BI2EAB3-Tropical Biology Field Course

Module Provider: School of Biological Sciences
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Summer term module
Pre-requisites: BI1AB1 Animal Behaviour and BI1EC2 Ecology
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Dr Manuela Gonzalez-Suarez


Type of module:

Summary module description:

To introduce students to the diversity of animal life in the tropics. Location varies. Most frequently we have travelled to Borneo and Java and Madagascar. This trip will be to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

To introduce students to the diversity of animal life in the tropics. Location varies. Most frequently we have travelled to Borneo and Java and Madagascar. This trip will be to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the unit it is expected that the students will be able to:

  • Identify a range of animals from different habitats, in particular insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and primates
  • Design, undertake and critically assess censuses of animal populations and communities in different habitats to examine abundance, habitat use and community composition
  • Design, undertake, analyze and report on a small group research project that aims to address a specific ecological question.
  • Develop their field and presentational skills

Additional outcomes:
Students should gain an insight into the human pressure on tropical environments (e.g. in terms of subsistence farming, illegal mining and logging, burning) and the focus on international demand for natural resources and ecotourism.

Outline content:
This module introduces students to the principles and practice of tropical zoology, taxonomy, animal behaviour and conservation biology. An integral part of this work is the identification of animals sampled, and students will be shown how to use field guides and keys to do this, concentrating on the insects. Students will have the opportunity to visit a range of tropical habitats, to see how human activities are affecting biodiversity and to use a range of sampling techniques appropriate for the species under investigation. An important part of ecological research is to be able to design a research project to answer a specific question. This requires students to integrate the knowledge acquired in the initial stage of the field course to develop a focused project. To this end, students undertake a research project within a small group on a subject of their own choosing that aims to answer an ecological question of local relevance.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Varies with location. A typical outline follows, but details change depending on location and opportunities.

First week : Ecuador (Amazon): includes trips to Mindo cloud forest, Alambi, Bellavista cloud forest, Angel Paz Reserve and Cuyabeno Faunistic Reserve. The emphasis will be on birds, mammals and insects in a range of forest habitats.

Second week: Galapagos Islands: Santa Cruz Island, charles Darwin Research Station, lava chambers, Isabela Island, wetlands, Mangroves, volcanoes, snorkelling, for birds, mammals, reptiles and sea life.

The trip will involve considerable amounts of fieldwork, where we seek to uncover as much biodiversity as possible. Students will be asked to place what they see in a human context, in particular the conflict between people and wildlife. Teaching will take place in response to what we see in the field. There will be a summary lecture/discussions each evening as we review what we have seen. In addition, students will be introduced to the theory and practice of wildlife photography as a means of recording diversity and behaviour.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Tutorials 10
Fieldwork 100
Guided independent study: 80
Total hours by term 200
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
Assessment is entirely in-course and consists of:
10% - seminar on own project work given to group
90% - written report (diary) of the students' activities, including the project

Formative assessment methods:
Feedback is given continually throughout the course. In particular advice on presentation, data analysis and interpretation is a core part of the module.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-submission of coursework.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence: The costs of travel are borne by the student, including flights, accommodation, food, visas, permits and vaccinations.

    Last updated: 30 September 2019


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