Botswana is teeming with wildlife. Exotic birds and elephant herds range through acacia forests, lions hunt the savannah, and hippos bob in wide rivers. The Okavango Delta, one of the largest inland deltas in the world, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. For reasons yet unknown, many of its iconic wildlife populations are in decline. To begin to understand these declines, Round River students are assisting the Okavango Community Trusts with wildlife surveys and rare and threatened bird monitoring. Working closely with local instructors and guides to accomplish these important wildlife and habitat studies, students also assist with training, capacity building, and community outreach activities.

Join Round River to experience one of the world’s most abundant ecosystems. You will thrive on the invaluable educational opportunities of working alongside the stewards of this rich landscape, while surrounded by wildlife and immersed in the culture and its people.

Round River, in partnership with the University of Botswana Okavango Research Institute (ORI) and local Community Trusts, is assisting with wildlife monitoring in selected Wildlife Management Areas in northeastern Botswana.

Botswana is home to some of the world’s most abundant and diverse wildlife populations. Two immense wetlands, the Chobe-Linyanti-Zambezi Wetland and the Okavango Delta, support Africa’s largest concentration of carnivores and are home to over 60% of Africa’s elephants. The Okavango Delta, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014, is one of the largest inland deltas in the world, supporting a vast array of critical ecosystem services within an otherwise semi-arid region of northern Botswana. For yet unknown reasons, many of the wildlife populations of Botswana are now in serious decline. Round River’s efforts in Botswana are focused on understanding this decline and to assist local communities with monitoring these populations.

This program involves a variety of research activities that include assisting local communities with wildlife monitoring and wildlife demography studies, monitoring rare and threatened bird populations, computer and equipment training with community escort guides, and conducting vegetation surveys. 

Program Dates

Fall Semester – 12 weeks mid September to mid December

Spring Semester – 12 weeks early February to early May

Program Costs

Semester programs:

  • $22,150 (pricing includes tuition, room and board, project research fees and equipment, ground transportation, and evacuation insurance)
  • $750 Westminster University registration fee

Our semester programs are just under three months long (84 days to be exact). For that duration and the 15 hours of semester credit, Round River is affordable compared to other options of shorter length and fewer credits. And every day is packed!

Students are in remote places where there aren’t a lot of options to spend money, which is a savings that can add up over the three months. Except for personal expenses, once on site, Round River takes care of most expenses including food, board, and in-country travel for the duration of the program. Federal financial aid can be used for our programs, and we offer our Edward Abbey Scholarship as well. If finances are a concern, please contact us. We’ll work with every student to explore opportunities that will allow them to get out in the field and make a difference with us.

Courses Offered (15 Semester Credits):

  • Natural History
  • Introduction to Biological Field Methods
  • Applied Conservation Biology
  • Humans and the Environment
  • Community-Based Natural Resource Management

Our blog provides an ongoing log and history of students’ experiences over the years. There is no better resource to understand what a Round River Student Program is like and what to expect.

Imagine spending every day outside, observing elephants bathing at sundown, huge herds of zebra migrating, and African wild dogs running by camp hunting in a pack. Envision immersing yourself in local ecosystems and getting to learn how to recognize nearly every plant, animal, and bird that surrounds you. Then picture yourself falling asleep every night in your tent to the sounds of hyenas and hippos, and maybe even the call of a lion. 


What was extremely unique about this program was that all the work we were doing was actually aiding in local conservation efforts. Not only did I get a full semester of credits and learned an incredible amount myself, I got to make a real difference in this place to which I had become very attached. For anyone who is looking for a hands on experience, this is the program for you. Round River is great at making you feel comfortable traveling to a foreign country and they set you up with everything you will need.

–  Hailey Everett, 2015 (University of Vermont)

What to Expect

Operating out of 4WD vehicles, the student research crews live in the bush and visit a variety of different field sites and communities. For much of the time, local community guides camp with us, giving daily opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges. Students conduct daily game counts with community guides. Afternoons at camp are spent working with the guides on data entry and covering coursework.

Our academics complement the field research and are designed to be interactive and hands-on. Students can expect to spend a few hours a day working on their field journals, reading and discussing relevant articles with the group, having lectures from program instructors, and working on assignments and essays. Guest lectures, when possible, will also add to students’ understanding of conservation and land-use planning in the area. Each program culminates with a final written research paper, focusing on one aspect of the project, as well as a presentation in the community.

