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Shepard with cattle in the Ngorongoro Crater

What are the pros and cons of parks and protected areas and how do they affect both wildlife and human inhabitants? Consider these questions and more as you travel through the world-famous landscapes of East Africa.

Parks and Peoples: The Challenges of Protected Area Conservation in East Africa

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The world-famous landscapes of East Africa, including Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and the Rift Valley lakes of Tanzania form the backdrop for this special course on protected area conservation, its impacts on local people, and alternative models that simultaneously promote conservation while creating local community benefits. We take full advantage of the special format of Sophomore College, spending an initial week on campus with lectures and lively discussions on these topics, before flying together on a 12-day expedition to northern Tanzania to witness firsthand the challenges of parks and peoples in this classic setting. A summer reading program is designed to help us all prepare for the experience. Students will also undertake research on a related subject of interest to them by drawing on the literature to develop and present a final paper to the class, providing a closer look at key places and issues we’ll consider. Joining us for the travel segment of the class, and a few days on campus, will be a small group of Stanford alumni who have an interest in these same topics.

The course is designed to explore the pros and cons of parks and protected areas as they affect both wildlife and human inhabitants, and to address the dilemma of how to achieve conservation in a manner that creates benefits for local people and promotes social justice. We will look at the history of specific protected areas to ask: (1) What approach to protected area (PA) conservation has been taken in each case? Who are the key proponents and what are their main social and ecological objectives? (2) How successful has the protected area been at achieving its conservation goals? In what ways is climate change affecting that success?  (3) What are the benefits of the PA to people and who receives them? (4) What are the costs of the PA to people and who pays them? (5) Where benefits are not commensurate to costs, what, if anything, is being done to address the imbalance? How well is it working? (6) Are there alternative conservation models that would make the interests of parks and people more compatible, and reduce the tradeoffs between them? What is needed to make these alternative models work? The travel portion of the class will help us take an on-the-ground look at these questions. We are scheduled to visit Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Mt. Meru, and Serengeti National Parks, plus the Maramboi Wildlife Management Area, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and nearby Maasai villages.

Both on campus and in Tanzania, the course emphasizes student contributions and presentations. Please note that students are required to read four books over the summer, to reflect on them in two short essays (2-3 pages each), one due in July and the other in August, and to come to campus in the fall well-prepared to discuss each reading and co-lead a class discussion on at least one of them. A 6- to 8-page final paper will be based on literature research on an approved topic, focused on Tanzania or nearby. Students will be expected to present main findings of that paper during an evening seminar as we travel.

This SoCo course is a unique partnership with the Stanford Alumni Association, and the international travel is supported by a special endowment designed to create opportunities for intergenerational learning. Some 25 alumni and friends of Stanford will join the class for the last 2 days on campus and the trip to Tanzania. Your research presentations will be shared with this expanded audience. You will have the unique opportunity to interact with like-minded travelers from various generations and learn from each other about how Stanford has changed over the years.

Important Logistics: Students need to have enough slack in their summer plans to complete the required readings and short essays in July and August. We will have an initial class meeting and first lecture this spring (in late May). In September, students will arrive on campus and will be housed at Stanford until we leave for the travel portion of the course.  Students must arrive on campus on September 2 in time to attend a 3pm class meeting. This course returns one day after the official end of SoCo, on Saturday, September 21, 2024.

Meet the Instructor(s)

William Durham

Bing Professor in Human Biology, Emeritus

William Durham and parrot

Bill Durham received his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Michigan before joining the Stanford faculty in Human Biology and Anthropology. His current research focuses on ways to promote sustainability in and around national parks and protected areas. Winner of the MacArthur Prize and other awards for research and teaching, Bill’s publications include Coevolution: Genes, Culture and Human Diversity, Ecotourism and Conservation in the Americas (co-editor), Exuberant Life: An Evolutionary Approach to Conservation in Galápagos, and “Anthropology and Environmental Policy: Joint Solutions for Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods” co-authored with Susan Charnley. He served 16 years as editor of the Annual Review of Anthropology and was Co-founder and Co-director of the Center for Responsible Travel for a decade. He is currently a Co-Director Emeritus of the Osa and Golfito Initiative for Sustainability (INOGO) in Costa Rica for the Woods Institute.

Susan Charnley

Susan Charnley

Susan Charnley received her PhD in Anthropology from Stanford in 1994, with a dissertation on livestock herding and rangeland management in Tanzania. Since then, she has returned to Tanzania to do research on ecotourism and community forestry.  Since 2002 Susan has worked as a Research Social Scientist with the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland, OR. Her research interests lie in how to sustain rural, natural-resource based livelihoods in ways that are compatible with conservation, and in community-based natural resource management. Most of her research takes place in the western U.S. and in Africa. Susan has led other trips to Africa with Stanford Travel-Study, and has been Co-Instructor with Bill Durham in the previous 2011, 2014, and 2017 Tanzania Field Seminars and a 2021 class on campus that covered these same topics.