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NES3313 : Africa Field Course: Conservation and Ecology

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Marion Pfeifer
  • Lecturer: Dr Evelyn Jensen, Dr Richard Bevan
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 18 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


The overall aim of this module is to introduce the ecology, conservation and management challenges
for human-modified tropical landscapes. This is a field-based module that supports students to build
a foundation for research skills (theory and practice) required for investigating and managing such landscapes drawing on theory and practice from ecology, socio-ecology and conservation. It will do so by:
(1) briefly outlining the conservation challenges in human-modified tropical landscapes,
(2) exploring data needs required to address these challenges, and
(3) showing how data can be used for the management of such landscapes for both biodiversity and ecosystem

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will be taught during a 10 day trip (overseas) to one of two countries in Sub-Saharan
Africa (Tanzania, South Africa). The focus has shifted from Tanzania to South Africa for logistic
reasons. In South Africa, the course will be based at Lajuma Research Centre ( or suitable alternatives, e.g. Welgevonden Research Centre and Game Park or Leshiba Game Reserve.

Lajuma has been established by Prof Russell Hill (Anthropology, University of Durham, UK) for his
Primate & Predator project. Running and hosting local and international student field courses forms a
substantial part of Lajuma’s operation.

Welgevonden run a long-term Biomonitoring programme linking efforts in rboust data collection to decision-making on management of wildlife in the park.

A combination of lectures, fieldwork exercises, data collection and analysis and presentations will be
used to support students’ skills development. A range of these will be student-led. To be held on campus prior to the field trip', will be on theory and practice of modern conservation science in the context of wildlife ecology and management and protected areas for people and biodiversity. We will explain key concepts key concepts and contemporary conservation challenges relevant to human-modified landscapes and we will outline sampling design and data collection methods and challenges following the cycle of adaptive management.

The focus of the lectures is to explain key concepts and contemporary conservation challenges relevant
to human-modified landscapes. During the field course, we will work through
specific topics (e.g. how to quantify animal movements to analyse potential for human-wildlife
conflict) supported by guided reading. These topics will be explored in more detail in field visits which
will be selected to give a broad overview of habitat use by wildlife, land use and land use change,
land management and livelihood strategies of rural communities. There will be a focus on how to
plan and implement field research in tropical human-modified landscapes, analyse the results
obtained and report them. The emphasis will be on the ecology of the study systems and the
interface between wildlife and human communities.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture91:009:00Formal taught session at the start of each day at the research station.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture126:0026:00Students undertake reading on their own directed by course instructors prior to the field course.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion175:0075:00preparation of report (blog on a conservation challenge as written for Mongabay or national geographic).
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture61:006:00Formal taught sessions at NU prior to the field course to provide context on the course’s themes.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion121:0021:00Students will write up reports & prepare for oral presentation.
Guided Independent StudySkills practice72:0014:00Students will analyse the data collected using R statistical software.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork77:0049:00Fieldwork will involve data collection for a particular research question following agreed sampling.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The teaching methods are designed to align with the Learning Outcomes. Following the introductory lecture, the
students are asked to read and research one of the key challenges in biodiversity conservation in tropical human-modified landscapes using publications provided and additional literature.

The lectures during the course will provide the fundamentals of the concepts, theories and methods used when
designing conservation plans for tropical human-modified landscapes. They will be structured using a problem-centred approach with real-world examples: e.g. monitoring mammal distribution and movements as a base for
designing protected areas. Students will work in groups to engage with the material in depth using publications and teaching material provided by the supervisors. The fieldwork will give students experience in applying some of the methods, what they should consider when applying them and what the limitations of these methods are.

Students will be guided through their independent analysis of collected data and information in their final report writeup.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation101M20Professional Performance & Group presentation Group Presentation: 2 students per group. 5 mins plus 5 mins for questions on data collected in the field.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M80Individual Project Report. Maximum of 1500 words. Written up in style for National Geographic.
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation1MFormative assessment on group presentation: debate on conservation sciences topic’
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessments are aligned with the intended learning outcomes. The students will work in groups of 3-4 to present their topic as a 10 minute presentation, i.e. introducing one contemporary conservation science approach used to collect, analyse and interpret data for the management of human-modified tropical landscapes. In the subsequent 5 minutes, the students will answer questions from peers and staff related to that topic. The students will draft and submit a report on their topic critically examining it and reflecting on the feedback provided after the presentation.

Professional conduct assessment is a brief summary evaluating student attitude during fieldwork. Including: engagement in in-field activities, activities in the morning, behaving appropriately, cultural sensitivity, and health and safety. This assessment helps to make sure students do all these things.

The reports will contain:
a) a short written analysis of one contemporary conservation challenge in tropical human-modified landscapes,
b) an assessment, with examples, of the data required to provide information on addressing this challenge; and c) a critical discussion on how the resultant data might be applied to the management of the landscapes (e.g.
creation of a protected area).

Reading Lists