My four years towards graduating for my nature-related bachelor study

Bachelor of Science in Tropical Forestry

me at my graduation

After I went to Madagascar and fell in love with the tropical nature and its inhabitants, I decided that I wanted to study nature conservation. Not any nature conservation, but focused on the tropics. I found the study ‘Forest and Nature conservation’, on a small green university of applied science, and instantly knew that this was the study I was going for. Mostly because this study had the specialisation ‘Tropical Forestry’, which sounded perfect for me. And that is how on 1st September 2015 officially started with my bachelor study.

The bachelor was 4 years long, and the first year was a propaedeutic year. I was excited to learn more about nature, wildlife and ecosystems but this first year was all focused on the Dutch nature and landscapes. Slightly less interesting than the tropics. The second-year was still partly focused on the Netherlands. But after 1.5 years I could finally start with my tropical forestry specialisation. I had a good solid background about a lot of aspects of nature conservation, now it was time to alter this to fit the tropics. And we did a lot of different things.

My specialisation

We learned so many different things in different aspects during this tropical forestry bachelor. We got taught about management, ecology, research and local livelihoods. Besides the many theoretical lectures we had, there were also fun excursions. We went to a local zoo and big greenhouses, to learn about tropical plants. There were field trips abroad, which I will tell you more about a bit further in this blog. We even played a game, where we mimicked being a household in rural Africa. Which in the beginning wast mostly fun, until we all realised how hard it is for the people there. We cannot just say ‘stop cutting the forest’ if their whole life depends on it. It is really important to work with the local people, to battle the problems together.

We learned about agroforestry. Which in simple terms is the combination of food crops and trees, how this can benefit both nature and the local people? The soil was also a big subject. Not only the soil on his own but also together with its relationship with water and plants. We learned about the ecology of the tropical forest. What kind of processes are going on? why is biodiversity so high? how the animals and plants work together, some of them depend on each other but others are harmful. All this theory also has been put in action; we set up our own plantation. Not in real life of course, but we followed a whole set of characteristics of an existing property in Ghana. Including the costs for labour, the soil characteristics, the climate pattern, etc. Besides the management of nature, we also learned more about how to research it. which methods are the most suitable for which kind of research, and how do you analyse the data you collected? What kind of test can you do to prove your sayings?.

Field trips during the bachelor

We put all of this newly obtained knowledge into action in the field trips we made! We went on a field trip to Faya Brava reserve in Portugal, where we conducted our own research. My group did research about the biodiversity of frogs in ponds with different water qualities and size. We did not really have enough time to visit all the ponds and make sure we have enough data to test it with significance. But it was a nice practice to set up a research project from the beginning. It was a lot of fun to explore the nature reserve and the many different animals that live in it. And on our free hours we swam in the river, we made delicious food and took our well-earned rest.

Although Portugal was a very nice field trip, it was simply beaten by the field trip we made to Suriname. We spend almost 3 weeks in this beautiful country and it was all amazing. During this trip we did many different things; we worked on our method collection skills, we had interviews with local people, we got lost in the never-ending forests, we travelled over the river in the dark and spend two night on a little eco-resort located deep in the forest on the river beds.

But it was not all fun and chill, we also had to work hard. The reason for this trip was for us to make a management plan for one of the community-owned forest, that means a lot of fieldwork to collect data. And although I love to work in the tropical forest, it is also hard work. It is warm and moist, the vegetation is dense and there are countless of musquitoes trying to find a piece of naked skin…

The adventures continue…

With the field trip and the finished product from Suriname the theory part of my study was over. There was still 1,5 years left before I would graduate. but these are filled with my minor, my practical placement and my thesis. Each of these was the duration of one semester (5 months). But I will not tell you about them right now. Otherwise, this blog will get three times as long. First I will post a blog about my Erasmus exchange I did in Norway for my master. After that, a blog about my internship and my thesis will follow. Stay tuned!

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