- Dr Robert Baxter (Senior Lecturer - University of Durham)
|Assessment Type||Assessment length / details||Proportion|
|Semester Assessment||Field notebook and prepare herbarium vouchers The field notebook will contain: * Field notes and analysis for each of the research projects undertaken. *A synopsis of the lectures and seminars held during the field course.||40%|
|Semester Assessment||Scientific report That covers the development and ecological application of a morphological key and phylogeny to understand life history traits of conservation value.||60%|
|Supplementary Assessment||Field notebook and prepare herbarium vouchers Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.||40%|
|Supplementary Assessment||Scientific report Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.||60%|
On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
1. Develop keys for the identification of morphologically similar taxa.
2. Carry out field surveys of plants, fungi and animals in tropical environments.
3. Collect plant samples for DNA barcoding and prepare herbarium specimens.
4. Describe the location, composition, structure and threats facing tropical forests.
5. Analyse morphological and molecular data and use this to create phylogenies.
6. Apply plant taxonomy and bioinventory as part of ecological research to support conservation management of habitats.
The students learn about research in ecology and conservation by being involved from day 1 in the process. The course will also build an appreciation of the threats facing tropical environments and the challenges facing their conservation.
Will be a combination of lectures and practicals during which students will:
1. Gain an understanding of bioinventory and phylogenetics utilising morphological and molecular approaches.
2. Learn the skills required to identify morphologically similar species. This will involve developing morphological character sets, diagnostic keys and subsequently relate this to species delimitation using DNA barcode data. These analyses will then be used to answer ecological questions of conservation relevance.
3. Develop an appreciation of tropical forest ecology, the conservation issues surrounding them and the challenges related to conducting research in a tropical environment.
Weeks 2 and 3: Field course based in a tropical research station such as the Danau Girang Field Station, in Sabah, Borneo.
During the field course students will apply the skills and knowledge gained during week 1 to study the ecology of a range of tropical rainforest plant communities. The skills of collecting, recording and preparing plant samples for DNA barcoding and herbarium specimen creation will be further developed. These specimens will form the basis for a taxonomic study allowing the development of a working system of plant identification in the field. This is required to enable student-led research to focus on examining changes in plant community structure over time in a fragmented forest landscape composed of both primary and secondary forest and other land uses. Group based investigations will focus on aspects of life history strategies and plant-animal interactions within a tropical forest. This includes topics such as:
1. Seed structure and dispersal ecology.
2. Pollinators, pollination syndromes and floral morphology.
3. Herbivory and grazing deterrents.
4. Fungi and decomposition
|Skills Type||Skills details|
|Application of Number||Data analysis is a key element of the scientific report.|
|Communication||Two different forms of written communication are assessed. The ability to record fieldwork so that data can be collated and used for publication (assessment 1). Writing for a scientific audience (assessment 2).|
|Improving own Learning and Performance||Week 1 is a set of assessed formative tasks designed to enhance performance during the subsequent fieldwork.|
|Information Technology||The molecular analysis during week 1 will introduce the students to a novel set of software to align DNA sequences and create phylogenetic trees.|
|Personal Development and Career planning||The identification of morphologically complex taxa is a highly desirable skill often tested during ecological related job interviews. Travelling to and conducting fieldwork within a challenging environment helps build confidence and resilience.|
|Problem solving||Development and use of a diagnostic key and corresponding this with the molecular data.|
|Research skills||Carrying out field research in a tropical environment.|
|Subject Specific Skills||Plant identification and field survey skills.|
|Team work||Students will work within teams to carry out research in a tropical forest environment.|
This module is at CQFW Level 6