July 2010

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Vicki Betts, MSc Conservation Management student, has recently been accepted onto a highly prestigious field course to Madagascar. Vicki, who completes her MSc dissertation in October this year, has booked her flights and will be spending just over a month in November this year at the heart of Madagascar.

While there Vicki will be studying tropical biology and conservation with a group of students from across the world being taught at MSc level by an international team of top scientists. The field course is run by the Tropical Biology Association (TBA), a non-governmental, non-profit organisation with offices in Cambridge and Nairobi.

On describing her opportunity, Vicki said: “My success speaks highly of the course at Writtle as the typical recruits onto this field course are generally biology graduates. Clearly the TBA recognises the knowledge and skills that the MSc at Writtle will have taught me. I'm so excited about this once in a lifetime opportunity to learn valuable skills in this amazing environment with students from across the world.”

Other students on the course are from universities in Ireland, Austria, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Angola, Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. There will be 18 students in total, with only one other student from the UK (Bristol).

Vicki went on to say: “Madagascar is special biologically because of the high number of endemic species - at least 80% are found nowhere else in the world. The wildlife I will be studying is like no other on earth.

The TBA course will be held in Kirindy Forest during the early part of the wet season. The forest has been the focus of research for many years and supports at least seven species of lemur, and various other endemic mammals such as Madagascar's largest predator, the fossa. The ecology of much of the fascinating flora and invertebrate fauna has yet to be studied.

Kirindy was selected for the course because of the logistical support available, its history of research and its trail system that is maintained by the German Primate Centre (DPZ). The area also provides a good case study of the effect of human impacts on indigenous biodiversity that includes fragmentation, burning and other forms of degradation. Kirindy is a dry deciduous tropical forest, further visits to rainforest and mangrove habitats will also be undertaken during the month long course.

The course starts with a series of lectures, seminars and fieldwork on tropical ecology and conservation methods taught at MSc level. The latter half of the course focuses on project research design. Participants will get the opportunity to design and undertake their own research project during the course. The projects will be written up and presented as a paper at the end of the course.

Notes to editors:

Tropical Biology Association (TBA)

The TBA is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation working in partnership with environmental institutions throughout the Africa region.

TBA was established in 1993 by a group of dedicated biologists in order to give a high standard of ecology and conservation training to African and European biologists alike, thereby strengthening the international scientific and conservation community. Established through funding from the Darwin Initiative, the TBA is supported by grants and collaborative programmes from government and non government agencies and the private sector. It has a subscribing membership of over 40 universities, research departments and conservation institutions which form the basis of its governing council. The TBA offices are located in Cambridge and Nairobi.

More information about the TBA can be found at