Module DDL-4545:
Tropical Forestry Study Tour

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Organiser: Dr James Walmsley

Overall aims and purpose

To visit and observe a range of tropical field sites of diverse forest structure, land use and management practices; ii) to meet in-country experts and local people to understand local cultures and their dependency on the forest resource; iii) to introduce the key social and political influences on the management of natural resources by different groups of people in particular environmental contexts; iv) participate in group discussions about the issues raised during visits; v) to develop a critical and analytical attitude to the natural and managed environment; vi) to develop skills in designing, executing and writing up a research project.

Course content

A two-week field course to an environmentally diverse area. This will alternate between various countries endowed with tropical forest resources, such as Uganda, Ghana and others, in collaboration with host country organisations and universities.
Students will visit a variety of sites which demonstrate a range of natural and managed vegetation, and a range of conservation and sustainability issues. Some of these will involve meeting and discussion with local experts. In the second week, students will work in small teams on a project evolved in discussion with the teaching staff.

Assessment Criteria


Grades A- to A**: Sound knowledge of subject and ability to pull together various elements of the course material and other material succinctly and perceptively. Evidence of substantive background reading. Lively, frequent and pertinent contributions to group discussions. Ability to write perceptive and well-argued reports, peer review the work of others in a critical and constructive manner, and work very effectively as part of a team in the execution of a small research project.


Grades B- to B+: Sound knowledge of subject and ability to write descriptive accounts of the key topics covered in the Study Tour. A sound multidisciplinary approach to a range of issues. Ability to contribute constructively to debate, ability to write well-argued reports, peer review the work of others and work effectively as part of a team in the execution of a small research project. Structured, accurate and relevant description. Detailed quantification and sound level of critical evaluation expected.


Grades C- to C+: Basic knowledge of subject and ability to write descriptive accounts. Basic knowledge of the key topics covered in the Study Tour. A basic multidisciplinary approach to a range of issues. Ability to contribute constructively to debate, ability to write reports, peer review the work of others and work effectively as part of a team in the execution of a small research project. Structured, accurate and relevant description. Some quantification and basic level of critical evaluation expected.

Learning outcomes

  1. Capacity to critically examine and discuss online a range of scientific and non-scientific literature relevant to the host country and the theme of the study tour.

  2. Ability to draft a research concept note remotely and peer review the research ideas of others.

  3. Ability to conduct primary research in a tropical forestry context, both individually and as part of a group effort.

  4. Ability to collaborate with others in order to produce a research report formatted according to the requirements of a peer-review journal.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written assignment, including essay Peer review of concept note

Students will work in small groups to prepare a concept note (maximum 4 pages), which will be submitted two weeks prior to the deadline for the individual peer review. Students who do not engage with their fellow group members in the preparation of a concept note will not be able to peer review the work of others and will receive zero for this assessment. Your task (individually, not in groups) will be to prepare a peer-review of up to 1,000 words of a concept note prepared by students from a different group. Other students will simultaneously peer-review the concept note that you have prepared with your group. Concept notes should be reviewed using the criteria/guiding principles below as guidelines: 1. Use of appropriate terminology, concepts, models and theories 2. Identification and critical discussion of relevant issues and problems based on literature 3. Logical and coherent analysis and presentation of arguments 4. Use of appropriate structure and organisation 5. Use of clear and concise writing style 6. Source material properly cited with complete reference list in appropriate format

REPORT Group Research Article

Each group is required to submit a collectively written article. This should take the form of an academic paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, reporting on the original piece of research that you designed and conducted during the module. The article should not exceed 5000 words. Please note, however, that this is the maximum limit and NOT a target to aim at! Your submission will be judged on the quality of the research and the clarity with which this is communicated in the article.
Individual marks will be generated based on two equally weighted variables (i) the quality of the group submission and (ii) the quality of the contributions made by each individual group member, as determined by their fellow group members.

CLASS TEST Multiple Choice / Multiple Answer Questionnaire

At the end of Unit 1, you will be required to complete a multiple choice questionnaire. This is designed to test your knowledge and understanding of the topics and issues covered in the “core readings” from weeks 1-3.
The test will be completed via Blackboard.

REPORT Reflective diary entry

During the study tour, you should keep a diary for each day. You are required to submit a detailed write-up, for just one of the days, a reflective diary account. You should give a personal account, expressing your views, opinions, emotions and take-home messages. You should also reflect on how the visit compared with any preconceptions you had, and compliment your submission by referring to any relevant literature.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Prior to study tour, via Blackboard: Guided reading, with weekly discussion forum questions exploring the literature and generating discussion and interest in the Tropical Forestry Study Tour. Allocation of students into groups according to their area of interest, and guidance in the construction of a research concept note, with support from a 'group mentor' (a member of the teaching team). Introduction to the process of peer review. Self-study.


In-country: Visits to a wide range of sites to understand the nature, management and use of the tropical forest resource.

Study group

Post study tour, via Blackboard, email and other methods of remote communication (googledocs, dropbox, etc): Self-study in the same groups to produce a research report formatted according to the requirements of a peer-review journal, with guidance provided by 'group mentor'.

Study group

Group-based primary research on the study tour with the guidance of a 'group mentor' (a member of the teaching team). Introduction to the process of preparing an article for publication in a peer-review publication.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Caring - Showing concern for others; caring for children, people with disabilities and/or the elderly
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Understand the provisional nature of information and appreciate competing and alternative explanations.
  • Recognize the moral, ethical and social issues relating to the subject.
  • Collect and record data generated by a diverse range of methods.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation


Resource implications for students

Students will need to finance their return travel from their country of residence (cost dependent on where they travel from), as well as their in-country costs (typically £500 - £800), plus the costs of any vaccinations, visas etc. Funding from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission pays for the costs for the majority of students, who are in receipt of scholarships which cover these costs. Only self-funded students need to find funds.

Talis Reading list

Reading list

do be developed (the reading list for the discontinued module, DXX-4519 will be almost identical to the reading list for this module)

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: