BIOU8GA: Gabon Field Course

Co-ordinator: Dr Nils Bunnefeld

Module Description

This module is a tropical ecology and conservation field course focusing on the dynamics of tropical forests, the drivers of these dynamics and the effect of interactions with climate, management and conservation actions and local people. With the impact of humans on tropical forests growing and an increasing pressure to conserve tropical forest biodiversity whilst providing local people with ecosystem services it is essential to train the next generation of environmental managers in the concepts and techniques necessary for the analysis, management and conservation of tropical forests under pressure to halt the loss of biodiversity that is currently going on at an unprecedented rate. This module will equip students with the technical skills necessary for the analysis and conservation of tropical forests and how to make management decisions in a complex world. Better understanding the ecological and socio-economic processes that affect biodiversity and the benefits humans derive is an important training for undergraduates across the Biological and Environmental Sciences. Having already established an MSc level course to run in Gabon, this module strengthens links with our research team at Lope National Park. Lope National Park is a biodiversity hotspot and supports one of the main areas for forest elephants in Africa.

Module Objectives

  • Students will gain a broad overview of the conceptual underpinnings as well as practical techniques for decision making in tropical forest management and conservation. 
  • On completion of the course the successful student will understand the need for effective evaluation of ecological and socio-economic factors that affect tropical forests
  • The student will be able to demonstrate an understanding that a critical evaluation of current management and conservation practices must be part of planning in tropical national parks.
  • Students will gain practical experience in site analysis and evaluating tropical forest management.  This will enable the students to develop decision-making processes that are based on scientific evidence.
  • They will gain experience in discussing and evaluating policy and management in tropical forests.
  • Also, students will gain an appreciation of wider issues and the complexity of the topic will be gained through a series of discussion sessions on how tropical forests are impacted by humans, e.g. hunting, forestry and designation of protected areas.

Core Learning Outcomes

Students should be able to:

  • Provide a broad overview of tropical ecosystems and what drives and regulates them, while discussing implications for their management
  • Integrate theory and practice of tropical ecosystem management and conservation.
  • Students should be able to collect and analyse appropriate field data in tropical ecosystems


Total Study Time 200 hours
Scheduled Learning & Teaching 40 hours: lectures, seminars, practical classes and workshops, external visits, scheduled on-line discussions or similar
Guided Independent Study 160 hours: both directed learning undertaken in student's own time, and their own self-directed study for assessment
Placements 0 hours


  • One 2500 word report that summarises the data collected in the field and discuss current management and conservation actions and suggest recommendations for future improvements. This will be submitted electronically to Succeed (no paper copy) within 4 weeks after returning from Gabon (70%).
  • One 10min oral presentation to review a major challenge in tropical forests and discuss implications for management and conservation actions. This will be delivered at the end of week 1 in the field (30%). 
Coursework 70%
Examination 0%
Practical 30%
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