Statement on field course carbon footprint

Our position regarding our field courses and ways to mitigate their carbon footprint

As part of our University of Glasgow BSc degrees in Zoology and Marine and Freshwater Biology, we offer our final year students the opportunity to take part (as one of their final-year courses) in one of our two international field courses in Kenya or the Red Sea. This teaching is a valuable addition for our students who are wanting to continue in careers related to animal conservation and field monitoring. Below we list the main reasons for this:

  1. International development: We feel our students can benefit from learning about tropical/African ecosystems, as this is advantageous for their international development and opportunities to work on ecosystems outside the UK.
  2. Broadening perspectives: There is an intrinsic benefit in broadening the experience of our students. Getting to know new cultures and environments far away from our Western developed world helps students recognise that the actions we take at home can often be impactful in distant developing countries (e.g. the effects of war, colonialism, trophy hunting, land exploitation for Western products, etc).
  3. Importance of helping the conservation of some of the most diverse habitats on Earth: Both the coral reefs and savannahs that feature in these field courses are fragile habitats supporting a huge diversity of unique invertebrates and vertebrates. They are both under extreme pressure due to climate change and expansion of anthropogenic activities. In addition to the learning experience the courses provide, assisting in the study and conservation of these habitats is a primary focus of these field courses.
  4. Wildlife observations in ecosystems of minimal disturbance: Students on these courses are able to observe large numbers of mammal species across many taxonomic and functional groups in close proximity. This allows behavioural studies of animals interacting with each other and the environment in ways that would be difficult to observe in the UK.
  5. Working in water: Students on our Red Sea field course are able to work for far longer each day in warm water than would be possible if the course was run in Scotland/the UK (especially at the time of year that these field courses take place). More practical experience can therefore be achieved in a limited time.

Actions to raise awareness and minimise the carbon footprint of our field courses

While these overseas courses have clear benefits, we are very conscious that they also carry a cost in terms of their carbon footprint. Specifically, our Red Sea field course has a carbon footprint of 1 ton per student and our Kenya field course has a carbon footprint of 1.7 tons per student.

  1. Offsetting: Each individual student is offsetting this footprint prior to going on the field course, through a collaboration with the Borders Forest Trust, a community-based environmental charity devoted to restoring woodlands in southern Scotland. The students spend a day engaging in sustainability talks and undertaking habitat restoration with Trust staff.
  2. Minimising impact: Our junior-level field courses, in which students learn the fundamentals of field ecology and which involve the entire year class, are all based in Scotland. The overseas field courses only run during the final year of studies, so involve small numbers of final year students who select this as one of their optional courses. These overseas courses are at a more advanced level and allow students to refine their skills.
  3. Raising awareness: Within our curriculum we offer tutorials where students get to calculate their carbon footprint individually and we then collect data anonymously and discuss them in class by making meaningful comparisons with other countries or population groups.
  4. Local alternatives to tropical ecosystems: For final-year students who do not wish to travel abroad (for whatever reason) but still wish to learn about tropical ecosystems, local alternatives, without a field component, are also available (e.g. our final year Tropical Ecology course).
  5. Donating: Throughout our curriculum we actively encourage donations to local habitat conservation and restoration initiatives that aim to address the climate crisis by reducing damaging atmospheric emissions, such as: