The UNSW River Basin Ecosystem Management (BIOS6723) course is an intensive, 10-day field course focused on the management of one of the world’s most spectacular ecosystems – the Okavango Delta World Heritage site in Botswana. In partnership with Kings College London and Arizona State University (our PLuS Alliance partners) and Botswana University, this course explores practical concepts of river basin ecosystem conservation, management and governance. Our lecturers delve into the geopolitical constraints, opportunities and considerations shaping the Delta’s river system management, which involves three countries: Angola, Botswana and Namibia.

Botswana’s Okavango Delta is a biodiversity hotspot and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has an extensive wetland system with diverse waterbird populations, vegetation communities, large predators, and the greatest population of elephants in Africa. During the field trip to Botswana, you’ll learn more about the sustainability of biological and abiotic processes within the context of human drivers of development and ecosystem services delivered by the river.

Throughout the River Basin Ecosystem Management course, you’ll gain skills in field methods and ecosystem-scale landscape analyses and their application to human/wildlife interactions. You’ll also contribute to long-term data collection for the management of the river basin. Upon completion of this course, you’ll have experience in tackling a global challenge in a developing country.

Term offering

Term 2

Course attendance

Short/intensive course


Undergraduate - Second Year



Marine science

Course code


Course breakdown

This course teaches applied practical skills required in river basin management and how to apply knowledge to practical challenges. During the course, you’ll conduct field-based tasks of indicator species and develop a river basin ecological monitoring plan.

The course aims to:

  • provide an opportunity for advanced training in river basin conservation and management using case studies from Africa and Australia
  • consider the political, governance and management scale and constraints of river basin conservation management, and learn directly about these challenges in Botswana
  • help you gain practical international experience in river basin ecosystem monitoring. This includes the implementation of survey techniques on wetlands and the recognition of environmental flow management
  • understand the data and scale requirements for modelling large river basin ecosystems and identifying dependent ecosystem values and services
  • provide an understanding of the role and complexity of collaborative approaches to river basin ecosystem conservation and management through the development of an adaptive river basin management plan, built on a hierarchy of values, which identifies the management objectives, key stakeholders and response indicators.

Note: the fieldwork component of this course is held during week 5 of Term 2.

Conditions for enrolment 

This course involves compulsory fieldwork in Botswana, at the expense of individual students. The field trip runs during the week 5 study break of Term 2. Due to limited course capacity, preference is given to high-performing students in relevant programs or majors. Before enrolling in this course, it’s assumed you have the following knowledge:


The total cost of the fieldwork portion of the trip is $1900*, which includes your return flight from Maun into the Okavango Delta ($400) and food, accommodation (five nights in Maun, 5 nights in the camp in the Okavango Delta), equipment, logistics and transport ($1500).

Please note: your tuition costs for the corresponding enrolment in this unit at UNSW are not covered under the Field Work Costs and are additional to any cost associated with this opportunity.

*Costs are subject to change

Tuition fees


You’ll need to organise and pay for your own return trip from Sydney to Maun (Botswana) through Johannesburg (South Africa). We estimate the return trip expense will be approximately $2500-$3000.

How to apply

To apply for the River Basin Ecosystem Management course, follow the below four steps.

  1. Submit the following documents to the Student Portal Web Forms website. The course coordinators will be in touch as soon as possible to confirm whether you are accepted into the course:
    1. A 200-word summary of why you would like to do the course.
    2. A short confirmation sentence informing us that you’re aware and can meet the fieldwork costs of the course (airfare to-and-from Botswana organised by yourself and includes field trip fees).
    3. Your academic transcript.
    4. Your CV.
  2. If you’re accepted to enrol, you’ll need to pay the fieldwork costs of $1800 to the BSB Office. We will arrange a mechanism for you to do this.
  3. Buy a return airfare to Maun in Botswana (via Johannesburg). You’ll have to stay a night in Johannesburg for the connecting flight. Indicate that you’re responsible for organising this and the fieldwork costs and tuition fees if they apply.
  4. Attend briefings about the logistics of the course when required. We’ll ensure these are timed so that you can attend.

Career opportunities

Environmental science analyses and provides solutions to current environmental challenges, including ecosystem conservation, waste management, climate change and pollution. To protect the planet, environmental scientists study, develop and advise on future policies. These policies can be embedded within Government legislation to ensure the survival of flora, fauna and other natural resources.

At UNSW Science, you can take the River Basin Ecosystem Management course or study the Bachelor of Environmental Management.

What our graduates say

“On the boat, we realised the great biodiversity of the region. I found the hippo paths, which are used by elephants and buffalo as an extraordinary relationship between organisms and the environment in the ecosystem.”

- Alex Ingall, River Basin Ecosystem Management course graduate.

Find out more

For more information, please contact Professor Richard Kingsford.


T: +61 2 9385 3442