A general guide to all TBA courses
Contains important information on:
• The course
• Forms you need to send TBA
• What to expect
3 ? 1. A brief introduction to the TBA and its courses
Activities of the TBA 3 TBA courses 3 Teachers on TBA courses 3 Typical course outline 3
4 ? 2. How do I register for the course?
Payment of deposit & course fees 4 Scholarships 5 Liability release form and course registration 5 Key dates 5
6 ? 3. What do I need to do to prepare for the course?
Passports 6 Getting a visa 6 Flights 6 Money 7 Health, medical and safety advice 7 What to bring with you 8 Fundraising 10
10 ? 4. Life on a TBA course
What will life be like on a TBA course 10 What to expect on the course 10 Meals 10
11 ? What you need to send to the TBA
11 Payment of deposit and course fees (European & „other‟ participants only*)
12 Form 1 - Bank details ( African & ASEAN participants only)
13 Form 2 - TBA liability release form (All participants)
14 Form 3 - Course registration (All participants)
? Checklists 15 For African & ASEAN participants 15 For European & „other‟ participants 16
17 ? How to contact the TBA
*See page 5 for definition of „other‟ participants
2 January 2009
1. A brief introduction to the TBA and its courses
The TBA is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization working in partnership with institutions in Europe, Africa and Asia to build expertise in biodiversity research and conservation in the tropics.
Activities of the TBA
Effective biodiversity conservation requires an informed, well-motivated and self-sustaining community of tropical ecologists. The Tropical Biology Association is working to meet this need through its field courses and support to tropical institutions. Its unique feature is bringing together biologists from host region (African or ASEAN) and European countries for relevant field training and institutional support. This approach is an effective means of exchanging ideas and forging links for future collaboration.
The TBA ran its first courses in 1994 and has trained over 1200 biologists from more than 40 countries worldwide. Following their TBA courses, participants keep in touch through our newsletters and our alumni network.
The TBA courses
TBA courses teach current concepts and techniques in tropical ecology and conservation to graduates or postgraduates at an early stage in their training. They are aimed at biologists wishing to pursue a career in research or conservation and who have little practical field experience. By selecting half the participants from the host region and half from Europe, the TBA provides a unique forum for sharing experiences and building international links between like-minded biologists.
Lasting for one month the courses include over 60 hours of fieldwork, practicals and analysis and 100 hours of independent project work. The emphasis of TBA field courses is on building skills and understanding, rather than accumulating factual information. They cover a range of topics in plant and animal ecology, including natural resource management, conservation biology, experimental design and field techniques.
The first week of the course introduces the flora and fauna of the field site during guided walks, identification workshops and field exercises. Evening lectures and seminars cover selected topics in tropical ecology, focusing on the expertise of the teaching staff present. Short excursions to nearby projects and different habitat types take place during the second week. The remainder of the course is devoted to independent research projects carried out mainly in pairs. Projects are written up in full and presented to the class as short research papers.
Courses are intensive, but since you may not get an opportunity to learn about tropical ecology in such a unique setting again, we think we should make the most of the time you have available. On successful completion of a course, the TBA awards participants a certificate.
Teachers on TBA courses
Teachers are selected from institutions throughout the world so that we are able to provide the variety and depth of teaching that no single university or NGO could match.
Typical course outline
Each course timetable is unique and we will send you a more detailed timetable before the start of your course. Here is a typical course outline
1 Travel to field site
2 Orientation, introductions and equipment handout
3-4 Identification workshops and guided walks. Seminar on tropical diversity and thinking of
research questions. Lectures on ecology, biogeography and relevant local research
3 January 2009
5-10 Field exercises and seminars on biodiversity assessment and management. Lectures on
current issues in tropical ecology and research
11-13 SHORT EXCURSIONS
14 Introduction to research projects
15 Project clinics
16-25 Independent research projects and evening lectures covering staff research interests and
further topics in tropical ecology, biodiversity assessment and management.
