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Undergraduate Study

Global field courses in Biosciences

In Biosciences, students on several of our degrees have the option of taking field course modules which provide fantastic opportunities for travel and studying your subject in superb locations, while also getting to know fellow students and academics better.

These are the times when long-lasting friendships are forged and valuable skills achieved. 

Exact field course module options are specified on each degree course page.

Field course destinations

Please note that destinations are subject to change. To see where degree courses are based, check the programme pages.

For degrees based at Streatham Campus, Exeter:

At the Streatham Campus we offer two main field courses:

This field course introduces students to the ecology and conservation of tropical marine habitats in the Bahamas, including coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves. Bahamian coral reefs are important as hotspots of biodiversity, for their economic value (fishing and tourism) and for the ecosystem services they provide. They are currently threatened by a range of human impacts.

Run on the beautiful desert island of San Salvador, the field course presents a fantastic opportunity to study all main habitats that together comprise a functioning reef ecosystem in a unique and exciting environment. The island is surrounded by coral reefs – many in excellent condition – and other associated habitats. During eight days in the field, you will have the opportunity to snorkel inner reefs, a reef crest, a drop-off, sea-grass beds and mangroves. Off-shore sites are reached by boat; at these you may encounter a variety of turtles, sharks and rays, in addition to typical Caribbean reef fish.

A small charge per student is paid to a reputable carbon-offsetting group (Carbon Footprint™) and ensures that the course and all associated travel are carbon neutral.

Example itinerary:

Day 1
  • Fly London Heathrow-Nassau-San salvador
Day 2
  • Island/field centre orientation
  • In water training and kit try out
  • Evening lecture
Day 3
  • Data collection
  • Various sites inshore and offshore reef (weather permitting)
  • Social evening
Day 4
  • Data collection
  • Various sites inshore and offshore reef (weather permitting)
  • Evening lectures
Day 5
  • Data collection
  • Various sites inshore and offshore reef (weather permitting)
  • Evening lectures
Day 6
  • Data collection group exercise – data input
  • Evening lectures/presentation
Day 7
  • Group swim/safari
  • Data analysis and info assessments and module write-up requirements
  • Social evening
Day 8
  • Packing
  • Charter flight, leave island
  • Overnight flight from Nassau to Heathrow
Day 9
  • Arrive London Heathrow around midday

Please note this is an example itinerary and has been taken from a past field course. Field course itineraries are subject to change.


The cost of the field course is £1,395 per person (+ additional carbon offsetting charge, currently £15) and is paid for by the student. This cost covers accommodation (shared dormitories of 3-4 people), flights to field course destination and transfers, equipment, on-island travel and subsistence.

Students have to provide/buy their own basic snorkelling equipment: mask, snorkel, fins (snorkelling bootees if needed), rash vest. A swimsuit, hat and protection from sun are also needed, plus sufficient clothing for nine days in a sub-tropical environment. Students also need a light rain jacket, as occasional tropical storms can occur.

Field course costs are approximate and funding provided is subject to change. Please note that this cost is based on 2018/19 prices.

Run as a non-residential field course, the Practical Skills in Field Ecology module will introduce you to a range of skills for environmental monitoring and ecological assessment.

We will visit study sites local to Exeter (including coastline, freshwater habitats, and woodland), and discuss real-life case studies of habitat and species management.

There will be a strong focus on employability in the environmental job sector, and we will introduce you to a range of species protected under UK legislation and therefore of particular interest to conservation organisations, government departments and professional ecologists.

You will learn field sampling and habitat surveying techniques for both terrestrial and marine habitats and a range of analytical techniques for data interpretation.

Many wildlife management decisions are complex and may compete with other interests (for example the need for new housing). This module will therefore help you develop skills in effective communication using a variety of media, ranging from photography to written reports.

You will also learn about the value of biological records in providing data on the distribution and abundance of key species, and you will practice using information from public databases to inform planning policy decisions.

For degrees based at Penryn Campus, Cornwall:

At the Centre for Ecology and Conservation the field courses we offer are:

This field course will expose you to a fantastic array of marine life and give you first-hand experience of research in the pelagic regions of the Atlantic.

The Azores are an under-explored marine paradise that were formed by volcanic activity along the Mid Atlantic Ridge as recently as 250,000 years ago (Pico island). Their location, 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal, mean they are a magnet for migrating and pelagic species alike. Amazingly, 27 species of cetacean including 5 species of dolphin, large aggregations of sperm whales and the largest mammal in the world, the blue whale are all visitors to the Azores.

