SEMESTER 1 (S1): BASIC AND SPECIALISED INTRODUCTORY COURSES
The courses of S1 in Brussels, Paris and Florence are all comprised of a number of equivalent basic courses and a limited selection of specialised courses based on local expertise present and on expertise needed in S2. The learning outcomes after S1 are approximately matching in all institutions (see Section 2F).
Below we indicate the general coverage of disciplines and we refer to the course list per HEI and per semester and to the detailed individual course sheets available from www.tropimundo.eu for detailed information about the course breakdown, objectives, prerequisites, learning outcomes, contents, etc. for each course:
- Data analysis and statistics are covered at all European universities (e.g. Analysis of biological data at VUB, Statistiques et traitement des données at UPMC-MNHN, and Data analysis and environmetal modeling at UNIFI);
- Taxonomy, conservation genetics, and phylogenetics are covered at all European universities (e.g. Variation and evolution of plants at ULB-VUB, Bases (avancées) de la taxonomie and Bases (avancées) de la phylogénétique at UPMC-MNHN, and Tropical botany at UNIFI)
- Introductory courses on rainforests, mangroves, seagrasses and/or coral reefs are covered at all European universities (e.g. Tropical biocomplexity: natural dynamics, indigenous interactions and sustainable management at ULB, Integrated coastal zone management: mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs at VUB, Marine biology at ULB-VUB, Initiation aux milieux tropicaux at UPMC-MNHN, and Marine and coastal biology and Tropical botany at UNIFI);
- Climatology is covered in all European HEIs (The Earth system and its interactions at ULB-VUB, Climat et biotope (c/o Grandes Questions Environnementales) at UPMC-MNHN, and Tropical climatology at UNIFI).
SEMESTER 2 (S2): IN SITU EXPERIENCE AND SPECIALISED FIELD COURSES
The courses of S2 heavily depend on the regional and geographic settings of the third-country HEI in the south, which is part of the tropical immersion of the student. As shown on the TROPIMUNDO Consortium map (Section 2A) UCP is entirely focused on Amazonian forests and wetlands and it offers a single module composed mainly of compulsory courses. UDsch is entirely focused on the Central African tropical rainforests and woodlands and offers a choice between three modules: one on Biodiversity, one on Silviculture, and one on Ethnobotany. UMT focuses on tropical coastal ecosystems but has also stunning rainforest sites that can be used for thesis-related research. Extra-curricular activities to rainforest sites will be organised. Â UQ focuses on Australian ecosystems, which are divided into a module on terrestrial ecology (tropical rainforests and woodlands) and another on aquatic ecology (coral reefs). NONE of the venues of S2 are intended to specialise for a Masters thesis, which is nevertheless possible.
The negociations on establishing a Caribbean study pole in collaboration with universities in the USA are ongoing and might eventuate by the start of the academic year 2016-2017.If it eventuates, the structure will be similar to that of UQ.
Within the compulsory courses all third-country HEIs offer one main field course ranging between 10 and 15 ECTS which will take place in the main ecosystem under study: - At UCP the Amazon rainforest field course provides a fundamental insight into the Amazon rainforest. In particular, the student will have a deep knowledge of the Peruvian Amazon in terms of biological diversity, cultural diversity, white and black water rivers, and forest ecosystems diversity. Emphasis will be on Rainforest Biodiversity and Ecosystems of the Loreto Region in Peru, known for the presence of hotspots of biodiversity and of remarkable rainforests ecosystems unique in the world and of great importance to local and indigenous communities such as flooded forests, non flooded forests, wetlands, 'aguajales', 'tahuampales', 'varillales', all of which will also be treated during the theoretical lectures. The students will also see in real live how human activities are having a negative impact on these remarkable ecosystems. - At UDsch the Mbalmayo école de terrain (field course) will take place in the Mbalmayo Forest located in the middle of the Cameroonian rainforest and subjected to a high population pressure. In addition to the study of natural fauna and flora, and of agroforestry initiatives, the city of Mbalmayo has the asset of accommodating several forest exploitation firms, some of which are engaged in forest certification schemes. The aggregation of all this in an area that is also crossed by a major river (the Nyong) makes Mbalmayo a most interesting study site for interdisciplinary rainforest-oriented workshops. A wide range of topics will be dealt with during this field course ranging from data collection in the rainforest, analysis of rainforest biodiversity, biomass and natural resources, protocols for describing new species, use of remote sensing and geographic information systems in analysing forest dynamics, and anthropogenic impacts on tropical rainforests and woodlands. - At UMT the UMT Field school will focus on a variety of