ENV 3102 is all about giving students in the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) Programme at NUS the opportunity to gain real-world exposure to some of the key environmental challenges (and their solutions) in Asia (although these also represent some of the world’s biggest problems). Our students travel overseas to explore the three main themes of the course

1. The loss of forests and their ecosystem services – three restoration regimes;
2. The loss of marine biodiversity and livelihoods – nearshore marine protected areas;
3. The 6th extinction – ecotourism, flagship species & environmental education.

They spend two weeks in the field getting their hands dirty: collecting data, recording observations and learning from the key people who are involved in local conservation efforts, many of them community-based. At the end of the course, they present the results of a group project completed in the field, and after the course, they submit additional deliverables for assessment (reflective field diary and either a grant proposal or a policy memo).

This is a mandatory course, and BES students take it in Special Term 1 (the first summer session) of their 3rd year of study. The pioneer batch of BES students entered the degree programme in 2011, so the first field trip was in May 2014, when we went to the Philippines. Originally, the plan was to visit the islands of Leyte, Ponson and Bohol, but Typhoon Yolanda caused devastating damage to locations we were supposed to visit on Leyte and Ponson, so we just went to Bohol, which has been our ENV3102 home ever since. Our local institutional partner is Holy Name University, and Bohol Biodiversity Complex is another key partner – we wouldn’t be able to make this course happen without both organisations.

Since year 2, our group of teaching assistants has been composed of graduating BES students (who already know the ropes) and locals (you can read about them here. This year (2019), 49 NUS students, four NUS TAs and two lecturers will descend on Bohol like a swarm, to be joined by four local TAs. As usual, I’m stoked for the upcoming trip, which is now less than two months away!