Our learning on this field course will be delivered on boats, in laboratories and in learning space owned and operated by the University of the Azores who are collaborators on the trip. Exeter staff will guide content but you will also work with and be taught by, experts in Azorean marine biology from the host University during the trip.

We will visit three islands: São Miguel, Faial and Flores with each being the location of key themes of the field course.

You will gain first-hand experience of the skills required for a career in marine biology or field-based biology including bathymetric mapping of the sea floor, stock assessment of commercial fish populations, cetacean monitoring, fieldwork in biosphere habitats, island biogeography and marine plastic collection and quantification.

Field identification and recording is given a ‘local’ perspective exposing you to the broad taxonomic spectrum of animals, plants, fungi, etc. that occur in Cornwall and using a variety of media and approaches to record and identify organisms. In the field, you will be trained to find, identify and survey wildlife.

Conceptual themes within the module include the description and recording of species’ characteristics, the monitoring of wildlife populations, the seasonal events that define UK wildlife phenology, and the local, national and international groups and policies that guide wildlife conservation.

Costa Rica has the highest density of biodiversity of any country in the world and is renowned for its highly progressive conservation and environmental policies with over 27% of its landmass within dedicated protected areas.

A typical Costa Rica field course will introduce you to a range of tropical forest habitats from the humid and pre-montane forests (i.e. Tirimbina) to the Cloud, Atlantic and Pacific slope forests (i.e. Monteverde) before culminating in a visit to the Pacific coastal region (i.e. Playa Grande), world famous for its nesting leatherback turtles. Central to the field course will be your deep engagement in these ecosystems.

You will gain first-hand experience of the methods used to study the flora and fauna in such challenging environments through a series of practical sessions, discussions and seminars from a variety of personnel including faculty, professional researchers, local experts, stakeholders and prominent experts from in-country conservation NGOs.

You will then have the opportunity to implement all you have learned and conduct your own group research projects on an aspect of ecology or animal behaviour allowing you to acquire some of the essential field skills and experience needed to help you pursue a career in tropical conservation and ecology.

On 15 September 1835, the extinct volcanoes of San Cristobal were spotted from the Beagle. After just five weeks exploring the Galapagos Islands, the young Charles Darwin was indelibly marked by their biogeography, and this experience would prove central to his deduction that life on Earth evolved from common ancestry by natural selection.

Today, the Galapagos Islands are a melting pot where the locals meet tourists and each group meets scientists. A typical field course to San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands will introduce you the fauna of four key biomes: oceanic, coastal, lowland/urban and highland.

In each, we will introduce you to the interplay (which is often positive) of science, tourism and the local economy. To this end, we will aim to:

  • visit offshore sea stacks, where interactions with marine mammals, pelagic seabirds and snorkelling with rays and smaller sharks are a real possibility;
  • examine interactions between tourists/locals and coastal wildlife (including fish, marine iguanas, aquatic birds and sea lions) when snorkelling versus on foot;
  • understand the effects of invasive species on endemic wildlife, including giant tortoise, Galapagos petrel and Darwin’s finches;
  • provide a 21st century insight into species and speciation, supplementing contrasts of phenotypic traits with finger-printing techniques and phylogenetic analyses in Darwin’s finches.

You will gain first-hand experience of the methods used to study the plights of island flora and fauna through a series of guided tours, practical sessions, discussions and seminars by faculty from the Universities of Exeter and San Francisco, Quito, as well as staff from national parks.

You will then have the opportunity to conduct your own group-led research projects in ecology, conservation, animal behaviour and/or evolution – enabling the opportunity to answer big questions with newfound theoretical and practical knowledge.

Example itinerary:

Day 1 Arrival
Day 2 Coastal and Urban ecosystems and conflict
Day 3 Marine reserves and offshore and inshore snorkelling
Day 4 Invasive plant surveys using transects and drones
Day 5 Darwin’s finches: evolution in action
Day 6 Molecular genetics: from field samples to lab techniques
Day 7 Reintroduction programmes; Galapagos tortoises
Day 8-9 Projects
Day 10 Plastics surveys and mangrove restorations
Day 11 Departure 

Please note this is an example itinerary and has been taken from a past field course. Field course itineraries are subject to change.

Costs associated:

Transport to and from UK departure airport Paid for by student
Flights to field course destination Paid for and booked by student. Approximate cost £1,000 return.
Accommodation All accommodation within the Galapagos is provided at no cost to students within the field course dates.
Equipment (including suitable clothing and footwear) Paid for by student
Subsistence (e.g. meals, snacks, drinks) Clean drinking water and all meals are provided throughout the field course at no cost. 
Other travel Covered by the university
Entrance fees Covered by the university
Visas Paid for by student
Vaccinations Paid for by student.

