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Hong Kong Field Course (MSci)

Module titleHong Kong Field Course (MSci)
Module codeLESM002
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor Martin Stevens (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Hong Kong is a bustling metropolis located in a region of high biodiversity. It therefore makes an ideal location to explore biodiversity and how humans interact with, influence, and threaten wildlife, from the exploitation of natural resources to things like the illegal wildlife trade. Hong Kong is also surrounded by several comparatively preserved natural ecosystems, from tropical forests through to marine habitats. Despite intense urbanisation, several ecosystems have also recovered and biodiversity remains high in surrounding forests and marine zones (especially for birds, mammals, fish, butterflies, and other invertebrates). Hong Kong therefore makes an ideal location to study biodiversity, ecology, evolution, and behaviour, and to explore the challenges facing wildlife on global and regional scales. You will be based on HK island and undertake activities both in Hong Kong City, learning about threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, and more rurally studying ecology and behaviour, again especially focussing on human impacts. Further information on the module will provided in term 2 of the final stage, including practical details about the field course.

When participating in field courses, you will be required to cover any visa costs and, if necessary, purchase anti-malarial medication and relevant immunisations. You may also need to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, e.g. walking boots, rucksack. You may incur additional costs dependent upon the specific demands of the research project chosen. Details of specialist equipment, vaccinations and visas that you must supply at your own expense are provided at

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to develop scientific knowledge and an understanding of biodiversity, but in particular in the context of the many threats facing wildlife and ecosystems regionally and globally. A practical understanding of these issues will be developed through activities and data collection in in a variety of settings. You will undertake group tasks, observations, and experiments in Hong Kong City exploring issues relating to fishing and food consumption and its effects on marine environments, the wildlife trade (for pets, traditional medicine, and food), and how biodiversity can persist even in highly urbanised areas. You will also explore more rural areas with tasks and experiments to understand ecosystems such as coral reefs, intertidal zones, and forests, including how they function, aspects of species interactions, and behaviour, and how they are being affected by human actions. You will conduct your own project involving the conception, design, and execution of this.

The activities on this field course are driven by research that is currently taking place in Hong Kong and surrounding areas and globally. You will have the opportunity to learn from local experts and researchers, and engage in projects of relevance to biodiversity, ecology, and the environmental challenges faced in an area of high population pressure.

The skills you gain from fieldwork, teamwork, working with unfamiliar biodiversity, and working around the clock, will all stand you in good stead for careers and employability in ecology, evolutionary biology, and the environmental sector by developing or enhancing your employability. Transferable skills to other sectors include:

  • problem solving (linking theory to practice, responding to novel and unfamiliar problems, data handling),
  • time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group),
  • collaboration (taking initiative and leading others, supporting others in their work),
  • self and peer review (taking responsibility for own learning, using feedback from multiple sources),
  • presentation skills and audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively in multiple formats).

The teaching contributions on this module involve elements of research undertaken by module staff, such as work on animal ecology, behaviour, anthropogenic impacts, and marine biology (Stevens), and human interactions, behaviour, and evolution (Currie).

Due to the fact that this is a field-based unit in dense urban and rural environments, it may present a challenge for students with impaired physical abilities and certain mental health conditions. Such students wishing to choose this module should seek advice from the module co-ordinator.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Explain in detail the problems of conservation and threats to biodiversity locally and globally
  • 2. Compare and contrast the attributes and diversity of animal and plant life in Europe and SE Asia, species interactions, and behavioural ecology
  • 3. Apply descriptive, comparative, and experimental techniques in novel ecological and urban settings
  • 4. Design and implement data collection for experiments alone and in groups

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Describe systematically and critically evaluate current problems and/or new insights in wildlife threats and conservation, and theory related to biodiversity and evolutionary ecology
  • 6. Describe in detail techniques and methodological approaches applicable to research in conservation, ecology, and biodiversity
  • 7. With guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis and enquiry within the fields of ecology and behaviour

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Communicate ideas effectively and professionally by written, oral, and visual means
  • 9. Tackle and solve problems independently and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level
  • 10. Interact effectively in a group, and with people from other cultural backgrounds

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

A ten day field course (plus travel) will take place in Hong Kong and surrounding areas in October/November. This will involve accommodation in Hong Kong City. The field course will move around using local public transport, coaches, and taxis and with the help of local staff. Details of specific locations, activities, and content of the field course, along with further reading lists will be issued prior to departure.

Pre-field course seminars and discussions will prepare you for the practical element of the module. This knowledge is reinforced through preparation of an assessed poster on a relevant conservation or biodiversity topic upon return from the field (poster session approximately three weeks after return). In the field, relevant skills are developed through tutoring in ecology, biogeography, conservation, behaviour, and evolution, which are applied in group observation and data collection. The research project will focus on some aspect of ecology or behaviour of local wildlife, or related to wildlife threats to the ecosystems.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching3Preparatory seminars / discussions
Scheduled learning and teaching112Field-based tutoring from members of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation in biodiversity, behaviour, ecology, conservation and other biological topics
Guided independent study185Additional reading, research and preparation for the module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions throughout the field course and poster sessions Ongoing throughout the moduleAllOral
Participation in seminar sessionsOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Post-field course poster on some aspect of the field course not directly related to or replicating the research project undertaken on the field course50A3 posterAll Written
Ecological and/or behavioural monitoring training and research project culminating with a presentation (if you are unable to attend the field course for valid personal reasons the continual assessment will be replaced by a critical essay of 2000 words)50Ongoing throughout the moduleAll Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Post-field course posterPost-field course posterAllDuring an appropriate specified time period before the end of July
Research project presentationCritical essay or mini project reportAllDuring an appropriate specified time period before the end of July

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The continual assessment is deferrable by two pathways: (1) You take part and complete the 3-day research project but for whatever reason fail to complete the presentation and, on deferral the presentation component will be re-assessed by a mini project report or (2) Failure to complete the 3-day research project through non-attendance will result in a deferral of a 2000-word critical essay. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a 2000 word critical essay. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the mark and will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Myers, S. (2016). Wildlife of Southeast Asia (Princeton Pocket Guides).
  • Oswell & Davies. (2005). Black Market: Inside the Endangered Species Trade in Asia. Mandala Publishing Group.
  • Davies et al. (2012). An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology (4th Edition). Blackwell Science Publications.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Conservation, Hong Kong, SE Asia, ecology, animal behaviour, biogeography, conservation, wildlife, evolution, observation, data analysis, field work

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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