The region of the globe-straddling the equator from 23°N to 23°S – the ‘tropics’ – is home to the widest diversity of plants and animals on the planet. This course will provide students with a broad introduction to the array of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine tropical organisms as well as an understanding of the similarities and differences in patterns of diversity between tropical and temperate regions. Building on this foundation, we will examine hypotheses explaining variation in biological diversity across the latitudinal gradient and we will explore the ecological and evolutionary processes that generate and maintain tropical biodiversity. This Semester at Sea voyage will give students an amazing opportunity to experience the diversity of the tropics first hand, to learn about the threats facing tropical diversity, and to deepen their understanding the importance of tropical ecosystems for global sustainability.
*Note: This class is delivered when lunch is served.
Field WorkCountry: Ghana
Date: November 1, 2019
We will head from Takoradi to Kakum National Park in Ghana to explore the tropical forest from up above and down below. When we arrive at Kakum National Park, we will hike through primary and secondary forests making stops along the way to talk about the ecological and evolutionary factors that drive the differences among the moist, swamp, and riverine forests. We’ll keep our eyes out for forest elephants, forest buffalo, civets, galago, pangolin, and over 250 bird species during our visit to Kakum so that we can compare our records to surveys conducted in the early 1990s. We will also climb up above the trees to walk along the Kakum Canopy Walkway, a unique perspective that will allow us to talk about the abiotic factors that shape tropical forests – a natural segue to finish the day considering climate change and other threats to the conservation of tropical ecosystems.
1. Document the factors differentiating the three different forest types found in an African tropical moist forest;
2. Experience a tropical forest from the canopy to better understand the processes that drive tropical forest ecology and evolution;
3. Conduct a survey/make a catalog of the fauna of Kakum to compare to data collected in a biodiversity survey in the early 1990s.