26 Participant presentations of projects
27-28 Excursions and site visits. Return
Typical daily schedule
07:00 – 07:30 Breakfast
07:30 – 12:30 Morning session
13:00 -- 14:00 Lunch
14:30 – 17:30 Afternoon session
19:00 – 19:30 Evening meal
19:45 – 21:00 Evening lecture or presentation, moth trapping, night walks, socialising
IMPORTANT: The schedule is intensive and will operate 7 days a week; you will be expected to participate in all activities and, while we do try to include free time, work usually continues throughout Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
2. How do I register for the course?
Successful applicants must register for their course no later than 3 weeks prior to the course start date. The form is
at the back of this guide (p.15). Please detach, complete and return them to us.
African (including Malagasy) participants – send your forms to the NAIROBI office. European, ASEAN and other* participants – send your forms to the CAMBRIDGE office.
* Please note that throughout this booklet ‘other’ refers to applicants from the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and other countries outside Europe, Africa (including Madagascar) and the Association of South-
East Asian Nations (ASEAN) group.
Payment of deposit & course fees (European and other participants ONLY)
? You must send us a deposit of ?200 to secure your place on the course by 19th April. See page 12 for
details about making a payment to the TBA.
? You must pay all your course fees at least three weeks before the course starts. See page 12 for details
Scholarships (All participants)
African and ASEAN participants - You will receive an award that covers either part or full cost of course fees,
accommodation and travel to/from the field course; please note that African/Malagasy participants are not
eligible for the Borneo course and ASEAN participants are not eligible for the East Africa & Madagascar
courses. In addition, the TBA will also pay you an allowance for travel and incidentals to help you pay for travel
to/from airport or bus stations and cover travel expenses such as visas & passports. In order for us to pay your
travel & incidentals allowance you must complete Form 1 (p.13): Bank details. Please e-mail the completed form to the Nairobi office (African) or Cambridge office (ASEAN) as soon as possible (and not later than
4 January 2009
European participants - All participants at European institutions are eligible for a British Ecological Society (BES)
Scholarship to offset the cost of their course fees. The award is approximately ?200. To apply for a BES award
please write a letter addressed to the TBA stating why you require help towards funding the course. If you are
successful, the TBA will notify you and then deduct the award from your course fees. Please either post or e-mail thyour BES application letter to the TBA Office in Cambridge no later than 19 April.
Course liability release form (All participants)
It is very important that you send us this information before the course starts. Please fill in Form 2 (p.14) and thsend this to us as soon as possible (and no later than 19 April).
Please also fill in Registration Form 3 (p.15) and send it to us as soon as possible (and no later than 3
weeks before your course starts).
Summary of key dates:
th19 April: Deadline for payment of deposit (European & other participants)
and applications for BES scholarships. (European participants only)
th19 April: Deadline for sending completed Bank Details Form (Form 1, p.13) to:
TBA Nairobi Office (African participants only) or
Cambridge (ASEAN participants only).
th19 April: Deadline for sending completed liability release form (Form 2, p.14)
to TBA (All participants)
th19 April: African participants must provide a copy of their passport – all
In addition, West Africans to send 2 coloured passport photos.
Three weeks before the start of your course:
? All participants - Pre-course registration form (Form 3, p.15) returned to the
? European & other participants must make final payment of course fees
? European & other participants must send a copy of their insurance policy
that clearly indicates repatriation to home country in the event of a
medical emergency is covered.
5 January 2009
3. What do I need to do to prepare for the course?
? Make sure you have a valid passport. If you don't have one, make sure you apply for one in plenty of
time. You will automatically lose your offer if you have not sent us your passport details one month prior to
the start date for your course.
? Your passport should be valid for at least six months after the date you arrive in the course country.
All African Malagasy & ASEAN participants must send a copy of the information pages of their
passports - pages with your picture, passport details (place of issue/ validity/passport number, etc)
preferably by 19 April to the relevant TBA office. These copies will be copied to appropriate immigration
offices at the course site for information.
