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Tropical Biodiversity and Field Methods


Admission requirements

The course is targeted at students with a Bachelor in Biology or equivalent degree, although we also accept a small proportion of BSc and PhD students. Priority will be given to students who show a strong motivation and interest to study tropical ecosystems.

Contact information

Coordinator: Dr. Jeremy Miller Email:


The course will provide a broad overview of tropical ecology, flora and fauna, with a focus on Southeast Asia and Borneo. Students will learn about practical aspects of doing field research in tropical ecosystems, experimental design, data analysis methods, theory of biodiversity data, and the application of biodiversity data in conservation. In addition, students will receive basic taxonomic overviews for taxa that are particularly relevant in tropical ecosystems, and practice their identification based on reference collections and own collections to be made during fieldwork.
The course will be held partly in Leiden, partly at the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) in Sabah, Malaysia.
The field work will consist of (a) demonstrations of field methods and techniques and (b) short research projects carried out by small groups of students.
The course is a unique opportunity to get theoretical as well as practical instructions on tropical biodiversity from a broad range of experienced lecturers, in a setting that allows you to interact informally and intensively with fellow students, including Malaysian ones, as well as more experienced researchers and field biologists. The course is an excellent preparation for fieldwork in the tropics. The course provides study credits and is also a coveted c.v.-item.

Learning goals

After completion of the course, students are able to:

  • Demonstrate proficient knowledge of major concepts in tropical ecology.

  • Outline, describe, and identify important groups of tropical organisms.

  • Explain and discuss some of the challenges of human-nature conflict.

  • Design and execute a field study in the tropics.

  • Outline and consider the practical challenges of field studies and make decisions to mitigate them.

  • Present and discuss ideas, challenges, and results.

  • Collect, analyze and visualize data using appropriate methods.

  • Formulate and process feedback to improve scientific investigation.


27 February – 22 March 2023

  • week 1 (Leiden): lectures, self-study

  • weeks 2, 3 and 4 (Borneo): practicals, demonstrations, short field research projects and active involvement in data collections, presentation of the results at DGFC

Mode of instruction

The theoretical part of the course (in Leiden) will consist of lectures and self-study. The field work part (in Borneo) will consist of demonstrations of field methods and techniques and short research projects carried out by small groups of students.

Assessment method

Students will be graded based on (i) an exam about the lectures in Leiden, (ii) their performance during fieldwork in Borneo, and (iii) an oral presentation of a mini-project at DGFC in Borneo.


Lectures and practical information will be available on Brightspace

Reading list

Ghazoul, J. & Sheil, D. (2010) Tropical rain forest ecology, diversity, and conservation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lectures and practical information will be available on Brightspace.


Prospective students should submit their CV and a short motivation letter and upload this on the following link. Deadline for application is 30 September 2022. Students will receive extra information, including possibilities for applying for funding.
Register through My Study map.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for more information on how to apply.


**The costs include a course fee of € 1350 which covers the following: **

  • Bus transport from and to Kota Kinabalu,

  • Accommodation in DGFC,

  • Food and drinks

  • Boat transfers,

  • Field assistants,

  • Fiel equipment

  • T-shirt, conservation fee, partial sponsoring of the local participating students,

Other exspenses not part of the course fee:

  • Students will need to book and pay their own travel to (and, if necessary, accommodation in) Leiden and to Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia).

  • Costs for insurances and personal medication (vaccinations, consult your own GP or travel clinic for this) are also to be borne by the students themselves.

Minimum 10 students, maximum 20 students.