The Western Ghats region of southern India is one of the world’s “Top 25 Biodiversity Hotspots” and has also been designated by Birdlife International as an Endemic Bird Area. The region is home to numerous endemic species of plants, insects, amphibians (80% are endemics), and birds (about 20 species are endemic), but it faces severe conservation issues (at least 325 globally-threatened species are found here) as India is one of the two most heavily-populated countries in the world.

The India field course will introduce you to two tropical forest types, which differ in their biodiversity and rates of endemism:

  1. the South Deccan Plateau dry deciduous forests (we will visit this ecotype at the Cauvery River Wildlife Sanctuary, Biligiriranga (BR) Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary);
  2. the South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests (Nagarhole National Park, famous for its tigers, leopards, crocodiles and elephants).

You will gain first-hand experience of the methods used to study and conserve the flora and fauna in such challenging environments, where human pressure is extremely high, by contributing to surveys of biodiversity, taking part in discussion groups, and receiving seminars from a variety of personnel including University of Exeter staff, and colleagues from Indian research institutions and conservation organisations.

During a 4/5 day stay at the BR Hills field station of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), you will conduct a short research project on an aspect of ecology or animal behaviour, allowing you to acquire some of the essential field skills and experience needed to help you pursue a career in tropical conservation and ecology.

Example itinerary:

Day 1
  • Students meet at Bangalore International Airport
  • Coach departs from airport to Galibore accommodation
  • Lecture 1: Biogeography of South Asia / Intro to Deccan Plateau Dry Forests
  • Riverine Forest Walk (Field-craft / Surveying) and Camera Trap setup
  • Lecture 2: Avian Diversity in India and Bird Conservation in Asia
  • Moth-trapping
Day 2
  • Riverine Forest Bird Surveys
  • Lecture 3: Methods for Surveying Biodiversity
  • Riverine Forest Butterfly Survey and Mammal Signs Survey
  • Prep time in project groups
  • Student Discussion Group 1 (Biodiversity Conservation in South Asia)
  • Lecture 4: Mammalian diversity in India
  • Moth-trapping
Day 3
  • Dry Forest Bird Survey
  • Coach departs for Gorukana Biligiriranganatha Swamy Temple (BRT) Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Intro to BRT habitats and Temple / Soliga Settlement visit and Camera Trap setup
  • Lecture 5: Intro to BR Hills - Biogeography, Conservation and the Soliga Tribe 
  • Student Discussion Group 2 (Animal Behaviour and Conservation)
  • Moth-trapping
Day 4
  • Lake and Forest Bird Survey
  • Project Data Collection 
  • Student Discussion Group 3 (Large Mammal Conservation in India)
  • Group role-play: Human-Elephant Interactions 
  • Moth-trapping
Day 5
  • Gorukana Estate Bird Survey
  • Project Data Collection
  • Student Discussion Group 4 (Human Dimensions of Conservation)
  • Lecture 7: Cultural Contexts to Conservation
Day 6
  • Lake and Forest Bird Survey
  • Project Data Analysis and Poster Preparation
  • Gorukana Estate Butterfly Survey
  • Lecture 8: Sensory Basis to Magnetic Navigation in Birds
Day 7
Red Hill
  • Coach Departs for Red Hill Nature Resort, Ooty in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
  • Camera Trap setup (if feasible)
  • Lecture 10: Introduction to Shola ecosystem, biodiversity & conservation
  • Lecture 11: Butterfly Ecology 
  • Student Discussion Group 5 (Why are the Tropics so Diverse?)
  • Moth-trapping (if feasible)
Day 8
Red Hill
  • Day-trip to Mukurthi National Park
  • Lecture 12: Aerial Migration in the Indian Sub-continent
  • Moth-trapping (if feasible)
Day 10
  • Coach Departs for Kabini River Jungle Lodge, Nagarhole National Park
  • Jungle Lodge Campus Butterfly Survey
  • Jeep Safari and Forest Bird/Mammal Survey
  • Camera-trap Footage 
  • Moth-trapping
Day 11
  • Boat Safari and Reservoir Bird/Mammal Survey
  • Lecture 14: Living with Wildlife
  • Lecture 15: Tourism and Conservation Education
  • Jeep Safari and Forest Bird/Mammal Survey
  • Student Discussion Group 6 (Pros and Cons of Ecotourism)
Day 12
  • Jeep Safari and Forest Bird/Mammal Survey
  • Bird Survey at Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
  • Coach departs for Goldfinch Retreat, Bangalore
Day 13
  • Transfers to airport
  • Flight departs Bangalore for Heathrow

Please note this is an example itinerary and has been taken from a past field course. Field course itineraries are subject to change.

