Pacific Island Coastal Ecology International Course

2019 course dates

15 July – 8 November 2019 with a field trip to the Solomon Islands from 1 to 14 September 2019.

Marine and terrestrial experience in the tropics

If you are interested in unique ecosystems and maybe thinking about a career in marine biology, environmental management or conservation then this is an opportunity that will provide you with both marine and terrestrial experience in the tropics.

Tropical rainforests, mangroves, and coral reefs provide the setting for studying issues of biodiversity and conservation in the Solomon Islands. Coral reefs are often referred to as the tropical rainforests of the sea, but you will be able to judge that for yourself in this unique location.

This course provides a truly once in a lifetime experience that not many South Pacific visitors can boast about.

  • Learn about coral reefs and rainforest in a location that provides both ecosystems
  • Learn internationally recognised survey and impact-assessment techniques
  • Practise marine biology by diving and snorkeling on coral reefs
  • Practise rainforest forest ecology on a unique island with no real megafauna
  • Hike through the rainforest into the crater or the summits
  • Dive on WWII Japanese and American wrecks
  • Learn about ethnography and human-resource interactions by living in a village setting and interacting with locals on a daily basis.

Students diving during their Ecology course in the Pacific

About the course

Kolombangara Island provides an excellent opportunity for studying both coral reefs and rainforests. It is an extinct stratovolcano that stretches 30km in diameter, covered by pristine sub-montane and montane forests that rise almost 1800 meters above sea level.

The “battle of Kolombangara” was also the site of major battle between the US led allies and Japanese forces in WWII (so there are a few ship and plane wrecks across the area) and where US president John F Kennedy was shipwrecked as a sailor.

This course is very practically focused with most assessments (80%) coming via fieldwork-associated activities. There are no tests or exam in this course.

It is taught at an advanced level and assumes that candidates are science students who have basic knowledge of form and function of plants and animals, have good dissemination and general data analysis skills, are comfortable in and around water (preferably SCUBA trained), and have some basic hiking experience.

Assessment structure

Study Abroad ECOL732 Assessment Structure


The field activities carried out in this course are supervised by Dr Armagan Sabetian and Dr Sebastian Leuzinger, both senior academics at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.

Dr Sabetian’s expertise is in fish ecology, while Dr Leuzinger is interested in rainforest ecology and the global carbon system. Both also have interest in coral reef ecology and tropically trained from James Cook University in Australia.

Transcript and credits

The paper is worth 3-4 US credits or 7.5 ECTS.


We will travel to the western province of Solomon Islands from Auckland, New Zealand. We will stay in Vavanga village, a lowland coastal village on the southwest coast of Kolombangara Island.

We will make daily excursions to the surrounding islands and reefs to explore the marine environment, and hikes into the interior and summits of the rainforest.


Completion of introductory Biology and Ecology courses is preferred.

Students group photo while on Ecology course in the Pacific

Programme details

Orientation and preparation

Students will be expected to attend several preparatory lectures where course content and background literature, course structure, and trip details, among other topics, will be discussed.

International travel

Students will be advised by the programme leaders in how to book their international and internal flights to and within the Solomon Islands.


Students will be housed in a modern tropical villa with shared style accommodation in Vavanga village. Students are expected to camp out for one night in the rainforest at about 1000m ASL on the way to the summit of the volcano. Vavanga village is electrified, from a micro-hydro dam and only 10 nautical miles from the capital of Western Province (Gizo) where access to all types of health, shopping and financial services exist.

Dates, fees and what's included

We will begin in Auckland and travel to the Solomon Islands.


15 July – 8 November 2019 with a field trip to the Solomon Islands from 1 to 14 September 2019.


$2000 NZD plus international student tuition. Please contact for more information.

What’s included

  • All accommodation and food while on site
  • All internal boat travel while on site
  • All dive gear hire

Students will pay for their own international travel between Auckland and the Solomon Islands.

For more information, please contact