Fieldwork in the Italian Alps

Unit code BIOL21422

Our Italian Alps field course offers the opportunity to design and conduct a novel independent research project in forest ecology and high-altitude biodiversity while staying at fully-catered alpine refugio in one of Europe's most scenic mountain ranges 
  • When is the fieldtrip?

    The field trip is for 15 days during the summer between Year 2 and 3. Thirteen days are spent in the field, with one travel day on each end of the course.

    Days are dedicated fully to fieldwork. Students spend evenings relaxing or writing up the results they have collected during the day. There are also opportunities for social evenings (e.g. film nights, pub quizzes, and a trip to the annual artisan food festival in the nearby town of Sauris), and for alpine activities including day hikes, canyoning, or mountaineering on the via ferrata.

  • Where is the fieldtrip?

    You will be staying at Rifugio Tita Piaz at the top of the Passo Pura mountain pass. 

    Accommodation is fully catered. Bed linens and towels are provided. The chef at the rifugio specialises in dishes that are typical of the region.

  • How will we travel to the Italian Alps?

    Travel to and from the Italian Alps will be by plane from Manchester to Venice Marco Polo Airport, and then by coach from Venice to Passo Pura. Further details will be provided closer to the time of the trip.

  • What will I learn?

    You will acquire a broad set of skills in experimental design and ecological fieldwork. The skills you will acquire will fall into several categories:

    Knowledge and understanding

    • quantify habitat characteristics;
    • identify organisms;
    • assess biodiversity;
    • assess community structure;
    • understand the species and ecology of European mountain forest habitats;
    • understand alpine land and forest management and conservation practices.  ‌  

    Intellectual skills

    • identify fundamental biological questions;
    • recognise accurate research approaches and use correct analytical techniques;
    • use problem solving, innovation and creativity;
    • monitor and self-correct progress throughout the development of the project;
    • consider the ethics of field-based investigation, including animal handling and welfare;
    • critically appraise research findings. 

    Practical skills

    • use experimental and quantitative approaches for the investigation of natural environments;
    • use a wide range of sampling methods;
    • use dichotomous identification keys;
    • record data professionally in a lab book.

    Transferable skills and personal qualities

    • communicate scientific findings (both written and oral);
    • manage an experimental plan;
    • develop leadership;
    • analyse and critically evaluate literature;
    • develop team working and group skills;
    • understand ethical values concerning wildlife. 


  • What equipment will I need?

    Essential field course items are:

    • appropriate clothes for working in the field for 2 weeks;
    • sensible shoes/walking boots;
    • rainproof jacket;
    • warm jumper/fleece;
    • at least two pairs of long trousers/leggings;
    • light rucksack/bag;
    • sun-screen, sun hat and sun glasses;
    • mosquito repellent;
    • personal toiletries;
    • torch;
    • pens and pencils;
    • notebook for personal notes;
    • mobile phone;
    • money (euros) as there are no cash machines on site;
    • earplugs;
    • USB data key/MP3 player for saving your data and report.

    If you have a portable computer, you should bring it as it will make your life much easier

  • How will the field course be assessed?

    Assessment is based upon the following:

    • final project report [30%];
    • experimental plan [25%];
    • oral project presentation [20%];
    • alpine biodiversity quiz [10%];
    • course participation and contribution mark [10%];
    • lab book [5%]
  • Who can I contact regarding the Italian Alps field course?

    For more information visit the course unit specification or email course leaders Dr Tucker Gilman.

  • Did you know?

    Due to its combination of topography, geological history, and human land use, the Dolomites in the Italian Alps are an area of extremely high biodiversity.

    More about the Italian Alps

    The Dolomites in the Italian Alps have over 1200 species of vascular plants, which is nearly half as many as the entire UK in an area less than 7% as large!

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