Costs associated:

Transport to and from UK departure airport Paid for by student
Flights to field course destination Paid for and booked by student. Approximate cost £600-700 return.
Accommodation All accommodation within India is provided at no cost to students within the field course dates. Accommodation is shared rooms in good-quality tourist lodges and hotels
Equipment (including suitable clothing and footwear) No specialist equipment required. Recommended clothing: Sturdy footwear (boots or trainers) and field clothes for hot and cool temperatures.
Subsistence (e.g. meals, snacks, drinks) Clean drinking water and all meals are provided throughout the entire field course at no cost. The great majority of food is vegetarian South India cuisine. Three meals are provided every day.
Other travel No other travel required (a coach is hired for the duration of the trip, including airport collection and drop-off in India)
Entrance fees None required
Visas Tourist e-visa required. This must be purchased by the student 1 month before departure; approximate cost £50.
Vaccinations Standard vaccinations required for travel to any tropical country (not a malaria risk zone). Paid for by student.

During this field course you will learn to study animal behaviour and biodiversity in a field setting, through observation, formulation of ideas and hands-on research.

The Isles of Scilly are an ideal location for this due to the wide range of marine, intertidal, and terrestrial habitats in a small area and the many habituated populations of birds and other animals whose behaviour can often be studied at close proximity.

You will carry out research projects on animal behaviour and practical exercises to survey biodiversity, using, for example, transect sampling, focal watches and camera traps.

During the module, you will have constant access to lecturers to discuss any ecological or behavioural topic, learn new identification skills, go on a boat trip to the wild Western Rocks to see seals and puffins and much more.

This field course to Kenya will tackle a range of topics that you have been introduced to during your Human Sciences degree, including some of the biggest environmental and social issues facing the world today.

The module will be introduced through introductory lectures in term 1 of the final year, covering both practical details about the field course (health and safety and risk assessments, travel plans) and background to the issues that you will learn about on the field course.

During the field course you will experience first-hand a range of natural and social environments in Kenya, and carry out guided field exercises to investigate these environments.

Upon return to Cornwall help sessions will be provided to give you support as you prepare your poster presentation.

Example itinerary:

Day 1 Students meet at Nairobi Airport
Day 2 David Sheldrick / Lake Naivasha
Day 3 Hell's Gate
Day 4-5 Ol Pejeta
Day 6-7 Mpala
Day 8-9 Mt Kenya
Day 10-12 Mara
Day 13 Transport to Nairobi
Day 14 Flight departs from Nairobi

Please note this is an example itinerary and has been taken from a past field course. Field course itineraries are subject to change.

Costs associated:

Transport to and from UK departure airport Paid for by student (apart from the African Behavioural Ecology Field Course, when this cost is covered by the University)
Flights to field course destination Paid for by the university
Accommodation Organised and paid for by the university
Equipment (including suitable clothing and footwear) Paid for by student. Example equipment needed: backpack, standard field clothing (for hot, wet and cold weather), binoculars, sleeping bag and mosquito net.
Subsistence (e.g. meals, snacks, drinks) Meals covered by the university. Students should bring personal spending money for snacks and drinks.
Other travel Covered by the university
Entrance fees Covered by the university
Visas Paid for by student; approximate cost $20-50 USD
Vaccinations Paid for by student; approximate cost £100

On this field trip you will visit a number of unique Scottish habitats, including Caledonian Pine remnants in the Cairngorms, upland freshwater habitats, moorland and coastal cliffs. These habitats are host to many species of high conservation priority in the UK, including the red squirrel, common dolphin, otter, osprey, golden eagle, black grouse, black-throated diver.

You will visit one of the UKs most impressive seabird breeding colonies with auks, breeding puffins and skuas. While conservation issues will be at the forefront of many of our discussions you will also carry out individual projects at Handa Island (seabird colony) on topics ranging from behavioural thermoregulation to foraging ecology.

Furthermore, you will be encouraged to use the fieldwork skills you have attained to enhance your own interests in ecology and conservation and further develop those skills to better equip you to apply them to practical situations in the workplace.

Singapore is a bustling metropolis located in a region of high biodiversity right on the equator. It therefore makes an ideal location to explore biodiversity and how humans interact with, influence, and threaten wildlife, from the exploitation of natural resources to aspects such as wildlife trade.

