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Tropical Biodiversity and Field Methods south East Asia (next course in 2021-2022)


Due to circumstances this course will not be taught in 2020-2021. The next Tropical Biodiversity and Field Methods course will be given in spring 2022 to Borneo.

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

Coordinators: Dr. J. Miller Email:


The course will provide a broad overview of tropical ecology, flora and fauna, with a focus on the Caribbean. 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 terrestrial and marine 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 in the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI) in St. Eustatius, Netherlands Antilles.
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, as well as more experienced researchers and field biologists. The course is an excellent preparation for fieldwork in the tropics and can be easily extended by an research project. The course provides study credits and is also a coveted c.v.-item.

Learning goals

Course objectives:

The course aims to provide:

  • Theoretical insights into the biodiversity and dynamics of tropical ecosystems

  • A broad overview of the taxa with a high relevance for tropical ecosystems

  • Overview of major and unsolved questions related to tropical biodiversity

  • Hands-on experience with field methods and sampling techniques in tropical habitats

  • First-hand experience with biodiversity conservation and uses of biodiversity

Final qualifications:

  • Students will have a comprehensive understanding of tropical ecology, biodiversity patterns, and biodiversity data analysis

  • Students will have basic taxonomic knowledge of important groups of tropical organisms

  • Students are skilled in designing and carrying out a field study in tropical ecosystems

  • Students are experienced in working in tropical habitats and addressing relevant questions through scientific research


From 22-02-2021 till 19-03-2021

  • Week 1 (Leiden): lectures, self-study, short literature research projects

  • Week 2 (St. Eustatius): presentation of results from literature research projects at the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI), demonstrations of field methods and techniques

  • Week 3 en 4 (St. Eustatius): short field research projects and active involvement in data collections , presentation of the results at CNSI

Mode of instruction

The theoretical part of the course (in Leiden) will consist of lectures, self-study, and practical exercises. The field work part (in St. Eustatius) 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) a written exam on lecture and reading material in Leiden, (ii) their performance during fieldwork, and (iii) an oral presentation of a mini-project at CNSI, St. Eustatius.

Inspection and feedback on the examination

Date: To be announced


Lectures and practical information will be available on Brightspace

Reading list

A reading list/pdf files will be provided before the course starts.


Prospective students should submit their CV and a short motivation letter to Dr. J. Miller ( Students will receive extra information, including possibilities for applying for funding. Before final acceptance, students will be invited for a personal intake with the course organizers.

Register in Usis and enroll on Brightspace

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 € 1050, plus other expenses, as follows: Students will need to book and pay their own travel to (and, if necessary, accommodation in) Leiden and air travel to St. Eustatius (via St. Maarten). 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. The course fee of € 1050 covers a number of costs on St. Eustatius that will be arranged centrally (car transport, accommodation, use of facilities, field assistants, and field equipment). Food and drinks will at least partly be at own expenses; dinner may be organized centrally (catering).

Minimum 10 students, maximum 16 students.