Tigers to Turtles: Conservation and Ecology in Bangladesh | Field Projects International

Tigers to Turtles: Conservation and Ecology in Bangladesh

Course Description

This two-week field course in Bangladesh will provide hands-on experience in the ecology and conservation of unique wildlife species in two highly biodiverse ecosystems: Lawachara National Park, a tropical evergreen forest in northeastern Bangladesh, and the Sundarbans Reserved Forest, the world’s largest mangrove forest in southwestern Bangladesh. The overall objective of the course is to introduce students to tropical wildlife, and their habitat, taxonomy, natural history, and biogeography, with an emphasis on the conservation challenges and prospects faced by these animals. Additional topics covered are wildlife monitoring, evergreen forest ecology, mangrove forest and estuarine ecology, and applied conservation biology. During the course, theory will be delivered through lectures and in-house discussions, followed by hands-on activities to practice field methodologies. 

Course Details

  • Highlights
  • Topics
  • Faculty
  • Eligibility
  • Documents
  • Food & Lodging
  • Travel
  • Program Costs & Student Aid

Participate in a multi-day boat-led expedition into the Sundarbans Reserve Forest, the world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest, with a chance to see endangered species like the Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus), the Ganges (Platanista gangetica) and Irrawaddy (Orcaella brevirostris) dolphins, and the critically endangered river terrapin (Batagur baska) endemic to the area. Nowhere else in the world can you find P. t. tigris in a mangrove habitat.

Explore Lawachara National Park, containing semi-evergreen and mixed deciduous forests, home to the endangered western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock).

Learn from a course instructor with diverse expertise in tropical biology field research, from albinism in the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) to the molecular phylogeny of South Asian Softshell Turtles. He has also conducted numerous herpetological surveys in the area, discovering two new lizard species sightings records in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. 

This course will provide you with basic field skills as well as in-depth exposure to the conservation and ecology of the diverse wildlife and habitats of Bangladesh. These include:

  • Forest navigation and orienteering, on and off trail
  • Maintenance of an up-to-date field journal
  • Identification of common wildlife species
  • Tropical evergreen and mangrove forest ecology
  • Upkeep of detailed and accurate wildlife sightings lists
  • Planning and conducting a wildlife biology research project
  • Mammalian natural history and breeding strategies
  • Migration and navigation in birds
  • Impact of climate change on the diversity and population densities of tropical herpetofauna
  • Mammalian, avian, herpetofaunal survey methods

AHM Reza is a wildlife biologist by training and an Associate Professor of Biology at Delta State University where he coordinates wildlife management programs under the environmental science degree. He has degrees in zoology and wildlife biology and a Ph.D. in wildlife sciences. He is an expert on biodiversity monitoring in Bangladesh and has taught field courses through Delta State University and Operation Wallacea. 

Read his full bio here

There are a few simple requirements to determine eligibility for this course:

  • You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of the course.
  • You must have medical insurance, and provide proof of such insurance to us to complete your reservation.
  • We have no citizenship requirements. Anyone is welcome to apply. You must obtain visas independently if necessary.
  • You do not need any training in biology – our course is structured to accommodate people from a variety of backgrounds.
  • Courses have a maximum capacity of 12 participants. If you are concerned that you will lose your spot, please contact us to confirm how many spots we have left.

  • Course readings: Please download the full list HERE. These are to be read before the course to serve as a basis for discussion and debate during the course. Files will be mailed to course attendees one month before the course start date.
  • Download the Syllabus: HERE
  • Download our Sexual and Gender-Based Policy: HERE
  • Download our Student Policy Manual: HERE

Traditional Bangladeshi meals will be available throughout the course, freshly cooked with fresh ingredients. The exact menu will vary depending on availability at the various course sites. 

Breakfast: handmade tortillas, seasonal mixed vegetables, fried eggs and/or chicken curry. Lunch and Dinner: Plain or fried rice, fish (mostly inland fish) or meat (chicken or beef curry), vegetables, soup. 

Meals in the Sundarbans are very special, all of them being cooked on the moving ship. Freshly caught Sundarbans fish and shrimp will be offered during this leg of the course. 

Over the course, accommodation will be in hotel rooms in Dhaka and Lawachara (2 to a room), and on a private boat for the duration of the trip to the Sundarbans. 

Air travel: Getting to Bangladesh from a different country is accomplished primarily by air. We recommend using Kayak, Orbitz or Expedia to book your flights online. Please do not book flights until May 1 for this course.

