BIOS 4560 – TROPICAL BIOLOGY

 

Dr Stephen Malcolm

 

Department of Biological Sciences, Western Michigan University

Room: 3151 Wood Hall, tel: 387-5604, e-mail: "steve.malcolm@wmich.edu"

 

 

 

Summary Course Description:

 

The course intent is to emphasize the diversity and functioning of ecological interactions in a tropical environment.  The course will be based for two weeks in Belize, Central America, with lodging at two field stations located inland and on a coral reef, and then a third week on campus in Kalamazoo.

 

This is an intensive field course that will focus on the application of scientific method to the operation of natural interactions in tropical environments.  We will spend 2 weeks in the field and return to Kalamazoo for 5 days of data analyses that will culminate in the presentation of your research results in a course symposium.  Results of work done in the field will be published to the course website.

 

From the inland site, students will explore a diversity of terrestrial habitats including wet, montane, coniferous, and mangrove forests, tropical savanna, streams and rivers.  Participants will investigate how ecological, geological, topographical, and human factors have contributed to the development of these diverse ecosystems as well as study some of the many biotic interactions unique to the tropics.  From the marine location, students will snorkel over the finest barrier reef in the western hemisphere and learn about coastal marine ecology.  To appreciate human interactions with surrounding ecosystems, participants will visit ruins of an earlier Mayan civilization and see how people currently use natural resources.  Before leaving for Central America, participants will have several evening sessions to learn about specific groups of organisms and ecosystems that they are likely to encounter during their travels.  In Belize, daily activities will vary.  At each site there will be initial orientation tours to become familiar with the plants and animals immediately at hand.  Participants will also take a number of day trips to visit parks and reserves to see features of particular ecological interest.  Students will work in groups to design and execute scientific field projects to examine the functioning of natural interactions among diverse organisms.

 

 

Location:

We will start the course in Belize by observing a series of different habitats from two different field stations: one at the Possum Point Field Station on the Sittee River in the Stann Creek District of south-central Belize, and the other about 14 Km east at the Wee Wee Caye Marine Station on the main reef ecosystem off the coast of Belize.  Both field stations are operated by Mary and Paul Shave and they will be our hosts for the course (see http://www.marineecology.com/ and information about the field stations at http://www.marineecology.com/fac.html)

 

 

Dates and travel:

 

Monday, 28 April to Monday 12 May 2008 in Belize, plus Tuesday, 13 May to Friday, 16 May in the Department of Biological Sciences at WMU in Kalamazoo.

The travel itinerary is as follows:

 

Date

Location

flight #

depart

arrive

April 28

Detroit to Houston

CO 689

6:00 am

7:51 am

April 28

Houston to Belize City

CO 1627

9:00 am

10:26 am

April 28

Belize City to Dangriga

Mayan air

1:00 pm

2:00 pm

April 28

Dangriga to Possum Point

Bus/boat

3:00 pm

4:00 pm

May 2-3

Cockscomb Wildlife Preserve and Mayflower National Park

Boat/bus

9:00 am

10:30 am

May 4

Possum Point to Wee Wee Caye

Boat

9:00 am

11:00 am

May 10

Wee Wee Caye to Possum Point

Boat

1:00 pm

2:30 pm

May 11

Baboon Sanctuary and Altun Ha Mayan ruins, then Biltmore Hotel

Bus

8:00 am

-

May 12

Belize City to Houston

CO 1650

11:16 am

2:55 pm

May 12

Houston to Detroit

CO 1688

5:00 pm

8:57 pm

The US Air fare to Belize from Detroit is $675.99 (including taxes plus $30 service fee)

 

Please make your own way to the Metro airport in Detroit on April 28 to arrive at the airport by 4:00 am – we will also have ground transportation between Kalamazoo and Detroit if needed (please contact Dr. Malcolm if this is the case).  In addition there will be a local Mayan Air flight in Belize to Dangriga, plus a bus ride and then boat trips to access each field station.  At the end of our stay in Belize there will a bus trip to the "Community Baboon Sanctuary" 30 miles west of Belize City to see howler monkeys (howlers are called "baboons" in Belize, see http://www.belize-vacation.com/belize/baboon.htm or http://www.howlermonkeys.org/) and then the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha (means "rockstone pond" in Maya which hints at the ecological role that water played in the lives of Mayans – see http://www.belizedistrict.com/tosee_ah.html) with a night at the comfortable Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel near Belize City, before leaving on Monday, May 12 (http://www.belizebiltmore.com/).

 

 

Course organization:

 

This is an intensive, 3-week, "all-day-everyday" course with the intent of working in the field for as long as is necessary to design methods and collect data that will ensure meaningful interpretation.  You will be encouraged to work hard and effectively while having fun in the field.  You will have some free time to recreate, play games, "hang-out" and for tourism, but the emphasis will be on experiential learning.

 

We will emphasize the application of scientific method to investigate the nature of interactions among species in tropical forest and tropical reef ecosystems.  Any interactions among or within species is a possible target and you will be encouraged to make your own observations and suggest explanations of what is going on.  These explanations will lead you to formulate valid null and alternative hypotheses.  These hypotheses will then be tested with a set of methods that you devise followed by data collection and analysis.

 

We would like students to work in groups of two or three so that you collaborate and reinforce each other's efforts and ideas.

 

 

Suggested Text:

 

Beletsky, Les. 2004. Belize and Northern Guatemala. (Travellers' wildlife guides)  Interlink Books. ISBN-13: 978-1566565684 Paperback – available from WMU bookstore or amazon.com for $18.45 – this is an excellent guide and is strongly recommended but not required!