? All West Africa participants must include (a) 2 coloured passport size photos and (b) details of their
next of kin – name, full address (including phone and/or fax), and relation. This information is needed to
process referred visas to allow them attend the courses. Any additional information that may be needed will
be communicated separately.
Getting a visa
Many of you will require visas for entry into the course countries. This information can be found in Course Guide
Part 2, the separate course guide for your specific course.
? We strongly recommend that you check with the relevant embassy in your own
country to find out whether you need a visa or not and how much it will cost.
Make sure that the visa is valid for the entire time you will be in the country. Start applying for your visa
NOW as it can take a long time to receive one.
At your port of entry, ensure you verbally inform the immigration officer of the length of time required in the country (even if you have filled in these dates on your entry form) to cover your entire stay.
? African applicants: if you have difficulties obtaining a visa please contact the Nairobi office as soon
as possible. Anyone returning elsewhere (e.g. in foreign study country) rather than their home
country will have to arrange their visa independent of TBA; TBA will not incur any costs associated
with such arrangements.
? ASEAN applicants: if you have difficulties obtaining a visa please contact the Cambridge office as
soon as possible. Anyone returning elsewhere (e.g. in foreign study country) rather than their home
country will have to arrange their visa independent of TBA; TBA will not incur any costs associated
with such arrangements.
? African & ASEAN participants – Except for those travelling by road, we will arrange all flights; we will
write to you about this.
? European & other participants – you will have to arrange your own flights and insurance. Remember that
you will need to arrive in the host country the day before the course begins and leave no earlier than
the day after the course finishes. Booking flights early usually means you will get a cheaper flight.
Please send us your flight details as soon as you know them. We will send details of anyone else travelling
on the same flight so that you can travel out together.
? We will meet all flights at the airport – see specific course guide (part 2) for more details.
6 January 2009
? You will need pocket money for the courses (for drinks, postcards etc.). As a very rough guide, you will
need 50 to 100 US dollars for the course duration but this will vary from person to person. It is a good idea
to carry this money in cash. Anything more than that should be carried in travellers‟ cheques. Currencies
accepted in the course countries include pounds sterling and US dollars (East Africa & Malaysia),
? Travellers’ Cheques – Please note that during the course itself there are no facilities to change
travellers’ cheques. You will need to change these before going to the field sites. Remember to
bring the receipt, as some banks won’t change travellers’ cheques without it.
? Credit cards / Debit cards - DO NOT RELY ON CREDIT CARDS (Visa, MasterCard) or DEBIT CARDS
(Maestro, Cirrus). Very few places accept them, even in the cities.
? The black market – DO NOT CHANGE MONEY ON THE BLACK MARKET. It is illegal and you may be
? For specific information about changing money and costs in the country where your course is being held,
please see Part 2 of the course guide. We can‟t give exchange rates as these change regularly; for the
latest currency exchange rates, please visit the following website: www.xe.com
Health, medical and safety advice
Tropical Biology Association courses are physically demanding, involving some walking
on difficult terrain and working in climatic extremes, especially in Madagascar. You
should be in good health and must inform us of any existing health conditions or of any
medication being taken (see Form 2 at the end of this guide).
? The TBA recommends that you consult your own doctor regarding inoculations and malaria
prophylactics. It can take time to organise inoculations so don't leave it until the last minute!
The risk of getting malaria is high throughout East Africa, Madagascar and Malaysia
? Even if you live in an area where malaria is endemic and believe that you are resistant, malaria is likely to
be of a different strain. Malaria is a serious disease and must be avoided at all costs. There is chloroquine-
resistant malaria in many regions.
? The TBA recommends all participants take malaria prophylactics. Your doctor or a travel nurse will
advise you on what you should take, how long you should take it for, and provide up to date information on
? Please take sensible anti-mosquito measures; where mosquito nets are provided, use them (if you don‟t
get bitten, you can‟t catch malaria). In the evenings (when mosquitoes are most active), wear long trousers
and long-sleeved shirts, and wear socks or douse your ankles with insect repellent.
