Tropical marine ecosystems of East Africa

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General information

This coursegives an overview of tropical marine ecology through lectures, groupwork and practical field experience at Ilha da Inhaca, Moçambique. During the fieldcourse the participants will investigate several aquatic systems such as mangal, coral reefs, seagrass beds, mud - and sandflats and   beaches. Through field investigations, group projects and discussions knowledge about taxonomy and ecology of vertebrates, invertebrates and  plants, as well as human interactions and conservation issues specific to these systems in East Africa will be taught. The aim of the course is to give Swedish postgraduate students an opportunity to broaden their ecological understanding and experience as scientist by studying a tropical system in a developing country. The course will provide students with basic understanding of the dominant shallow marine ecosystems in tropical environments, and with practical experience using different research tools and methods to study these systems. It hopes to increase the interest and possibilities for young Swedish scientist to work with marine research, conservation or management in East African countries. The course is also open for relevant students from the East-African countries and thereby will the Swedish students also interact and building networks to those countries.

Course content

  • Literature overview and lectures of the biodiversity, ecology and conservation issues of tropical marine ecosystem. 
  • Basic taxonomic/systematic overview of the common marine invertebrates, fish, mammals and plant species in the area. Knowledge of how to use species keys to determine families, genera and species.
  • Field survey (walking or snorkelling) of the dominant marine habitats of Inhaca Island mangal, coral reefs, seagrass, rock outcrop, mud- and sandflats, and beaches).
  • Understanding of cryptic life strategies, narrow niches.  Relating differences in various environments regarding physical stress, structural complexity, predation and grazing and its effects on species abundance and diversity. Human influence on marine biodiversity in the tropical environment and conservation issues will be discussed during the course.
  • Field study assessing bioturbation in different environments (sand, seagrass, mudflats

and the mangal). Interaction between the organisms and the habitat illustrated by oxygen measurements in field in combination with sampling to determine abundance of organisms, diversity and depth of the bioturbation.

  • Field study of changes in community structure and abundance of mangrove species and mobile macroinvertebrates along a transect from dry to constant wet environment in a sheltered and exposed mangal system. 
  • Independent group projects investigating different ecological questions in the field.
Learning outcome:

1. Knowledge and understanding

- to outline the dominant shallow marine ecosystems in tropical environments.

- to give examples of challenges when doing research in a developing country- 

- to identify the normal dominating species in the different ecosystems

2. Skills and abilities

- to apply common tools and methods to study tropical marine shallow water systems.

- to demonstrate how to work in tropical ecosystems

3. Judgement and approach

- critically evaluate  methods and human impacts of tropical marine ecosystems

Contact Person: Matz Berggren (


The highlighted icons, represent the fields of education (in compliance with ISCED Classification) engaged during this course/programme.


Venue: marine station on Ilha da Inhaca
Maputo, Mozambique

The marine station on Ilha da Inhaca outside the capital city of Maputo in southern Mozambique.


Open from
29 Apr 2016 to 26 Aug 2016


The suggested student cost for participating in the course:
Student from the University of Gothenburg  12000 SEK
Student from another university in Sweden  19.000 SEK
Student from another university in Europe  2.000 EUR
Student from an East African university 1.100 USD (+ own travel to Maputo)
Student from Moçambique 700 USD (+ own travel to Maputo)

The cost includes airfare between Gothenburg (or other relevant airport) and Maputo, transport to and on Inhaca as food and lodging at the marine station on Ilha da Inhaca, Moçambique. If needed also lodging in Maputo before traveling to Inhaca. However, no lodging in Maputo after the ending of the course at Inhaca, for those wanted to stay longer there are different hotels and backpackers options in Maputo. Also the course-fee does not include visa and vaccination. Students are encouraged to apply for stipends to cover their costs.

 Applicants must show proof of their vaccination records (Yellow fever) before receiving approval to participate in the field part of course in Moçambique. Students will be lodged in very basic housing on Inhaca with electricity and shared bathrooms with only cold water. Students will be expected to work diligently on their projects, which will include hiking and may include working in the rain. Participants will receive a list of things to bring incl. gear for snorkelling. There is, however, no SCUBA diving allowed during the course. 


Academic level: PhD


The course evaluation is carried out together with the Ph.D. students at the end of the course, and is followed by an individual, anonymous survey. The results and possible changes in the course will be shared with the students who participated in the evaluation and to those who are beginning the course.

Qualification: Master of Science
Occupations (not validated):
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