Professor and student study Tanzanian ecology

IT’S a long way from Armidale to eastern Tanzania, but that hasn’t stopped a student and professor from the University of New England studying the ecology of the Usambara Mountains.

Ecology honours student Tim Rhodes and School of Environmental and Rural Science Professor Caroline Gross have returned from the a month of studying the high-altitude rainforest systems of the Usambara Mountains as part of a course run by the Cambridge-based Tropical Biology Association. 

Mr Rhodes is the first student from an Australian institution to take part in the research course after being selected as one of only 24 students from more than 500 applicants from across the world. 

As part of the course, Mr Rhodes completed a research project on termite populations in the Tanzanian rainforests and said the process of conducting research of this kind was invaluable in refining and building his research skills and confidence. 

“The course was very diverse and covered a lot of material,” he said.

“I feel like I’m in a much better position to achieve good results in my studies, especially now that I have started honours. I have a better grasp on scientific processes and of what postgraduate study will involve.”

Mr Rhodes hopes to complete his honours next year, with a focus on pollination ecology and genetic diversity. 

Professor Gross, an expert in pollination and reproductive biology, attended the course for the second time as a guest lecturer on invitation from the Tropical Biology Association and said the course was one of the most respected of its kind.

 “The course allows students to gain research experience before they commence their postgraduate studies,” she said. 

“The 24 students came from 21 countries to learn the techniques and methodologies of building a research project from scratch. The Usambara Mountains support unusually high levels of diversity, so the students are really spoilt for choice in their options.”

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