Requirements may vary dependent on where you are travelling from and thus are likely to differ for European and
African participants; yellow fever is endemic in some countries and you must check the requirements very carefully in your own country. Hence, inoculation for yellow fever may be necessary. If you do not live in the
country in which the course is being held, you may need to have this inoculation to enter, proof of which should
7 January 2009
be stamped on an International Vaccination Certificate for presentation at the airport (or your port of entry). Make sure you bring the certificate with you. Also, yellow fever inoculation must be taken 10 days before travel date.
We recommend you consult your doctor regarding this and other inoculations; the TBA cannot offer advice
on these matters.
If you take medication regularly, don't rely on being able to obtain it abroad. Please make arrangements with your
own doctor and bring enough to last you the entire duration of the course.
There is a TBA medical kit for minor health problems. However, you are recommended to bring a small kit of your
own containing the following:
• Malaria prevention tablets
• Insect repellent
• Basic painkillers e.g., aspirin or paracetamol
• Plasters, sterile wipes, wound dressings etc.
• Antiseptic cream
• Cream for insect bites (very useful if you know mosquitoes like the taste of you)
What to bring with you
You do not need any specialist equipment, other than that recommended on our list below.
Please consider local cultural sensitivities when packing your clothes. People do not tend to wear revealing clothing,
so choose shorts and T-shirts that will not offend. Camouflage wear is NOT considered acceptable; however, do
remember that you will be more conspicuous to animals and birds in bright clothes (e.g. white, yellow, red & blue)
and these may reduce your chance of seeing them before they see you!
? Walking boots – essential for all courses. Bring waterproof boots with a good tread for Borneo, Uganda
and Tanzania; trainers/casual shoes are not suitable for walking at these sites
? Lightweight, loose trousers (if you wear shorts in the forest and savanna, your legs may be scratched and
? Long-sleeved shirts (better protection for your arms when clambering through thick vegetation). Short
sleeved shirts for short forest walks and around the field station.
? Waterproof clothing – raincoat or poncho and trousers. It will almost certainly rain during your stay. Please
come prepared to get wet in Uganda, Tanzania & Borneo! For Madagascar and Kenya participants, a
raincoat is also recommended for occasional morning showers.
? Warm sweater or jacket - essential for cold mornings and nights
? Socks (useful in the evening to keep the mosquitoes at bay and leeches for Borneo)
? Trainers/casual shoes (please don't walk around in bare feet)
? Toothbrush (always use bottled/potable water for brushing teeth), soap, shampoo, etc.
? National or traditional dresses and outfits (optional) for social events
Equipment – essential
? Small 'day bag'* for your note books, sandwiches, samples, etc. during field excursions and other trips.
8 January 2009
Equipment – recommended
? Water bottle
? Pen knife
? Roll of toilet paper for emergencies
? Torch or head torch plus spare bulbs and lots of spare batteries
? Note books and pen (for lecture notes – TBA will provide small notebooks and pencils for field notes)
? Sun hat, sunglasses and sun cream.
(TBA has a few torches and day packs to loan, but if you have your own, you should bring them)
Equipment – optional
? Mosquito net. This will be useful if you intend to travel around before or after the course and stay in budget
accommodation where mosquito nets are not provided.
? Lightweight sleeping bag. Useful if you suffer from the cold (nights can be chilly). Also vital if you are
going to camp while travelling round before/after the course
? Identification guides. The TBA has multiple bird guides, a few flower and animal guides and a tree guide.
However, many people like to have their own copy
? Statistics book: although the TBA has some statistics text books in English, participants have found it
useful to have a statistics book in their own language. The statistical software used during the course is
? Camera and binoculars - if you have a good pair of binoculars, bring them (7x40, are best in the forest). If
you have a camera you can buy film duty free at airports, and bring plenty! You are advised to bring your
own batteries. Remember to bring a camera case to protect from the elements in the field! (Many participants
now bring digital cameras on courses; remember that there will not be facilities to download images
while on the course so you should bring additional memory cards if planning to do lots of
photography. As a courtesy to teaching staff, you are also requested to keep photography to a
minimum during field exercises). ? A dictionary - if English is not your first language, a dictionary will be very useful for both writing your
projects and general communications on the course.
