Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Tropical Zoology Field Course
Academic Year
Semester 2
Exclusive (Any Acad Year)
Exclusive (Any Acad Year)
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Short Written Report -  presenting results and discussion generated from the group research project (up to 500 words)  15%
Semester Assessment Generating e-media  - suitable for dissemination of their research findings and broader conservation/ecology issues salient to tropical zoology. This will take the form of video documentary.  25%
Semester Assessment Individual 1500 word written report  35%
Semester Assessment Field note-books.  Note-books will be assessed on their completeness and accuracy, demonstrating efficient and comprehensive note/data collection as a record of the field work undertaken.  10%
Semester Assessment DNA Barcode  - for life database submission (BOLD)  15%
Supplementary Assessment Students must complete elements of assessment that led to the failure of the module.  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Execute safe and efficient zoological field sampling in a tropical forest environment.

2. Observe, capture and record UK and tropical forest fauna for qualitative and quantitative analysis, and understand associated ethical and legal implications of these activities.

3. Identify tropical invertebrate and vertebrate fauna using taxonomic keys.

4. Evaluate and compare diversity of UK and tropical forest fauna using appropriate measures of diversity.

5. Perform DNA barcoding of fauna sampled in the field, conduct phylogenetic analyses and report these in a scientific format (written report).

6. Use appropriate statistical approaches to appropriately analyse data collected and evaluate these data in the context of testable hypotheses and against the background of published literature.

7. Use a variety of media to effectively communicate research outcomes.

Brief description

The course is an intensive residential excursion to a tropical field center offering opportunities to experience extraordinarily diverse invertebrate and vertebrate fauna. Students will learn species identification, surveying and monitoring (including acoustic and video/trip camera survey, pitfall trapping etc) skills in rain forest environments. Students will learn good experimental design through the scientific process and execution of field sampling, surveying techniques and data collection in a hyper-diverse tropical system. Students will be expected to design hypotheses for testing through analysis of collected data and present their findings in a scientific format, including video presentation.


A major component of this module is an intensive 9-day field course in a research field center such as, for example, Los Amigos Biological Station, Peru or Osa Conservation, Costa Rica. A series of practical sessions will be run in Aberystwyth, designed to prepare students for the overseas element and to analyse samples on returning to the UK.

AU based work (3x1h lectures and 3x3h practical) will cover the following:
Health and safety briefs, field center information and travel arrangements.
Sampling of UK woodland invertebrates and species identification using dichotomous keys.
Measurement and analysis of diversity of representative UK woodland fauna for comparison with tropical forest.
DNA barcoding and phylogenetic analysis.

For the tropical field element (9 days practical plus 2 days travel), students will be given orientation and safety briefs and introduced to the diverse fauna native to the area. This will be followed by group work where students will apply skills learned in the UK to measure tropical forest faunal diversity. They will use these data to compare diversity and community assemblages between the UK and tropical systems. In addition, students will conduct a research project of their choosing and design and use video and written submissions to present their findings. Students will be taught to record vertebrate fauna for qualitative and quantitative analysis using camera traps, interception traps and manual capture, visual and audio observations etc. Finally, students will make contributions to the international Barcode of Life Database (BOLD) using specimens collected in the field.

The overseas element will encompass the following:
Collection, tissue sampling and identification of tropical invertebrate fauna and BOLD database submission (to be completed I the UK following DNA extraction and sequencing-below).
Measurement and analysis of faunal diversity in tropical forest environments.
Vertebrate surveying, tracking and audio recording skills (amphibian, birds and reptiles).
Design and execution of research work in a rainforest environment.

On returning to the UK, students will extract DNA from their samples and perform CO1 DNA barcoding via PCR and bioinformatics (1x3h practical).

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Collection and scrutiny of data in terms of quality and quantity. They will be expected to analyse their data using statistics and interpret their results for assignment preparation. The written report and note-book will be the principle assignments demonstrating procurement of these attributes.
Communication Students will be expected to listen effectively in the pre-course lectures, practical demonstrations and will be encouraged to question and contribute to discussions. They will work in small groups during course which will require the verbal exchange of ideas and sharing of data and resources. The students will communicate their scientific outcomes via scientific reports, video or audio media and/or web-based wikis.
Improving own Learning and Performance Outside the formal contact hours, students will be expected to research materials, manage time and meet deadlines. The course will provide an opportunity for students to explore their own learning styles and preferences, and identify their needs and barriers to learning. This will be enhanced via student-led teaching/peer assessment on the course. Students will be able to review and monitor their progress and plan for improvement of personal performance through self-awareness and reflection. Feedback and feed-forward will be given where appropriate.
Information Technology Students will be required to access online databases such as ISI Web of Knowledge and NCBI-Pubmed to find primary literature. They will also be expected to be competent in the use of word processing programs, spreadsheets and statistical software for assignment preparation. DNA barcoding work will introduce the students to nucleotide sequence alignment, database searching and phylogenetic analysis. These attributes will be demonstrated in all submitted assignments.
Personal Development and Career planning ​Students will gain experience in field techniques relevant to zoology but also to other biological disciplines e.g. they will also gain experience in techniques used by research scientists, consultancy organizations, NGOs etc. They will gain confidence in their ability to foresee, evaluate and mitigate for problems through an awareness of their personal skills and objectively assess the quality of proposed solutions. Effective leadership and peer-mentoring will be encouraged and facilitated. Feedback and feed-forward will be given where appropriate. The written report will demonstrate students have grasped relevant techniques and the public engagement material will contextualize application of these skills.
Problem solving Students will be encouraged to critically analyse information gathered/provided and to preempt problems that may arise. In addition students will be expected to offer solutions to problems, employ these and evaluate the outcomes.
Research skills The course will necessitate students to use key principles of the scientific method. They will use all available resources, including literature, in the design of fieldwork, data analysis and report writing. In delivering their study outcomes students will produce scientifically robust reports that include critical evaluation of the data/information gathered. This course is primarily practical and students will learn techniques relevant to field zoologists. All assignments will evaluate the acquisition of these attributes.
Subject Specific Skills ​Students will learn a range of skills and techniques regularly used by professional field zoologist/ecologists. All assignments will draw on these attributes.
Team work Students will work effectively in small groups and will be expected to contribute to the planning and organisation of the practical exercises, delegation of tasks through persuasion and negotiation, and the execution of techniques relevant to the course. Development of effective leadership and peer mentoring will be encouraged. Students will need to demonstrate cooperation with other group members for assignment preparation and delivery.


This module is at CQFW Level 5