Tropical Behavioural Ecology and Evolution 2013 – Department of Biology - University of Copenhagen

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University of Copenhagen, Department of Biology
Graduate Course in Tropical Behavioural Ecology and Evolution (for PhD and MSc students)

Registration period: Nov. 1st –March 8th 2013

            Space is limited to 16 Ph.D. and M.Sc. students therefore an application procedure is necessary. Personal motivation and submission of the required permit paperwork will be part of the admission criteria in case the course becomes oversubscribed. General observation permits are provided but Ph.D. students are encouraged to apply for personal permits before Jan. 1st to allow collection and exportation of specimens relevant for vouchering and research.

Course dates:
            April 22nd-29th (preparation and proposal writing) – you are encouraged to
                  start this process earlier as the PhD students start on April 6th.
            May 2nd to 27th (field course in Gamboa, Panama)
            June 12th (final paper due, oral exams for M.Sc. students enrolled at the
                  University of Copenhagen will take place June 21st in Denmark)

            This 15 ECTS course is subsidized by the Centre for Social Evolution at the University of Copenhagen ( but will still carry a fee of Dkr 9000  for the 26 day field component in Panama. Expenses for transportation in Panama (trucks, boats and charter buses), accommodations, and meals will be covered but students will arrange to pay their flights and personal research permits.

For more information and how to apply for the course please go to: and It is essential that you also contact Rachelle Adams personally at for further information on admission procedures.

Main instructors and organizers:
-Dr. Rachelle M. M. Adams, Centre for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen and Smithsonian Institution Postdoctoral Fellow
-Dr. Jacobus J Boomsma, Professor, Centre for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen, STRI Senior Research Associate
-Dr. Jonathan Z. Shik, North Carolina State University Postdoctoral Fellow

Course Goals

  • To become familiar with a range of tropical animals, plants and fungi and relevant tropical research themes in behavioural ecology and evolution, with particular emphasis on social interactions and parasitic and mutualistic symbioses.
    • Instructors have a range of expertises, such as:
      • Social evolution, mating systems and symbiont coevolution
      • Pollination symbioses
      • Social parasites of insect societies
      • Ecology and species diversity of tropical communities
  • To become familiar with infrastructural aspects of tropical research in behavioural ecology and evolution (e.g. canopy cranes; permanent monitoring plots; STRI resources)
  • To understand the principles of proposal writing, research design, and manuscript preparation in tropical ecology and evolution
    • Students will hand in a in a 1500 word proposal in the format of a STRI Short Term Fellowship application, including a CV and annotated bibliography (in Mendeley), but excluding transcripts. This is due in April and will be commented on by the instructors, revised by the students and provided to all course members before the field part of the course begins.


    • Students will have meetings with instructors before they travel to Panama and will be expected to be familiar with a reading syllabus of relevant literature, providing the foundation for pursuing their topics of interest.
    • To gain proficiency in using tools such as Skype (, Mendeley Desktop (, Dropbox ( and STRI webcasts ( to aid in remote communication and collaboration
  • To conduct a short independent project and thereby gain a better understanding of how to conduct behavioural, ecological and evolutionary fieldwork in tropical systems
    • Students will submit a manuscript draft on their research before leaving Panama and a final draft 16 days later. The format will follow that of a peer reviewed article.
  • To conduct one small group project emphasizing a collaborative research approach
    • All group projects will have an instructor as a mentor and three to five students. Students will help design their short project but will be limited to the subject decided by their mentors/instructors (e.g. experimental ecology, community ecology, behaviour, etc.). A group report will be peer reviewed by another group, revised and completed by all group members.
    • The following techniques will be used to inspire experimental and genetic approaches
      • Standardized collecting protocols  (e.g., invertebrate ALL protocol)
      • Collection of live ant colonies for laboratory studies
      • Collection of DNA quality samples for possible later molecular/genetic work (not part of the course and personal permit required)
      • Organization of collections to promote quality donation of vouchers to natural history museums

Expectations and Grading
We expect students to prepare for the field component of the course by discussing literature and their personal field project proposal with instructors to ensure scientific interest and feasibility. Students will afterwards conduct their personal independent project, participate in one group project (3-5 students), be present at all lectures and excursions, and participate in discussion sessions. The grade will be based on a portfolio containing the written proposal and annotated bibliography (20%), one short write-up based on the group project (20%), logbook and voucher documentation (10%), and the independent project (50% total, 10% for draft and 40% for final manuscript). 

For University of Copenhagen M.Sc. participants: The course is primarily aimed at PhD students but a select number of M.Sc. students will be admitted. The final grade will be based on a portfolio containing the written proposal and annotated bibliography (20%), one short write-up based on the group project (20%), logbook and voucher documentation (10%), and the independent project (50%). M.Sc. students will add to their  portfolio, approximately 50 pages of peer reviewed cited literature (usually 7-10 articles) and take an oral exam in the presence of two examiners (“internal censur”). Oral performance will be factored into the independent project grade (50% total, 25% for oral performance and portfolio, 5% for draft and 20% for final manuscript).