? Treats - such as sweets and chocolate.
? Mobile phones – you are welcome to bring a mobile phone with you but see course guides (Part 2) for
details of coverage. It is, however, strict TBA policy that phones should not be used during timetabled
What the TBA provides
? Paper and pens but it would be helpful if you brought your own notebooks for lectures
? Binoculars - best to bring your own if you have them
? Computers – these are only for use for course-related work and no personal items (e.g. CD roms, iPods,
MP3 players, memory sticks, digital cameras) may be used on them
? Library of tropical biology text books, statistic books and research papers
Fundraising (for European and Other applicants only)
The Tropical Biology Association courses are heavily subsidised. When you take into account the equipment, staff,
overheads, vehicles, insurance, and so forth, the true cost of running a field course in the tropics is over ?2,500 per
person. In this light, the basic course fee we are asking you to pay seems rather good value. However, it is a
substantial sum of money for a student to raise, especially with the cost of an airfare and insurance to find as well.
Previous TBA students have had varying degrees of success at raising money. The secret seems to be
background research, perseverance, stamina, lots of letters and a bit of luck!
Please contact the Course Co-ordinator at the Cambridge Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) for useful
advice on fundraising.
9 January 2009
4. Life on a TBA course
What will life be like on a TBA course?
We hope you will be adaptable and fit in with the field station domestic arrangements. Living away from home in
close proximity with new acquaintances for a whole month does require a little bit of compromise from everyone. A
diverse array of nationalities means different cultures, beliefs and codes of conduct, which is all part of the learning
experience on a TBA course. We ask our participants to respect these differences and consider moderating their
behaviour if appropriate e.g. excessive drinking may be offensive to those who do not drink for religious reasons.
We ask all participants to come on the course expecting differences and to try to be tolerant of them. Please
respect local sensibilities regarding your clothing and behaviour and remember that the field station is a public
facility. Common sense and a little thoughtfulness resolve most dilemmas, but some things are not so obvious;
please ask a member of the TBA staff if in doubt.
What to expect on the course
The TBA course will be an intensive one with field practicals, seminars, lectures and independent project research
and write-ups over the 4-week period. Clearly, we cannot teach you everything there is to know about tropical
ecology in one month, but the course will provide a unique opportunity for you to learn new skills and concepts
and/or expand your knowledge of a particular subject area. But how much you get out of the course, depends very
much on how much effort you put into the course itself. Please do not come expecting just to be 'fed' information;
this course will make you think and learn for yourself.
We will be eating fairly traditional food, which is generally very healthy (high in fibre, low in cholesterol), but like any
institutional food, it may seem a little monotonous after a month, however delicious it is. At least half the meals will
be vegetarian, such as beans (pulses) and rice. We are usually served one meat dish a day, sometimes less
frequently, which tends to be stews made from chicken, lamb/mutton, beef or fish. Breakfasts will be white bread,
eggs, and some fruit. Drinking water is also provided and available throughout the day. Please be aware that, while
we are able to exercise influence over the catering arrangements at the field stations, we are less able to do the
same during the brief excursions away from these sites.
Some people bring their favourite spread to liven up the bread at breakfast. Otherwise, you may wish to bring a few
“treats” with you such as your favourite sweets or snacks for long days in the field.
Vegetarians and special dietary requirements
We can make special arrangements for vegetarians and some other special requirements – please let the TBA
office know these as soon as possible. It will not be possible to follow a strict vegan diet on a TBA course.
What you need to send to the TBA
Making a payment to the TBA (European & other participants only)
Payment of TBA course fees
The TBA requires payment in sterling pounds (?). Some banks will make out a sterling cheque
for you that you can send to us (but please note that we can no longer accept Euro Cheques).
Otherwise, it is easy to make a bank transfer – see the details below. Unfortunately, our bank
charges for this service and we therefore require you to pay an additional ?6 (bank
transfers only) to cover this cost.
10 January 2009