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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

GEOG3069 Costa Rica Field Trip

20 creditsClass Size: 22

Module manager: Dr Roel Brienen

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

Pre-requisite qualifications

GEOG2085 Ecosystems, or equivalent


GEOG3690Tropical forests and sustainable development

This module is mutually exclusive with

GEOG3062New Zealand Field Trip

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The School of Geography at the University of Leeds, is a global leader in tropical forest research. This field trip will provide a unique opportunity for students to engage with these efforts by conducting small research projects in a tropical environment in Costa Rica. The fieldtrip consists of a two day tour through Costa Rica to appreciate the variety of the Central American landscape, followed by a week-long residential fieldwork at the field station La Gamba in the Golfo Dulce region, south west Costa Rica. The tour will visit important geographic features of Costa Rica including Irazu Volcano (3.400m), the old town of Carthago, and drive over the highest point of the Central American Cordillera. You will stay overnight at high elevation and be able to visit cloud forests and paramo vegetation (shrubs and grassland). You will then proceed on the second day along the west coast to the research station of La Gamba. The first day at La Gamba you will be introduced to its surroundings and familiarise yourself with the diverse landscape around the station. These first three days should provide students with an appreciation of the diverse landscape and different vegetation types in Central America. During the following five days you will work in small groups to collect field data around the field station for the individual research projects. The direct surroundings of the field station contain a very large diversity of land use and ecosystems, including dense primary rainforests, mangroves, natural secondary regrowth and reforestation corridors, rice fields, oil palm and timber plantations. The geomorphology is rich and includes hills, valleys, and rivers and coastal systems, and will allow for the development of a variety of research topics. Example themes may include: - Tropical forest carbon cycle - Forest structure & biodiversity- Environmental change over different timescales - Secondary forest vegetation and succession - River hydraulics and erosion - Hillslope hydrology - Estuary and river ecology - Soil type and geomorphology, vegetation, land-use. - Soil nutrients and carbon stocks - Soil erosion and soil hydraulics - Effects of land use on biodiversity, soil, hydrology, etc. - Primary forest fragmentation and edge effects - Reforestation projects and corridors


1. To design and undertake a research project that will make an original and relevant contribution to understanding of Neotropical physical geography;
2. To gain experience of field data collection in a complex and challenging field environment;
3. To interpret and synthesize field data and to present results competently both in oral (presentation) and written form (report in the format of a scientific paper);
4. To gain an understanding and appreciation of the complex geology, geomorphology, ecology, land-use and climate of Central America.

Learning outcomes
1. Competence in design, planning and execution of independent research projects;
2. Appreciation of the challenges involved in performing scientific research in a tropical environment;
3. Understanding and appreciation of environmental and developmental challenges faced by tropical countries.

Skills outcomes
Technical field skills (may include basic tree and biomass measurements, biodiversity estimates, soil sampling, river, and erosion dynamics)
Technical computing skills, associated with simple data analysis and presentation
Skills associated with planning field data collection and writing scientific reports


The module will be taught as follows:
1. Introductory and briefing lectures;
2. Research proposal preparations;
3. Field course (starting week 11);
4. Research report writing and presentation.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours111.00
Total Contact hours89.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

- Private study will comprise 21 hours formulating a research proposal, and 90 hours of analysis of results, and oral and written
assessment preparation.
- The oral presentation will be presented within a seminar, and the written report will be reviewed and submitted as part of the assessment
(see below).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Feedback on research proposal and one-to-one meeting (categorized as tutorials above);
- Fieldwork supervision. This is assessed on the basis of contributions to fieldwork, field-notes, aptitude and attitude during group work;
- Small group discussions whilst in the field;
- Feedback on draft report.
- Feedback on oral presentation

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayIndividual report on research project60.00
PracticalField work skills15.00
Research ProposalResearch Proposal25.00
PresentationOral presentation of results0.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/04/2018


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