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    Group snorkeling

Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation

December 27, 2017 - January 13, 2018

Biodiversity is Africa’s richest resource and its conservation is of critical importance for future generations and the world at large. As such, this program provides a unique opportunity for Virginia Tech students to immerse themselves in marine research, exploring the connections between the natural marine environment and human communities. Students will scuba dive along the country's tropical reefs to collect and later analyze data on system health, giving them a unique experience in global education.

Program participants will spend winter session at the Marine Research Centre (MRC) located in Tofo, Mozambique. Tofo is a small town in south-eastern Mozambique. The town lies on the Indian Ocean coast, on Ponto do Barra peninsula in Inhambane Province. It is famous for its spectacular diving, with regular sightings of marine megafauna including whalesharks, dolphins, humpback whales, manta rays, sea horses, and turtles, making it an exciting place to conduct research. The beach stretches for miles, with an abundance of soft sand and beautiful sunsets to watch each day. The MRC is located overlooking the beach and next door is the program's accommodation at Albotroz Lodge and dive centre.

Dr. Alexander, who was a marine mammal behavorist at Sea World in the 1980s and now professor in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, will lead the program directed at understanding the coupled dynamics of marine system health and rural livelihoods in Mozambique.

A wildlife veterinarian and professor who received Virginia Tech’s Alumni Awards for Excellence in International Outreach in 2013 and International Research in 2015, Alexander holds a Ph.D. in disease ecology and has worked across Africa. She is recognized by many international agencies for her global contributions in disease ecology, wildlife conservation, and rural development.

Country Information

Mozambique is a large country in Southeast Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest.

For almost two decades during the 1970’s and 80’s, many of its attractions were inaccessible as a result of a civil war which crippled the country and halted all development. Now the dark times are very much in the past, and Mozambique is emerging as one of Africa’s rising stars, with an upbeat atmosphere, overflowing markets and a spectacular 2500km coastline waiting to be discovered. Sunshine, blue skies and temperatures averaging between 24°C and 35°C along the coast are the norm.

Mozambique is most famous for its palm-fringed coastline and blue waters full of unique and diverse wildlife. This makes it a world class destination for diving and for boat based safari activities. It is one of the few places in the world you can swim with whale sharks, the world’s largest fish. You can observe the Humpback Whale annual migration, if you’re lucky and see these majestic animals breaching the water! Other amazing marine megafauna present include dolphins, turtles, manta rays, star fish, seahorses, and an abundance of colorful fish and coral reef.


No prerequisites; open to all students. Students must have a minimum GPA of 2.5.

Please note the program includes PADI open water dive course or an advanced dive course. A medical statement and clearance by a physician is required to engage in scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving. Shore activities are available for those seeking a non-dive option. See contact for eligibility-related questions.


The program offers 4 credit hours at the undergraduate level.

Course Credits Pathways/CLE
FIW 4 3954/5954

Having successfully completed this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Evaluate socio-ecological and environmental processes influencing tropical reefs;
  2. Understand the basic ecology and behavior of marine mega fauna, reef fishes, and coral reef organisms;
  3. Collect underwater marine field data collection and undertake basic analyses;
  4. Discuss global conservation impacts and intervention opportunities.

Informal meetings will be held in the fall semester. Students will have an opportunity to continue research in Spring 2018. Students are also encouraged to participate in the University's Experiential Learning Conference in April 2018.

  • VT Winter Session tuition and fees for 4 credit hours:[1]
  • Program fee: approximately $4,200.[2] The fee includes lodging, 3 meals a day during the program, PADI open water & deep dive or PADI Advanced course, program activities, pick-up and drop-off at Inhambane International Airport and other group transportation in country. The fee does not include international airfare, passport fees (if needed), immunizations, and personal expenses. Program fee has the potential to decrease based on the number of participants. 
  • Round-trip airfare: approximately $2,000.
  1. ^ Tuition and university fees are billed separately from the program fee according to University Bursar policy.
  2. ^ Program fees could be reduced depending on the number of program participants.

Program's detailed budget sheet

Learn more about the Mozambique program

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