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  • Locations: Mpala Research Center, Kenya
  • Program Terms: Spring Break
  • Restrictions: Princeton applicants only
  • This program is currently not accepting applications.
Program Description:

ANT 455: Spring 2020 Course with Field Trip to the Mpala Research Centre, KENYA

Field Trip Dates: Princeton spring break: 14-22 March 2020 

Saturday (tentatively morning, unless Friday, 13 March) to Sunday (scheduling to be back on campus by mid-afternoon). Dates of departure and return will be announced in February. Actual time of departure from campus will be announced in March.


ANT 455 Visible Evidence: Documentary Film and Data Visualization 
This course revolves around a journey during the spring break week to Princeton’s Mpala wildlife research centre in Kenya where students will shoot documentary video and collect data while immersed in a field setting. In the weeks preceding the trip, students learn critical methods in documentary filmmaking, data visualization, mapping, and they will develop substantive ideas for the field work they will conduct in Mpala. When they return to Princeton, students will continue editing and analyzing their material in order to complete and publish their projects. Because of the centrality of the field experience to student learning, the field trip is a required part of the course.

This course involves a unique research opportunity for a small cohort of 10 to 15 students. Students interested in anthropology, visual media and/or Africa are especially encouraged to apply.

Applications will be accepted online via the Global Programs System (GPS) during the spring-term enrollment period in Fall 2019 and in Reading Period in January 2020. The initial application deadline is in December. Thereafter additional applications are welcome on a rolling basis up to and including Dean's Date and will be considered as space permits. If this opportunity interests you, please reply now to let the Anthropology Department know, although a reply is not a commitment to submit an application.  


In conjunction with the Mpala Research Centre (Director in Kenya, Dr. Dino Martins) and Princeton University, the Department of Anthropology is pleased to announce the fourth year of a field trip opportunity in Kenya during the 2020 spring break. This year’s course experience is designed to enable students to apply in a field setting the basic techniques in documentary shooting and editing, as well as data collection and visualization, including mapping.  At Mpala, students will collect data for visualizations that explain the complexity of scientific research and shoot video for films that situate science and conservation in lives of people at the Centre and the region. Devoted to sustainable human-wildlife coexistence, Mpala is also an ideal setting for using visual media to explore multispecies ethnography and the entanglements between human societies and the lives of animals and plants.   

Regardless of your major, this trip, led by Professor Jeffrey Himpele, lecturer in Anthropology and director of the VizE Lab for Ethnographic Data Visualization, is meant to spark new intellectual perspectives and broaden your cultural experiences while working in a range of visual media; it might potentially develop into long term independent research, including, but not limited to, your junior independent work and senior thesis.
Sample of possible activities during the break-week visit to Mpala:
  1. Visits to homesteads, schools, and local communities in the near environs of Mpala
  2. Experiences learning from staff of the Mpala Research Centre and other interlocutors from Kenya and the surrounding region who conduct wildlife research and conservation
  3. Experiences in video production and data collection with researchers in the field of human evolution and wildlife ecology, archaeology and paleontology
  4. Nightly screenings and feedback of raw footage and collected data
  5. Visits to archaeological and rock art sites at Mpala (Middle Paleolithic sites)
Mpala is a full field research station with living accommodations. Group travel to and from Kenya, ground transportation within Kenya, and all living accommodations will be covered by the program.


Video production - Students may use their own personal video equipment in this course, from recent model mobile iPhones to digital cameras, DSLRs, and dedicated video cameras. A number of accessories for iPhones (e.g. microphones and tripods) will be recommended for purchase. The VizE Lab in the Anthropology Dept will offer the use of a video package of camera and accessories, as well as a limited supply of accessories for use with iPhones. Regardless of equipment used, students will have to ensure there is room for video on their iPhones, or supply their own memory cards for recording video on cameras. For any student enrolled in this course for whom the requirement to provide personal video equipment would represent a financial hardship, the Anthropology Department will help the student obtain the necessary equipment to fulfill course requirements. A student for whom help for this purpose could be available must be a student who is receiving University financial aid.

For data collection and visualization, students will use a combination of their own mobile phones and laptop computers.

Prior experience in video-making and editing, data visualization, or statistical software is not required.


Travel, lodging, and food expenses will be covered. Students are responsible for their own “pocket money” for personal purchases made during the trip. Students may also be responsible for expenses related to travel immunizations and prescriptions. During a required group meeting (in early February) on travel health and safety, followed by individual consultation with University Health Services, students will receive travel health advice including recommendations for required and optional immunizations and medicine. Princeton University Health Services (UHS) at the McCosh Health Center is equipped to provide immunization services for a fee; charges for services received will be billed directly to student accounts.


The Princeton University Student Health Plan (SHP) can be expected to provide benefits coverage for travel immunizations. For students not on the Student Health Plan, coverage for immunizations will depend on their private insurance plans. Private health plan students should check with their own insurers regarding benefits. Regardless of insurance provider, students will need to submit claims (to the SHP or to private insurance) to request reimbursement of immunization expenses that will have been paid out of pocket at the time of service or billed to their student accounts. For students on a private health plan that does not cover travel-related health expenses, financial assistance may be available only in the case of demonstrated financial need. If financial assistance is requested, students must present an insurance explanation of benefits (EOB) to the Department of Anthropology as proof of costs incurred and they must do so by April 30, 2020.


An EOB that a student presents to the Department of Anthropology must be supported by documentation showing the service received and the amount paid. At the time when students obtain travel-related health services at UHS (or elsewhere), they should ask the checkout staff for an invoice or receipt (at the UHS front desk, this is sometimes called a “walk-out statement”). The invoice or receipt will also be needed to support claims submitted to insurance providers for reimbursement request. 


Please note that as of the first day of spring-term classes in February your passport must be valid through the end of September 2020, with at least TWO blank visa pages available for visa and stamps. If this is not the case with your passport and you would like to participate on the trip, you must apply for a passport renewal immediately and be sure that your renewal can be completed before the trip begins. 
Additionally, for non-US citizens, you must have a valid visa and travel signature to re-enter the United States. Please consult with the Davis International Center to discuss the possibility that you will be travelling outside of the country in March and obtain the proper documentation.


Mpala, Kenya: Walking where our ancestors walked, a Princeton Web story about the Department of Anthropology’s 2018 spring break field trip to Kenya

Documentary Filmmaking in Kenya: The Art of Science Storytelling, a six-week Global Seminar in Summer 2013

Wild science: The nature of the Mpala Research Centre

Learn more about the Mpala Research Centre.


Step 1 – Recommended but not required: Email Professor Jeffrey Himpele ( with cc copy to to indicate your plans to apply, or with any questions. Please do not hesitate to ask questions now.
Step 2 – Required:
  1. ANT 455 course application: deadline to submit in GPS is 11:59 pm on December 20, 2019
  2. Interviews with Professor Himpele: by invitation during January 2020 reading period
  3. Application results notification: on or before January 20, 2020
  4. ANT 455 course enrollment: during add/drop period January 20-24, 2020

Dates / Deadlines:

This program is not currently accepting applications. Please consult the sponsoring department's website for application open dates.

This program is currently not accepting applications.