Out of the Classroom into the Rainforest

Tropical Terrestrial Biology: BIO3820 

Every year about 60 staff and students from Monash Malaysia and Monash Clayton come together for a one-week field trip in Borneo for Tropical Terrestrial Biology. On the field trip they undertake group research projects in the World Heritage Site of Mulu National Park in Sarawak.

Staff teaching in the unit work closely across campuses to design an educational program that unifies the lecture material and field projects into a powerful, integrated experience that extends the classroom into the real world. The unit focuses on the environmental and ecological factors shaping biology in the tropics, adaptations and interactions of animals and plants, and the major conservation challenges facing the tropics around the world. Group project activities undertaken during the field trip form a major part of the assessment and student experience. Students work in groups under the guidance of the academic staff, but prior to the field trip students from both campuses use Discussion Boards and Facebook pages to develop collaborative relationships whilst formulating their field methods and discussing their projects. During the field trip they perform surveys and experiments under challenging conditions presented by the tropical environment. The types of projects they undertake are designed to provide the real-world illustration of lecture material, such as the effects of habitat disturbance on frog diversity, plant defences against insect herbivory, differences between understory and tree canopy insect communities, food webs in small water bodies and so on. After the field trip, students work collaboratively to refine project outcomes before writing individual reports as a major component of the unit assessment.