A duo from the University of New England has recently returned from a month of studying the unique high-altitude rainforest systems of the Usambara Mountains in Eastern Tanzania. Ecology Honours student, Tim Rhodes, and Professor Caroline Gross from the School of Environmental and Rural Science, were in Tanzania to attend a course run by the Cambridge-based Tropical Biology Association which allows students to develop their research skills in the fields of conservation biology and ecology.
Tim is the first student from an Australian institution ever to take part in the highly-regarded research course, having been selected as one of only 24 students from a field of over 500 applicants from all over the world.
As part of the course outcomes, Tim completed a research project on termite populations in the Tanzanian rainforests. The process of conducting research of this kind has proven invaluable in refining and building Tim’s research skills and confidence.
“The course was very diverse and covered a lot of material. I feel like I’m in a much better position to achieve good results in my studies, especially now that I have started Honours,” Tim said. “I have a better grasp on scientific processes and of what postgraduate study will involve.”
Tim hopes to complete his Honours next year, with a focus on pollination ecology and genetic diversity.
Professor Gross, an expert in pollination and reproductive biology, attended the course for the second time as a guest lecturer on invitation from the Tropical Biology Association.
Professor Gross said that the course is one of the most respected of its kind, and offers fantastic opportunities to participants. “The course allows students to gain research experience before they commence their postgraduate studies,” she said. “The 24 students came from 21 countries to learn the techniques and methodologies of building a research project from scratch. The Usambara Mountains support unusually high levels of diversity, so the students are really spoilt for choice in their options.”
Professor Gross strongly encourages UNE Ecology students to take on opportunities such as the Tropical Biology Association course. “It’s impossible to overstate the amount students can gain from experiences such as this. Aside from learning a lot, students get to meet fellow researchers and study under the tutelage of some of the leading lecturers in the field.”