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Module DXX-3304:
Tropical conserva field course

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Simon Valle

Overall aims and purpose

This module aims to expose students to tropical conservation and ecology in a real-world setting and to provide insights into conservation issues that cannot be taught in a classroom. The course also aims to build up basic fieldwork skills (including field observation, species identification and bushcraft). The module will also provide an excellent opportunity for students to develop confidence in designing and implementing a small independent research project.

Course content

The students will have a series of introductory sessions during which they will select a general research topic to work on in Uganda with a small group and a research guide. The field course will be based in Kibale National Park, Uganda, and will be delivered in association with Makerere University (Uganda). Teaching in Uganda will be delivered by staff from Bangor University and Makerere University with expert input from the expert field guides. The majority of the teaching will be in the field in small groups but there will be occasional classroom sessions and discussions in the evening. Students will cover: ecology and species identification, survey techniques (especially camera trapping and distance sampling), plant phenology and forest structure, primate behaviour, social research methods (pitfalls and practicalities), human wildlife conflict and protected area management.

Assessment Criteria


Grade A- and above Excellent knowledge of subject, ability to research and critically review information, ability to design and carry out high quality research and present this in an informative way with excellent discussion and interpretation.


Grade D- to C+: Basic knowledge of subject with some misunderstandings, ability to research and present basic information, ability to design and carry out basic research and present this with only small errors.


Grade B- to B+ Sound knowledge of subject, ability to research and present information, ability to design and carry out research and present this well.

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate effective verbal and written communication skills and the ability to make and effectively use good quality field notes.

  2. Demonstrate accurate knowledge of the ecology and conservation issues relating to the sites visited.

  3. Be able to design and implement a short research project on a topic of ecology or conservation.

  4. Be able to research a tropical ecology or conservation issue, critically reviewing the available literature.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Presentation on project

Students will work in groups of 4-5 to conduct short research projects. On their return student swill have some time to analyze their data and do further reseach about how their research could have been imporved. They will then do indvidual presentations.


Purpose: 1) To give you practice in the vital field skill of taking good field notes. 2) To encourage you to take good notes in the field so we have a record of what you learnt and so you can go back to it when you need to). 3) To develop your knowledge of the ecology and conservation of the sites visited. Instructions: A good field ecologist is never without their field notebook. You should use your field notebook every day when in the field in Uganda (you may also use it to note down information shared during our journey). Assessing a field notebook is difficult as it is usually something personal and not produced to show others but for your own benefit. However we have observed that students are losing the art of taking good field notes which is why we set this as an assessment. What you submit does not have to be beautiful and polished; field notes seldom are. It will contain both notes, observations and sketches quickly taken in the field as well as more detailed, more considered (& neater) notes made after you return to camp/base/HQ. As a general rule of thumb in fieldwork, you shouldn’t consider the day’s work finished until your notebook is complete. We would like to see evidence in your notebook that you are listening to information provided and learning (so you should include notes from talks given by staff or local guides). They should act as a journal so notes of what you did in the field each day (with date and notes about weather) should be included. Field sketches are an essential part of a good field notebook. You may sketch species to remind you species you have learnt (especially when you are looking at hard to distinguish species in the hand-often you will need notes to learn how they are separated). It is also common to keep a species list over time for a site (for birds, mammals etc). Feel free to show staff your note book as you progress for feedback.

ESSAY Kibale National Park, Uganda: history, current management and suggestions for the future

Purpose: To bring together what you have learnt about Kibale National Park and, enriched by careful use of the literature, consider how the conservation challenges may be best managed into the future. Please write an essay with the title “Kibale National Park, Uganda: history, current management and suggestions for the future”. The word limit is a strict 2000 words (plus references). Please give the word count at the bottom of your submitted work. The structure of this essay is very important. You have so much information allready (and you will be reading quite widely) so you need to self-edit carefully and ensure all material clearly contributes to answering the question. Please use your fieldnotes (you can write ‘pers com xxx, Kibale NP guide’) for example. However I also want you to refer to literature about Kibale AND (cruicially) other relevant literature. Please take great care to format your references following the style of a named conservation journal (for example Conservation Biology, Biological Conservation, Conservation Letters). You must write the journal whose style you have followed at the bottom of the essay. I suggest that you use referencing software (eg Mendely) to help with this (but remember that you will also have to manually check each reference as sometimes references have been entered into the system with inconcistent use of capitals etc).


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Study group

Students will work with others to develop a small group research project and then collect pilot data in the field.

Practical classes and workshops

Students will attend some preparotory sessions and watch panopto lectures over the summer.

Private study

Students will have to work alone to research and write their essay and to prepare their individual presentation.


Staff will run small group tutorials in the field to help with the design or analysis or project data and how to take good field notes.


Students will be in the field in Uganda for 11 days. Teaching will be intense throughout this time (apart from during their pilot data collection).


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
  • 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

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • 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 have to cover their own costs. Students will have to ensure they have up to date passports (6 months validity), appropriate visas, vaccinations and decent field clothes (drab colours, boots and long trousers). They will need to bring luggage they can carry inlcuding a day pack. They will need a light sleeping bag or sleeping bag liner. Insurance will be through the university insurance.

Talis Reading list

Reading list

We will prepare a tallis reading list (not available yet-will be developed when validated). NB We will only use freely available journal articles, books we allready recommened or occassional chapters which will need scanning.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module