Duke in Australia



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As an ancient world, Australia’s geological record goes back to the very dawn of time, harboring evidence of the oldest crust on Earth, the origin of life itself, and the very first animal communities.The island continent of Australia has been in “splendid isolation” from the rest of the world for at least 50 million years, running its own unique evolutionary experiment for much of that time. Human memories also run deep in the Land Down Under. The Australian Aboriginal Peoples arguably represent the longest continuous human society on planet Earth, going back at least 65,000 years. Due to this unique geological, biological, and human history, Australia preserves one of the most unique ecosystems and diversity of plants and animals on Earth.

Australia is an ideal place to develop an understanding of why fauna and flora around the world are different from place to place and, on the other hand, why plants or animals separated by great distances may be closely related. Through successive field observations of the ecology and biodiversity of different Australian habitats, you'll travel to the deserts of the Northern Territory, the coastal ranges of New South Wales, the high elevation forests of the Blue Mountains, and the rainforests and Great Barrier Reef of Queensland. Majestic landscapes of beaches, deserts, rainforests, and reefs form a spectacular backdrop for this immersive course experience. Majestic landscapes of beaches, mangroves, rainforests, and deserts provide a spectacular backdrop for this immersive course experience.


Location: Darwin (NT), Katoomba (NSW), Sydney (NSW), Cape Tribulation (QLD), Yungaburra (QLD), Cairns (QLD)

Term: Summer II

Dates: July 3, 2024 -  August 2, 2024

Application Deadline: February 1st. Rolling admission

Academic Theme(s): Biology, Earth & Climate Sciences, Environmental Science, Cultural Anthropology

Credit Type: Duke Credit

Eligibility: Open to all majors. No prerequisite. Non-Duke students are welcome to apply.

Duke Affiliation: Duke Department of Biology 

Housing: Hostel, Backpacker Accommodations, Motels, Tent Camping

Primary Contact: Alex Glass

  • Field studies are supplemented with readings, videos, and class discussions.

  • Snorkeling near Cairns, Queensland

  • Sunset at Kakadu National Park, Australia's largest national park

  • Duke in Australia students

  • Duke in Australia students

  • Sydney Opera House

  • Field studies on Duke in Australia

  • Picnic lunch break on Duke in Australia

  • Gaining firsthand knowledge of Australian biodiversity!

  • Snorkeling on Duke in Australia

  • Sunset after a long day exploring the outback of the Northern Territory


All students will enroll in the signature course offering one Duke credit. No pass/fail option or auditing is permitted. 



BIOLOGY 288A / EOS 288A / ENVIRON 288A  
Biogeography in an Australian Context  

(NS, STS) 1.0 Course Credit.
Instructors: Dr. Alexander Glass

Prerequisite: None. No prior course work in these areas is assumed or required.

Course work consists of field studies supplemented with readings, videos, and class discussions. You’ll gain firsthand knowledge of Australian biodiversity and an understanding of the basic issues of basic issues of evolution, functional morphology, biogeography, ecology, evolution, geology, and conservation biology.

The course introduces students to the ecology of the seasonally dry tropics of the Northern Territory, the cool and warm temperate climates of New South Wales, the dry desert of the central Outback, and the high and low elevation wet tropics and Great Barrier Reef of Queensland.  You will learn common representative species of plants and animals in each of these environments, as determined by the interaction of geology, climate, evolutionary history, and culture.  Special emphasis will be placed on the interaction between the Australian ecology and the Aboriginal Peoples.


From the Faculty Director

A detailed course website is maintained by the program's faculty director and updated each year: Duke in Australia 2024

Course Content


Much of this program will take place in the field, so program activities will be largely outdoors.  Before applying to this program, you should assess and determine if you are physically or emotionally able to participate in program activities, including: in a dry desert, cold and hot tropical rainforest, and high altitudes where participants will spend significant time walking, hiking on uneven ground (including hill slopes). In addition, participants should consider the following activities/conditions: 

  • Hikes and walks in high wind, heavy rain, and even snow
  • Hikes at night with flashlights
  • Exposure to mosquitoes and other biting insects
  • Swimming, which is highly recommended if you want to participate fully in some of the program’s aquatic surveys, is not required
  • At least five nights of camping
  • Entry into a cave, which includes descending a steep 30-foot stairway and some narrow, low-ceiling passageways
  • The possibility of warm/hot temperatures while residing in locations without air conditioning 

If you have questions or concerns about this program’s activities, please contact the Office of Global Health and Safety (oghs@duke.edu).


In Sydney, Katoomba, Darwin, Yungaburra, and Cairns you will stay in hostel-style accommodations, usually 4-8 people per room. Continental breakfast provided. In Kakadu National Park, you will stay in tents. All meals are provided while overnight camping.

At Cape Tribulation you will be staying in bunkhouse accommodations in the rainforest, usually 6-10 people per room. All meals in Cape Tribulation are included.

Cairns to the list above with hostel-style accommodations. Breakfasts are included.


Attendance is required at all classes, excursions, and group events. Given the intense nature of this program, late arrival and/or early departure is not permitted.

  • U.S. Departure: July 1, 2024
  • Australian Arrival: July 3, 2024
  • Departure: August 2, 2024


Students are required to take the designated international round-trip flight organized through our travel agency. Do not book your own flights. We will depart the U.S. as a group from LOS ANGELES, CA (LAX) one day prior to the program start date, and we will return through LAX. The travel agency will help you with arrange connecting flights to LAX. Additional details on the group flights will be provided to enrolled students in the spring.
Tickets for the required domestic group flights within Australia will be issued in conjunction with your international ticket.


Costs below are estimates based on previous years’ programs and the current exchange rate. All costs are subject to change. 

Summer 2024

  Duke Students Non-Duke Students
Tuition $2,840 $2,840
Program Fee $5,200 $5,200
Transcript Fee N/A $120
Other Costs Other Costs Other Costs
TOTAL (Estimated) $13,385 $13,505

Explanation of Costs

Financial Aid

Duke students receiving institutional need-based grant aid are eligible for aid for this program; work-study funds are converted to grants. Students are individually responsible for making the necessary arrangements with the Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support and the Duke Bursar’s Office.

Non-Duke students are not eligible to receive financial aid at Duke and should contact their home institutions for financial aid information.


Review summer study away scholarship opportunities for Duke students here.




All students are required to have a visa for travel to Australia. You will be given instructions for this process when you receive details for securing your flights.

Non-U.S. citizens—Pay special attention to the visa requirements for your specific citizenship by contacting your country’s embassy. GEO can provide a letter that may be required as part of the visa application process. Please begin the visa process as soon as you have been admitted to the program to ensure you receive your visa in time for the program start date.



All participants must have a valid passport. Make sure your passport has at least six months of validity beyond the program end date to avoid unintended disruptions. For instructions on obtaining or renewing your U.S. passport, visit passports.state.gov.


The program faculty director can assist with questions related to program academics, admissions, on-site needs, etc. For all other inquiries, please contact the GEO representative listed.

Alex Glass

Senior Lecturer in The Division of Earth & Climate Sciences

Alayne Wood

GEO Program Coordinator / Advisor


Deadline: February 1st

This program has rolling admission. Applications will be considered until the program fills; after that, qualified students are added to a waitlist and notified of openings. Applications must be received by the deadline to be considered. Application opens November 1.

Priority: Priority is given to applicants who apply early and perform well on the individual interview with the faculty director.

Minimum GPA: There is no minimum GPA.

Non-Duke students: Non-Duke students are welcome to apply for this program. You must be a degree-seeking student in good standing at an accredited college or university. Consult your university’s registrar and/or study away advisor for assistance with transfer credit. Students who are not matriculated at a college or university are not eligible to participate in Duke’s study away programs.


Start your application early to ensure that it is complete by the deadline! Incomplete applications will not be forwarded to the program directors for consideration.

Submit the following items using MyExperientialEd

  • Online application
  • Transcript(s) from all colleges and universities attended. First-year students should wait for fall semester grades to be posted before submitting their transcript
  • Personal statement, no longer than one page, explaining why you would like to participate
  • Home university approval form (non-Duke students)
  • Passport copy


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