Singapore also comprises a number of comparatively preserved natural ecosystems, from tropical forests through to marine habitats, and has a wide range of biodiversity initiatives and green spaces. Despite intense urbanisation, several ecosystems have also recovered and biodiversity remains high in forests, wetlands, and marine zones (especially for birds, mammals, fish, butterflies, and other invertebrates). Singapore therefore makes an ideal location to study biodiversity, ecology, evolution, and behaviour, and to explore the challenges facing wildlife on global and regional scales.

You will be based in central Singapore and undertake activities both in the more developed regions, learning about threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, and more rurally studying ecology and behaviour, again especially focussing on biodiversity threats and initiatives. 

The Alpine Ecology field course will bring you to a stunning location in the Swiss Alps, surrounded by unique alpine habitats, including forests, meadows, boulder fields, glaciers and snow-capped peaks.

During excursions you will learn about the adaptations that allow organisms to live in an environment that is characterised by extremes, the fragility of the alpine ecosystem, and observe typical inhabitants (e.g. alpine ibex, alpine marmot, chamois, spotted nutcracker, crested tit, bearded vulture, etc.)

You will witness first-hand the effects that humans have on this unique environment, see how glaciers are retreating at unprecedented rates due to climate change, and debate topical issues such as human-wildlife conflict (e.g. related to the return of large predators such as wolf, bear and lynx), the ecological impact of farming and tourism, and problems associated with the reintroduction of previously extinct species (e.g. ibex, bearded vulture).

In addition to guided excursions and lectures, you will perform a research project that allows you to gain new insights into the behaviour, ecology, and/or evolution of alpine species. In small groups, you will formulate your research question, collect data, analyse them statistically and present the research outcomes.

The Yukon Territory and Alaska are home to some of the largest remaining wilderness areas in the world, amazing wildlife spectacles, and have yielded major research breakthroughs in our understanding of ecology and evolution.

In this field course we will explore wilderness habitats starting from the boreal forests, lakes, and taiga of Kluane Lake, through the alpine tundra and icefields of the St Elias mountain range, the coastal rainforest of southern Alaska, culminating in Sitka at the rocky shore and kelp forest of the Pacific ocean. You will study how these ecosystems formed and how they function.

Along the way we shall try to spot moose, beaver, grey wolves, Canadian lynx, wolverine, pine marten, ptarmigan, Dall sheep, bald eagles, sea otters, humpback whales, and grizzly and black bears feasting on the migrating salmon.

You will encounter key study systems including the coupled population dynamics of lynx and snowshoe hare, the behavioural ecology of Kluane red squirrels, and mountain habitats as indicators of climate change.

You will develop your own research skills by undertaking field studies in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments, and by developing projects in small groups.

Professional researchers, local experts, stakeholders and conservation NGOs will discuss with you the complexities of conserving wilderness given the conflicting interests of foresters, first nations people, trappers and hunters, the mining sector, fisheries, aquaculture, and oil companies.

Studying a wealth of habitats at first hand offers the opportunity to gain essential skills for a career in conservation, evolutionary biology, or ecology.

Student support

We make every effort to ensure students have the opportunity to experience our field trips and are supported during the process of deciding their field trip destination and embarking on the field trip. Prior to each trip we provide extensive briefings on travel arrangements, accommodation options, equipment and support offered throughout the trip.  

The Bahamas was such an inspiring trip, seeing consequences of actions from around the globe first hand was eye-opening. Observing healthy reefs compared to dying reefs demonstrated just how much terrestrial activity affects the oceans. I'd highly recommend this once-in-a-lifetime experience, it's something I’ll never forget and was an amazing couple of weeks spent with course mates.


BSc Biological Sciences, Streatham Campus

The main things I’ve taken away from the experience are a greater sense of adventure, and some job ideas! During the trip we had talks from some really interesting people who work out in Canada and Alaska, spent time at Sitka Science Centre and Salmon Hatchery and visited Squirrel Camp: a red squirrel research centre. 

The trip definitely enhanced my understanding of field work, especially how hard it can be during the winter months in remote places such as the Yukon. We also got the chance to spend some time with some of the indigenous people in the Yukon and in Sitka, and learn about their ways and traditions, and conflicts that this sometimes has with science.

During the field course we were put into groups and all had the opportunity to spend a few days conducting our own research projects. There was a lot of freedom with this, and working within a group meant that we had a lot more options. My group chose to research the impacts of humans and anthropogenic impacts on moose and coyotes by examining how close scats were found to roads, runways and pathways.

The highlight of the field course was the bears! When we were travelling to get the ferry to Sitka, we stopped off in Haines, Alaska at the Chilkoot River which is well known for seeing bears salmon fishing. Once we got there we saw 4 adults, and 5 Grizzly bear cubs!

Read more from Emily


BSc Zoology, Penryn Campus