Round River programs are all unique, with no program the same as the last. All in all, this challenging program provides an opportunity to experience Botswana and gain diverse perspectives on doing the work of conservation in southern Africa. Round River has been working in Botswana since 2012, and is a result of our continuing commitment to conservation in southern Africa since 1998 when we started our work in Namibia.

Round River is partnered with the Okavango Research Institute (ORI) of the University of Botswana.  Over the years students have assisted the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), USAID Southern Africa Regional Environmental Program (SAREP), The Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, Bird Life Botswana, and numerous Community Trusts and communal concessions around the Okavango Delta region.

Research Objectives

Student projects have always been a key part of the RRCS Botswana program, with each student group contributing to the improvement and refinement of the monitoring work in northern Botswana.  Your time and work in Botswana will influence not only those you meet during your time here but also contribute to the future of wildlife policy in the country.

Students may participate in the following field activities:

  • Monitoring wildlife numbers and conducting wildlife demography studies
  • Monitoring elephant demography and reproduction
  • Training community guides on computer skills and other equipment
  • Conducting camera trapping studies
  • Interviewing the guides to document their knowledge of wildlife trends
  • Monitoring rare birds
  • Surveying vegetation and habitat

Student Projects

Spring 2023

Revitalizing tribal languages in the Okavango Delta with an ecological field guide. By Ziggy Berkoff and Lauren Ulrich

Tourism potential in Sankoyo, Mababe, and Khwai. By Marcus Demian, Nicole Hardy, and August Tolzman

Fall 2022

Correlation between road density and vehicle-specific aggression in the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) and its implications for human-wildlife interactions in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. By Lauren Emerick, Christian Soychak

Demographic assessment of herbivores in the Okavango Delta and sampling methodology review. By Briana Heller, Faerin Dick, and Halverson Gemignani

Temporal and spatial analysis of birds of concern within the Okavango Delta. By Grace Budd and Alexa Leith

Spring 2022

Beginners Field Guide to Common Birds in Northern Botswana. By Adriane Mason and Josh Nelson

Field Guide to Common Natural Community Types in the Ngamiland Region of Botswana. By Leah Israel

Herbarium of the Okavango Delta and Surrounding Area. By Abaigeal Carroll and Emma Landenberger

Loxodonta Africana (Mammalia) Behavioral Reactions Towards Vehicles in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.  By Marcelite Bucheit and Guido Rahr

Spring 2020

Age and Sex Demographics of Hunted Ungulates in Northwestern Botswana. By Meghan Murphy and Dominic Noce

Determining African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) Demographics to Reduce Human-Wildlife Conflict in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. By Madison J. Busacco and Evan A. Olson

Diversity, Ecology, and Adaptations of Vegetation in the Okavango Delta: An Environmental Studies Lesson Plan for Elementary Education. By Patrick Heaton and Grace Horne

Educational Bird Brochures for the community trusts of Sankuyo and Mababe: Birds of Sankuyo Botswana and Birds of Mababe Botswana. By Jenifer Torres and Lewis Short

Evaluating Individual Counts of Herbivores at different Distances for Strip-Width or Distance Sampling. By Peyton Foster and Rachael Podtburg

Recommendations from Wildlife Field Methodologies of Round River Conservation Studies: A Guide for Future Transects of Nsumbu National Park. By Oscar Psychas

Spatial and demographic assessment of vehicle-specific aggression in the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) and its implications for human-wildlife conflict in the Okavango Delta. By Adam C. Blachly and Indira G. Palmer

Temporal Abundance and Richness Analysis of Raptor Population Trends (2013-2020) in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. By Allegra Klein and Ian Foote

Weather and Abiotic Influences on Wildlife Activity in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. By Shayla Triantafillou

Fall 2019

Behavior of African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) in Response to Vehicles in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. By Elyse Ruthenbeck and Rose G. Newell

Distance Sampling Transect Methodology for Herbivore Monitoring in the Okavango Delta. By Katherine Rigney, Mary Kuehl, Fiona Casey and Johanna Griggs

Raptor Distribution Across Different Habitat Types in the Okavango Delta. By Jessica A. Harkness, Hailey F. Brookins and Martica J. Drury


Full listing of student papers


Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Please apply early for the best chance of being accepted into the program of your choice.