kinds of conditions (wet/dry/hot/cool). The field station is located within a river valley and participants will be hiking forest trails that are often muddy, slippery, and steep. If you do not like to work hard outdoors while getting wet and dirty, this program is not for you.

  • This course is designed 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 2.5

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 
  • 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.

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.


Back to Top