 

 

Grade assignment:

 

Performance in the course will be assessed as follows:

 

points

(1) List of 20 observations (10 at each location)

100

(2) Set of 2 hypotheses to be tested

100

(3) Set of 2 methods to be used to test hypotheses

100

(4) Set of 2 results in laboratory notebook

200

(5) 2 PowerPoint presentations of results

300

TOTAL

800

 

 

Grading scale:

 

A = >90%

BA = >85%

B = >80%

CB = >75%

C = >70%

DC = >65%

D = >60%

E = <60%

 

 

 

Academic integrity:

 

Cheating, fabrication and plagiarism will result in a score of zero for the relevant activity and will be treated as described under "Student Rights and Responsibilities"at: http://catalog.wmich.edu/content.php?catoid=7&page=09_students_rights_and_responsibilties.html of the current Undergraduate Catalog, or, http://catalog.wmich.edu/content.php?catoid=8&page=09_student_rights_and_responsibilities.html in the current graduate catalog.

 

"You are responsible for making yourself aware of and understanding the policies and procedures in the Undergraduate Catalog that pertain to Academic Honesty. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse.

If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). If you believe you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing. You should consult with me if you are uncertain about an issue of academic honesty prior to the submission of an assignment or test."

 

 


 

 

 


Western Michigan University, Office of Study Abroad,

B-200 Ellsworth Hall269-387-5890,

study-abroad@wmich.edu

http://www.wmich.edu/studyabroad

 

Tropical Biology in Belize

 

Program Profile                                              

Country:

Belize

Location:

Various Locations

Language:

English

Faculty Director:

Dr. Stephen Malcolm,

Dept. of Biological Sciences

Subjects:

Biology, Ecology, Geography

Eligibility:

Good academic standing

See prerequisites for BIOS 4560

Length:

April 28 to May 16, 2007

Cost:

$3,200

Deadline:

February 15, 2007

 

Program Overview

This is an international travel study course providing an introduction to both terrestrial and marine ecosystems in Central America and the Caribbean.  The course is taught on-site in Belize, a small country nestled on the southern edge of the Yucatan Peninsula with Mexico and Guatemala to the north and west and the Caribbean to the east.  The time of the course will be divided between an inland terrestrial station and a marine site on an offshore caye on the barrier reef in the Caribbean.   

 

Academic Program

From the inland site, students will explore a diversity of terrestrial habitats including wet, montane, coniferous, and mangrove forests, tropical savanna, streams and rivers.  Participants will investigate how geologic, topographic, and human factors have contributed to the development of these diverse ecosystems as well as study some of the many biotic interactions unique to the tropics.  From the marine facility, students will snorkel over the finest barrier reef in the western hemisphere and learn about coastal marine ecology.  To appreciate human interactions with surrounding ecosystems, participants will visit ruins of the extinct Mayan civilization and see how people currently use natural resources. Before leaving for Central America, participants will have several evening sessions to learn about specific groups of organisms and ecosystems that they are likely to encounter during their travels.  In Belize, daily activities will vary.  At each site there will be initial orientation tours to become familiar with the plants and animals immediately at hand.  Participants will also take a number of day trips to visit parks and reserves to see features of particular ecological interest.  Students will also work in groups to design and execute scientific field projects to examine the functioning of natural interactions among diverse organisms. 

 

Academic Credit  

WMU credit will be awarded for BIOS 4560 (3 credits).

  

Location  

Belize is a small country in Central America where English is the official language.  The English spoken by most people is a Creole dialect.  Belize's population is ethnically diverse with Mayans, Garifunas, Creoles, Mestizos, and refugees from neighboring countries living together without much ethnic tension.  There are also small groups of Mennonites who still speak an old form of German as well as Chinese and Indians.  Although Belize was "discovered" a few years ago as a tourism destination, the tourism industry is still not highly developed and one can still travel through Belize without enduring resorts that cater to the beach crowd, except on Ambergris Caye, the largest caye on the barrier reef. Considering the small land area of Belize, there is a surprising diversity of ecosystems: wetlands, riparian, coastal, and montane, that have not been impacted by humans to the degree that natural areas have been affected in other Central American countries.  The barrier reef off the coast of Belize is spectacular where marine ecosystems remain largely undisturbed and where one can still observe ocean mammals, manatees and dolphins, just by boating from one caye to another.

 

Housing

Accommodation will be at two field stations (inland and on a caye in the Caribbean) in rustic cabins.

 

Cost

The cost of the program includes tuition, accommodation, all meals, health insurance, ISIC card, park entrance fees, ground transportation in Belize, and excursions.  Not included: airfare, passport fee, books and course materials, and personal expenses. 

 

Financial Aid

Students who are eligible for federal or state financial aid can use their awards for studying abroad.  After a student has been accepted to the program, he/she must complete required paperwork with the Financial Aid staff in order to apply financial aid to the program costs.  It is the studentŐs responsibility to complete the paperwork prior to departure and to maintain compliance with financial aid regulations while studying abroad (i.e. remain enrolled full-time).

 

Application

Applications are available in the Office of Study Abroad at B-200 Ellsworth Hall and from Dr. Stephen Malcolm, Department of Biological Sciences, 3151 Wood Hall.

 

Additional Information                 

Country Information:  http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/central_america/belize/

           

Contacts

Dr. Stephen Malcolm, Professor, Biological Sciences, 387-5604, steve.malcolm@wmich.edu

 

 

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