Two weeks in the rainforest: undergraduate field trip to the Daintree
25 July 2017

Thirty-three undergraduate students from a variety of backgrounds spent 2 weeks in Cape Tribulation, north of Cairns, this month, as part of the BIOL 2203/3303, Field studies in functional ecology course.

The group, led by course convener and RSB Professor Adrienne Nicotra (E&E), stayed at the James Cook University Daintree Forest Observatory, which boasts the only rainforest canopy crane in the Southern hemisphere (there are just 12 in the world).

The six BIOL3303 students conducted small independent projects in functional ecology, and also served as peer mentors to the other students, who were from a range of different backgrounds.

The BIOL2203 students each conducted four small group projects, and had lectures and workshops, on topics ranging from experimental design and statistics, to research integrity and science writing.

Twelve research projects were offered, each supported by a resource person who assisted the students as they designed, carried out, analysed and presented their results as a scientific symposium talk. Resource people included senior PhD students and academic staff from RSB, and two academic colleagues from James Cook University.

The students write up one of their four projects as a final report, and the best report for each project (selected by a panel of students and course conveners) will be published in a Coursebook, from ANU Press.

“The course is designed to teach fundamentals of evolutionary and physiological ecology, alongside research skills and in the process, facilitate the progression of participants from science students to scientists,” says course convener Adrienne Nicotra.

“Student feedback, as assessed through minute papers and reflective writings has been outstanding, as students report growing confidence and enthusiasm about the subject, their degree, and their future prospects applying their science degrees in diverse ways.”

Next year the courses will be offered in December at Kosciuszko national park, and a modified version of the 3rd year course is in development with colleagues at NTU Singapore as well.

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