• Picture of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, next to the text "Virtual Program"

    Virtual Capstone in South Africa


Situated at the southern tip of the African continent, South Africa is bordered by the Indian and Atlantic Oceans; each with its own unique characteristics and bounty of marine life. The convergence of these two oceans offers a unique ecological context with a diversity like no other destination on earth. 

This program introduces students to marine conservation work, challenges presented by ocean waste, and The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Along the way, students will interact with local students in South Africa, learn about South Africa’s great white shark populations, and gain a better understanding of how South Africa’s rich and complex history has shaped its society. Students will gain an appreciation for how various cultural beliefs, mind sets, and social challenges affect responses to conservation. 

Taught fully online, this program enables students to have an enhanced learning experience through virtual visits and conversations with locals in South Africa. This unique platform brings the world to UNI students in an affordable and sustainable way.

No travel is required for participation in this program. 


Course Leaders

Peter Berendzen, Professor

Department: Biology
Phone: 319-273-7026
E-mail: peter.berendzen@uni.edu
Campus Address: MSH 93

Peter has led study abroad programs to Taiwan, New Zealand, and the Galapagos and has traveled extensively throughout the world for both education and pleasure. His academic expertise is in biodiversity and conservation, which will be the focus of the Virtual Capstone in South Africa program. Peter loves to go "off the beaten path" in his travel explorations and is excited to bring the world to UNI students through this program. 


CAP 3140: Environment, Technology, and Society Capstone (2 credit hours) +  BIOL 3174: Field Biology: South Africa (1 credit hour) 

Students will be enrolled in both courses listed above for a total of 3 credit hours. Taught fully online June 7 - 21, 2021, this June session program enables students to have an enhanced learning experience through virtual visits and conversations with locals in South Africa. No travel required.

To view the tentative syllabus, click HERE. After participation in this program, students should be able to: 

  • List the major threats to biodiversity in the ocean and provide examples of each of these threats
  • Discuss potential solutions to threats to biodiversity in the oceans and the pros and cons of each solution
  • Participate in round-table discussion on issues surrounding marine protect areas and the stakeholders
  • Give an effective scientific presentation

The Study Abroad Center will directly enroll participants in the courses during the spring semester. Please contact the program's course leader for more information on academic requirements.  


  • In order to receive Capstone credit, program participants must have completed 60 credits hours prior to the program s course start date (i.e. be of Junior standing). Students who participate in capstone programs without meeting the credit hour prerequisite will receive elective credit. In this instance, students should consult with their academic advisor(s) regarding how the elective credit fits into their specific plans of study.
  • Students planning to participate in the spring commencement ceremony in May can enroll in this summer term program, however, their degree will not be conferred until the end of the summer term and is contingent on the successful completion of the program and all required coursework.
  • Students attending colleges and universities other than UNI are welcome to participate in this program. If you are not currently a UNI student, but would like to participate in this program, please contact the UNI Study Abroad Center prior to starting your program application.
  • Capstone courses cannot be repeated. If you have previously taken this capstone course, please contact the UNI Study Abroad Center prior to starting your program application.


Virtual class meetings Monday through Friday, 3 to 7 pm, June 7 - 21, 2021. This program offers an enhanced learning experience through virtual visits and conversations with locals in South Africa. 

Monday, June 7 - Friday, June 11: Virtual class meetings with course leader and fellow students 

Monday, June 14 - Friday, June 18: Virtual programming in South Africa, details below.

June 14: Orientation

  • Orientation session designed to contextualize the country setting and provide information pertinent to the overall program experience.
  • Introduction to Marine Dynamics & their conservation work. The Marine Dynamics Academy is based in Gansbaai, which has become known as South Africa’s “Shark Capital” for the incredible number of Great White Sharks that are found in the area. The academy utilizes ecotourism to further marine research and conservation goals.
  • Dyer Island Ecosystem and the Marine Big 5 Lecture: Research, methods, sampling and data management.

June 15: Great White Shark Species with Marine Dynamics Academy

  • Focus on great white sharks. The seas around Dyer Island have one of the most accessible populations of great white sharks in the world, creating a rare opportunity for the marine biologists at Marine Dynamics to conduct invaluable research from their eco-tourism vessels and dedicated research boats. While their research extends to seabirds, marine mammals, and rocky shorelines, they specialize in shark studies, including tagging and tracking, behavioral surveys, wound healing, environmental parameter monitoring as well as daily observational data.
  • Sessions with senior biologists on shark fin identification and changes to shark populations in the Cape.