The course will be held from June 8th to June 20th, 2019. This means that you should plan to arrive in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on June 8th, on any flight that day. 

Your return flight should depart from Dhaka any time on June 20th, 2019. 

Visas are required for entry into Bangladesh for citizens of most countries. Please see here for specific instructions. Although visas may be available upon arrival in Dhaka for some people, we strongly recommend applying for and acquiring a visa before travel. Processing time is ~5 business days. Please see this advice from the US Embassy within Bangladesh on applying for visas.

Vaccines: Hepatitis A, typhoid fever vaccinations required; Hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, Rabies vaccinations recommended. There is no risk of Yellow Fever in Bangladesh; however, proof of Yellow Fever vaccination is required if traveling from a country with a risk of Yellow Fever and the traveler is older than one year of age.

As with all of our courses, a comprehensive travel packet that contains information on when and how to book your travel, visas, vaccinations, and packing tips, will be made available to all students.

This packet is provided to students once they have registered for the course.

The fee for this course is $2750 and is due in full 6 weeks after online registration or by May 1, whichever comes first. The fee includes the following:

  • Food and lodging for the entire course.
  • Round-trip travel to Sundarbans Reserve Forest and Lawachara National Parks within Bangladesh.
  • Experienced instructors and field equipment.

This course fee does NOT include:

  • International travel to and from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • Travel or health insurance (proof of health insurance is required for course attendance).
  • Rubber boots, binoculars, flashlight and insect repellent (all of which are required to take this course).

There are two ways to obtain financial assistance for attending this field course. You may participate in both of these programs simultaneously as follows:

  • Scholarships: This year, we are offering two scholarships to attend this course, one targeting a Bangladeshi citizen and the other open to applicants of other nationalities. For the application details please visit our scholarships page.
  • Fundraising: FPI can now provide a peer-to-peer crowdfunding platform for all field course students. You will be able to make your own fundraising page to share with your contacts and social networks. At the end of the fundraising period, FPI will issue a discount code to you for 100% of the funds that you have raised. You would then enter this code as you make your final course payment. If you raise enough to cover all (or part) of your initial reservation fee, you would be refunded that portion as well. Please note that funds raised in excess of your program fees will be rolled into our scholarship fund. Also, if you withdraw from the course at any time, your donors cannot get a refund. In this case, all of those funds would also roll over into our scholarship fund for other students. To set up this option, please register for a course, first, and then contact us at info@fieldprojects.org to set up your fundraising page.

Please read our cancellation policy carefully before applying to a field course:

  • $100 of your deposit made during registration is a processing fee that is nonrefundable under any circumstances.
  • If you cancel on or before May 1 you will be refunded 40% of the course fee, minus the registration processing fee of $100.
  • Refunds will not be possible after May 1.
  • If FPI has to cancel this course due to mitigating reasons, a full refund of all fees paid, including the registration fee, will be made available to all participants.
  • Early departures from the field course are not entitled to a refund for any reason.


Frequently Asked Questions

If you don’t find the answers you are looking for below, please contact us with your questions!

Course Benefits and Credit

Can I get credit for this course?

There are two ways in which you can obtain credit for this course. First, participants can acquire credit directly from their own universities. You would provide your university with the course syllabus, and the school may decide to accept the instructor’s grade and issue credit for the course. Second, you can sign up for credit as an external student from Delta State University for the course named BIO 492: Tropical Field Biology. The course is running for 3 credits, at the cost of $251 per credit X 3 credits = $753 + $9 intersession fees. Non-Delta State University students will also need to register with the University, which has minimal registration fees. Registration for credit opens in the first week of November, as this course is considered part of the Spring semester. For more details on obtaining credit or deciding if credit is for you, please email us at info@fieldprojects.org

I'm an international student, so how about course credit for me?

The United States university system runs on credits – typically 2 to 4 per class. A student needs a certain number of credits to eventually graduate with a bachelors’ degree. However, this system has little to no meaning outside the US itself, and thus, when we offer credits, we are primarily targeting those students within the US to whom this is relevant. Course credit is therefore only available to students in the US, or possibly countries like Canada, who can transfer credits from US Universities to their own institutions to apply towards their degrees.

For all other students — and there have been plenty who have attended our courses — you receive many other benefits to taking the course, such as:

  1. A certificate from FPI showing that you attended and completed the course
  2. A detailed report of your performance and your final grade, which you can share with future employers or anyone else in any manner you wish to.