plant, animal, environment and human-related approaches of tropical coastal ecosystems. Plant taxonomy and vegetation structure characteristics, environmental settings (determination of the physico-chemical conditions of water and sediment), conservation and management. The long-term use exploitation of the forest for charcoal and pole production (>100 years of government organised management) will be dealt with, as well as the role of local communities in mangrove conservation and management (including local knowledge on ethnobotany and ethnomedicine). - At UQ the field course depends on the module chosen. The Australia's Terrestrial Environment filed course (in the Module on Terrestrial Ecosystems) introduces students to Australia's terrestrial animals and plants and those factors (both present and historical) that make Australia's terrestrial environments unique. Through lectures, field trips and written assignments, the course assists students to develop an understanding of ecological principles and processes, in particular those that are specific to Australia. It provides students with an understanding of principles that will enable them to assess impacts of human development and activities on Australian ecosystems, along with the impact that exoctic plants and animals are having on the country's native biota. A range of management strategies that are currently being used to conserve Australia's terrestrial animals, plants and ecosystems will be introduced to the students. The course will provide students with experience in conducting field work, through the collection, analysis and interpretation ecological data during a four day field trip to Fraser Island World Heritage Area.
The Coral reef processes & management (field course) (in the Module on Aquatic Ecosystems) is undertaken as a one-week field trip at Heron Island (on the southern Great Barrier Reef), with lecture sessions, briefings, workshops and examination prior to and following the field trip. The course builds on, and applies studies of climatology, geomorphology, biogeography, remote sensing and resource management and planning in an around the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Site.
Considering the ever increasing importance of geospatial analysis of ecosystems, all third-country HEIs in the south will also offer one geomatics course (remote sensing and geographical information systems).
SEMESTER 3 (S3): IN-DEPTH SPECIALISATION SEMESTER
The courses of S3 are not identical in all European institutions but largely depend on the local expertise. ULB and VUB (Brussels) can be considered as more tending towards ecosystem ecology (ecosystem approaches incl. population and community ecology), with offerings on tropical forests and woodlands, mangrove forests, rivers, lakes and coral reefs, as well as on the functioning of plant and animal communities. In addition, the Herbarium et BibliothÃ¨que de Botanique Africaine at ULB hosts a unique collection of African plants. UPMC and MNHN (Paris) have a solid expertise on botany (plant taxonomy, phylogeny, bioinformatics and man-plant interactions, and on the management of biological collections, incl. nearly 4 centuries of collection of plant and animal specimens). UNIFI has a profound expertise in zoology (faunistic aspects and plant-animal interactions particularly applied to terrestrial and semi-terrestrial ecosystems). These respective research highlights will also reflect in the thesis topics offered in S4.
SEMESTER 4 (S4): JOINT MASTERS THESIS
The fourth semester is entirely dedicated to original research in the framework of a Masters thesis. A Masters thesis is normally carried out within the interest of one of the research units in the S4 (=S1) HEI. Students will already receive information about thesis opportunities in S1. Thesis research may, but does not have to be linked to research carried out in the third country visited during S2. In fact, the large majority of the research units in the degree-awarding European HEI does not have research links with the third country HEI visited in S2. Fieldwork necessary for certain thesis topics, might have been started between S2 and S3, or be carried out from the start of S4. For other topics fieldwork datasets may already be available at the European university. Finally, some topics may be of theoretical or modeling nature, not requiring any field data per se. The Master thesis will always be a joint venture between the universities visited by the student in S3 and S4 (i.e. all European HEIs visited), joined by the third-country HEI in case fieldwork takes place with them, and it will foresee a joint supervision. A jury composed of all European HEIs participating in TROPIMUNDO will evaluate the literature study, data analysis and interpretation, and the writing and presentation skills of the student. The student will be motivated to present the thesis using a structure comparable to papers ready for peer-review, and to present their results on one or more scientific conferences. Competitive students will be given the opportunity to continue further research under the form of a PhD, making use of institutional or national PhD grants (external to the EMMC funding).