TROPIMUNDO is an EC-funded Erasmus Mundus Masters Course in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems which unites expert Higher Education Institutions (HEI), with a long-standing worldwide expertise in tropical rainforests and woodlands, and in coastal ecosystems (e.g. mangrove forests and coral reefs).
For more than a century scientists have known about the higher diversity in species, habits and genes in the tropics. However, we are nowadays facing an international biodiversity crisis with imminent risks of extinction of species due to global warming, particularly in the tropical and subtropical regions, and even the prospect of a world without rainforests, mangrove forests or coral reefs due to a wide range of anthropogenic impacts such as habitat destruction and changes in land use. For mitigating nature conservation and management efforts to be successful, tropical biodiversity and ecosystems need to be well understood. This includes, for example, understanding patterns of biodiversity (incl. plant and animal bio- and phylogeography) and how they interact with the environment (incl. plant-soil relationships, plant-animal interactions, animal behaviour, climate change), understanding ecosystem functions, goods and services and understanding man-ecosystem relationships with an aim to conserve (and if necessary to restore) the diversity of species (incl. species variation), of habitats and of ecosystems (with man being part of it). Apart from scientific research, the basis of such understanding lays in a specialised education programme such as TROPIMUNDO, focussing on tropical biodiversity and ecosystems and taught in situ.
TROPIMUNDO students will be able to concentrate on botany, zoology and integrative ecosystem approaches. Specialisation is possible on the evolution of tropical flora and vegetation, on faunistic assemblages, on informatics tools to treat and manage biodiversity data and databases (biogeographical, genetical, geographical information systems) including the management and conservation of historic collections such as herbarium sheets, on the study of diversity, dynamics and evolution of tropical and subtropical ecosystems (with a focus on four related systems, namely tropical rainforests and woodlands, mangrove forests, seagrass beds and coral reefs, including the interactions between flora, fauna, man and the environment within and between each of these adjacent ecosystems), on conservation and restoration ecology of natural habitats and their biodiversity including competences in sustainable management and governance of biodiversity, and finally, on tropical ethnobotany, exploitation and valorisation of natural resources and conservation of traditional ecological knowledge.
The TROPIMUNDO programme has been designed to achieve a full integration of learning outcomes, whatever the mobility Trajectory chosen by the students. Using local Masters programmes of each participating HEI as a basis, the contents of existing or new courses have been customised both to ensure the coordination and integration between all courses of the programme across European (EU)and non-EU third-country HEIs and to better target topics related to tropical biodiversity and ecosystems. TROPIMUNDO restricts its focus to four adjacent and interacting tropical ecosystems, being tropical rainforests and woodlands, mangrove forests, seagrass beds and coral reefs. The integrated teaching methods make use of ex cathedra lectures, audio-visual media, question-answer methods, group discussions, practical works, exercises and excursions. The diversified method and form of teaching practice is inherent, and has been operative without compromising student examination outcomes,. Furthermore it is recognised as a benefit of content and language integrated learning (CLIL) because it increases learners' motivation and confidence in both the language and the subject being taught. Our existing quality evaluation surveys also indicate that students are highly enthusiastic about being exposed to different teaching styles within and between universities.
In summary, the added values of TROPIMUNDO comprise:
- unique course program with a mobility within Europe that maximizes radiation of the scientific excellence of EU HEIs and that leads to multiple degree. To our knowledge this is the first curriculum in Europe (maybe world-wide) to cover such an integrated set of threatened ecosystems;
- unique mobility beyond Europe under the form of an entire semester in situ including both ex cathedra and field courses in the Amazonian, African, Asian or Australian wet tropics at participating third-country HEIs;
- principle that strongly stimulates content and language integrated learning (the study of a discipline whilst learning one or more European languages);
- clear Trajectory in which fundamental understanding of some of the most threatened ecosystems, or their components (incl. biota and abiotic factors), is followed by research tools to study and understand them with the aim of protection.
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In the subheadings of this second section all detailed information and links are available about the functioning of TROPIMUNDO. This includes amongst others the educational structure and programme, courses, selection criteria, examination methods, tuition fee and scholarship information, cost of living, etc.