June 16: Marine Ecology of the Cape & Community Buy In

  • Baited Remote Underwater Video (species identification) with a senior biologist.
  • Lecture with Save our Seas Foundation: Rocky Shores Ecology. The Save our Seas Foundation offers experiential education programs that focus on sharks and local marine ecosystems in order to nurture ocean awareness and environmentally responsible actions. Based on Cape Town’s beautiful south peninsula coastline, the Save our Seas Foundation is perfectly positioned to offers lectures and critical viewings of the local marine ecosystems. Following a lecture on the ecology of rocky shores and tidal pools, students are guided through the effects of climate change, overfishing, and human-wildlife conflict on South Africa’s shoreline.
  • Community Education: Importance of Community Buy In to Save our Seas. Despite a growing consciousness towards climate action and environmental conservation, a large number of South Africa’s population still experiences extreme levels of poverty, inequality and inferior socioeconomic conditions that make it difficult to prioritize conservation over basic human needs. This session highlights the significance of education to promote awareness and encourage community involvement in order to bring about sustainable conservation practices.

June 17: Ocean Waste & Sustainability Issues 

  • Virtual beach clean up & analysis. More than just a beach clean up, this session uses the methodology of documenting and analyzing the most common and hazardous types of marine litter. Furthermore, students are encouraged to address social norms around consumption and design by raising awareness around the purchase of single use plastics and issues of packaging to lessen the load of litter on our oceans. Students take these methodologies and apply them to their own context.
  • Analysis of waste items from students clean up assignment (assigned earlier in course).
  • Panel discussion: Corporate & Community Sustainability Practices to Reduce Plastic in our Ocean. As societies are becoming more conscious of the detrimental effects of plastic products, plastics companies are now more than ever being challenged to take responsibility to help protect our environment. In this panel discussion, students have the opportunity to engage directly with stakeholders who are invested in responsible plastic production, environmental education, recycling and creative re-use of plastic products, and ocean conservation.

June 18: United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals Discussion with Local Students

  • Critical viewing of changes to the South African coastline.
  • Conversations with local students: SDG 14 - Life Under Water. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals were put together in a bid to mobilize countries to make efforts towards ending all forms of poverty, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change. This session encourages students to expand their perspectives and collaborate with African students to investigate Goal 14, which focuses on Life Below Water, to understand the needs that it addresses in both a local and African context. Students are further encouraged to ideate around what they can do as global citizens to actively address this goal.
  • Final reflection with our South African partners. 

Monday, June 21: Virtual Group Case Study Presentations

Program Costs

Virtual Capstone in South Africa

Estimated Program Cost:


* estimated total cost of participation, actual amount depends on type of housing accommodation selected, actual airfare purchase price, personal spending habits, and other factors

Click Below to View Detailed Budget Sheet:

Cost of studying on-campus*

*per semester, estimated, will vary per person

Tuition & Fees:


Room & Board:




Personal Expenses:






Source: https://admissions.uni.edu/costs

Dates & Deadlines


App Deadline: 
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Program Dates: 
Monday, June 7, 2021 to Monday, June 21, 2021

The Study Abroad Center reserves the right to determine participants' eligibility to Study Abroad. Students must meet all of the following in order to be eligible to Study Abroad:

  • Have a cumulative 2.5 GPA or higher at the time of application and maintain this cumulative GPA prior to departure and throughout the study abroad process
    • If your cumulative GPA is lower than 2.5, submit the following to the Study Abroad Center (103 East Bartlett):
    • Letters of reference from two academic contacts (e.g. academic advisor and former or current professor) supporting your pursuit of study abroad. If you are attending a faculty-led study abroad program, one of the letters must be from a course leader. However, if the program has two course leaders, only one of the letters can be from one of the course leaders.
  • Must be over the age of 18 years old
  • Must meet the course prerequisites (participation in the program is dependent upon meeting these)
  • Must be in good standing with the University
  • UNI's partner institutions may require additional eligibility requirements to be met, these vary from institution to institution. Please consult with the Study Abroad Center staff to discuss these additional requirements if applicable.
  • Applicants traveling to a region of a country or a country with an overall Travel Advisory Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) or 4 (Do Not Travel) will not be eligible.
  • All study abroad applicants must pass the Study Abroad Applicant Assessment with a score of 70% or greater.
  • Applicants may be selected for an in-person interview before being accepted. Selection for an interview does not guarantee acceptance into the program. You will be contacted directly by the Study Abroad Center if selected for an interview.