BSc Biology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Island Biodiversity RSM Field Course

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL20182
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


For around two weeks over the Easter holidays you will be immersed in the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of Tioman island, Malaysia. You’ll explore various habitats, from spectacularly diverse coral reefs to mangroves to tropical forest and encounter a variety of species, ranging from hawksbill turtles and parrotfish to monitor lizards and fiddler crabs. You will stay at the Juara Turtle Project, a grassroots conservation organisation dedicated to protecting sea turtles and their nesting habitats on the island. In the first week you will gain experience of the tropical plants and animals found on Tioman island. Days are divided between lectures, visits and fieldwork. Other highlights include interacting with a grassroots coral reef conservation and sustainability NGO, snorkelling the incredibly speciose off-shore reefs of the island and hiking through the pristine forest in the interior of Tioman. In the second week you will carry out an individual research project using the knowledge and experience you’ve already gained in week 1. Previous projects have included studying sea turtle nesting behaviour and hatchling success, fruit bat behaviour, and coral reef diversity.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Introduction to Statistics for Field Courses BIOL10692 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL10692 is a pre-requisite of the Y2 field courses. Any students who have not taken this unit in Year 1 must complete it in semester 2 of Year 2.


This unit aims to provide training in research techniques for studying the ecology, behaviour and biodiversity of tropical organisms across a range of natural environments, from mangroves to lowland tropical rainforests to coral reefs using the approaches of field-based biologists. The independent project focuses on the formulation of research questions, experimental design, sampling, and data analysis in a tropical island environment. The aim of the course is to study tropical flora and fauna in their natural environments and apply the knowledge gained during the course to assess the conservation and sustainability issues of natural and semi-natural tropical sites.

Learning outcomes

Students will• Be able to describe the basic natural history of key plant and animal taxa on Tioman island, and be able to identify those importantly associated with tropical ecosystems. • Research organisms in their natural tropical environment by designing a field study, including formulating a hypothesis, selecting appropriate sampling techniques and using the appropriate statistical tests to test their hypothesis • Create and maintain a field note book • Develop team working and leadership skills • Be able to present oral and written accounts of their research to a short deadline. • Discuss key environmental sustainability and wildlife conservation issues, particularly with regards to global sustainability and ethical conservation programmes in tropical, particular island, environments.


This course takes place over the Easter break and combines hands-on biological fieldwork with studying conservation-related ecological issues on Tioman island, Malaysia. The first week is spent experiencing several key places of ecological and conservation interest from tropical forests and mangrove swamps of the island, and the world-class and hyper-biodiverse reefs that fringe Tioman. Sites chosen highlight climatic and biotic diversity in Tioman. Students will be introduced to the practicalities of studying tropical organisms and also interact with multiple grassroots conservation NGOs. Study visits include a kayak tour of the mangroves, a hike through primary and secondary forest and a coral reef survey of three key sites around the island.Fieldwork is an important component of this course and in the second week, , students will conduct individual research projects. Students formulate working hypotheses and experimental plans and carry out their own data collection. They then analyse their data and write up their research in a concise scientific report. Over the course of the unit, students will gain a good understanding of the natural history of local plants and animals in Tioman together with the research principles involved in studying tropical organisms in their natural environment. Throughout the course we will consider global conservation and sustainability concerns and use Tioman as a model to evaluate conservation efforts.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
In the project write-up students have to show analytical skills.
Group/team working
Students work cooperatively in the field.
Creativity needed in designing the project and also in the field note book, which includes drawings.
Project management
Students have to complete a project in the last 7 days of field-course.
Oral communication
Students give a presentation on the final day of the field course.
Problem solving
Students design and complete their own project which will require problem solving throughout.
Individual project is a field-based research project.
Written communication
Written assessment of project and notes in field note book.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 5%
Report 50%
Portfolio 35%
Oral assessment/presentation 10%
Report - Independent project write-up, max. 5 pages (50%) Portfolio - Reflective field notebook (35%) Oral presentation - 10 mins including questions (10%) Student’s contribution to the field course as a whole (5%)

Feedback methods

Oral feedback during course, written feedback on notebook and the final report.

Recommended reading

Mostly primary research literature with articles and links provided on Blackboard

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 46
Lectures 4
Independent study hours
Independent study 50

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ben Chapman Unit coordinator

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