Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better

Albert Einstein

I have been teaching to second year Master students at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) for 7 years. My course (“Field Herpetology”; 9 credits) was highly practical and served as an in-depth introduction to field herpetology with a focus on Neotropical herpetology. I fully coordinated my course and taught 2-3 weeks in the field in South America (Guyana and Venezuela have been the most popular destinations) every year.

Building on this expertise I am now proposing my course independently to any student from any country.

A life-changing experience

Courses are academically rigorous and consist in fieldwork sessions and daily lectures, seven days a week. Student teams are small, from 8 to 12, depending on the course location. Courses vary from 2 to 6 weeks in length.

Courses are highly immersive and occur entirely in the field, in the Neotropics, where we usually investigate different ecosystems (rainforest, savannah, paramo, cloud forest, etc.). By working in the field, students acquire knowledge on biological life in the most practical way. Natural concepts and models are seen in real-life, which is one of the best approaches to understand biological interactions across biological organisational levels. More specifically, students learn how to organise scientific research expeditions in remote and challenging environments, how to establish secure base camps in the wild, and learn field techniques such as how to collect amphibians and reptiles, sample tissues for molecular studies (DNA, RNA, etc.), swab animals (e.g., chytrid fungus), preserve animal bodies for state-of-the-art museum collections, record and analyse anuran calls, photograph and measure animal body parts for taxonomic purposes, identify (e.g., using keys) amphibians and reptiles, and monitor amphibians and reptiles in the tropics. Students also master how to lower their impact on the environment during fieldwork. Courses are usually articulated around a specific research project, the additional skills learned depending on the nature of the project (ecology, systematics, field surveys, etc.).

Field preparation includes extended literature study in scientific field subjects. By working together in stressful and uncomfortable conditions, the students become very capable to take responsibility in any circumstances. Students have to write a group report on their field research to show their gained capacities on working as a team and how to report scientific results. Students understand how scientific research plays an important role in the community, also in foreign countries, and understand both the opportunities and ethical implications of this research. By searching, observing and identifying the discovered animals, students obtain a broad knowledge on the systematics, taxonomy, natural history and evolution of Neotropical amphibians and reptiles. When finishing this course, students are ready to participate in ongoing field research and should be able to independently perform and analyse observations in the field.

Courses mostly target university students (undergraduate, graduate) wishing to learn more and improve skills, but other individuals who have a background in biology are usually welcome.

Evaluation of the successful completion of the course is based on the quality of participation, the quality of the field journal/notes; written examination; and the quality of input in the final field report.

Access to credits is possible and needs to be discussed with your university.

Although courses have a strong herpetological blend, they are tailored to meet additional objectives and broaden the zoological group under study.

Courses hopefully available in 2022:

FC01-PANTEPUI-ROR – Field Herpetology in the Lost World
Taxonomy, Field identification, Sample preparation, Ecology, Bioacoustics

Location: Brazil/Venezuela/Guyana.

Dates: depending on the sanitary situation, currently on hold.

This course is mostly designed for students and professionals, but other individuals who have a background in biology are welcome.

Improve your skills while participating to state-of-the-art field research in a unique and awesome location, led by an expert in the field. Hike the summit of Roraima-tepui and experience field research in isolation.

During this 4-week course participants will mainly: 

(1) gain knowledge on the amphibians and reptiles of the Gran Sabana and Roraima-tepui in Venezuela/Guyana/Brazil, from savannah to tepui slopes and high tepui summit;

(2) obtain hands-on experience in amphibians and reptiles identification, collecting techniques, museum specimen preparation, sampling tissues for molecular studies (DNA, RNA, etc.), swabbing animals (e.g., for chytrid fungus), and much more;

(3) be involved in ongoing projects on the spatial ecology of tepui summit amphibians and reptiles, obtaining hands-on experience in harmonic radar tracking, quadrat sampling, mark-recapture, etc.;

(4) be involved in ongoing projects on the acoustic ecology of tepui summit anurans and in homing behavior experiments

General wildlife watching and breathtaking landscapes are on the program too, as well as entomological and mammal hair sampling for those who are interested. 

Max 12 participants per course


Please do not hesitate to contact us for any question, or to show your interest and subscribe to our mailing list

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