To be perfectly clear: You are not required to sign up for credits in the US university system if you come from a country in which this system is itself not recognized. Furthermore, there is no requirement for US students to take this course for credit either. Course credit is an optional item and will incur credit fees from the university in question.

Is signing up for credit the right thing for me?

Questions to ask yourself before signing up for credit:

1. Will my university accept transfer credits from another university? Please consult your advisor and confirm this before signing up, because this is not the responsibility of either the university or Field Projects International

2. Can I afford to take the course for credit? The credit costs are paid directly to the university while the course fee is paid to FPI. Both will be necessary before you can take the course for credit.

Why else take this course?

Apart from the valuable skills, knowledge, and experience, you will acquire, FPI encourages alumni to network, support, and collaborate with each other after the course is done.  In addition, our staff remains available for academic and career advice. Many of our alumni have returned as research assistants, and later even joined us as research collaborators, field team leaders, and instructors.

Apart from specific training that will benefit those going into many fields, our courses also entail pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and being challenged both mentally and physically. Furthermore, this is a chance to visit a remote research station in one of the most bio-diverse regions of the planet, and to learn about the incredible flora and fauna you will see at every turn. 

Preparing to travel to Bangladesh

What should I bring with me?

Download a packing list here. If you have questions, please let us know at info@fieldprojects.org.
How do I deal with Bangladeshi money?

The currency in Bangladesh is the Bangladeshi Taka. Roughly 81 taka = one US$. Changing US dollars in Bangladesh is possible in a bank in Dhaka, but you will need to bring brand new, high-denomination bills, without any blemishes on them, for a bank to exchange them for you. You can find currency exchanges easily in the airport in Dhaka as well as in Dhaka city. But, the easiest way to get money is to use an ATM via a credit or debit card.

Things to consider: Bring two cards, in case one doesn’t work. Test that your pins work on both of your cards before you travel. You can use an ATM in Dhaka very easily, and less easily in Srimangal or Khulna. ATM charges can apply, including conversion fees, so check with your bank about that. Withdrawing from an ATM is convenient, and prevents you from carrying around a lot of cash, which is always a much safer way to travel.

Traveler’s checks are entirely a thing of the past – just don’t buy them!

You should have some cash on you during the course (~$200 or 16,000 taka) for snacks and emergencies. 

What's the lowdown on footwear?

Gumboots (aka wellingtons or muck boots), which are knee-high rubber boots are not mandatory for this course; however, you are free to bring them to hike in if you’d like. Good hiking boots are an excellent alternative. Additionally, open-toed sandals such as these are essential for this course. You will wear this footwear every single day while you are in the forest, so break them in if you can. If you have sensitive feet with arch trouble, please bring insoles for your boots.

What kind of luggage should I use?

Pack in something you can carry on your shoulders. Suitcases are not very practical (though people have managed with them). We recommend bringing a big duffel bag, or a backpack with most of your things in it. Try to make it waterproof, or buy some kind of waterproof cover. In the worst case scenario, though, you can put your whole bag in a giant plastic bag to keep it dry once you get to Dhaka. You’ll also need a small daypack for the course to carry smaller items on hikes.

What do I need in the forest?

The most important things you need in the forest that we will NOT be providing are your daypack, a water bottle, insect repellent, rain jacket or poncho, and a pair of binoculars. Additionally, a laptop (not a Chromebook) will be extremely helpful, as will be a digital watch with a repeat timer. Check your packing list for more details. In addition, some things to consider bringing include a penknife (check it in, don’t hand carry – it will get caught), a bandana or hat, and some kind of energy bar as an extra snack.

What about battery-operated equipment?

You will need to use a battery-operated headlamp with LEDs during the course. This headlamp will be your best friend and is useful since it is hands-free. If you’re interested in seeing wildlife at night, bring one that is bright and that has a red light option, as the red light scares nocturnal animals a lot less. Headlamps will need batteries and we strongly suggest that you bring rechargeable batteries with you.  This means that you must also obtain a small battery charger, but bring a couple of regular batteries as a backup in case of an emergency. If you can’t bring any rechargeables and have to bring regular batteries, please buy energy efficient ones so you use as few as possible, since you will have to take all batteries back with you and recycle them (you cannot leave them at the field sites you will visit). 

Do I need a watch or alarm clock?

Yes. Make sure that you have something extremely reliable as an alarm clock – whether you use your phone or watch is up to you.

How do I care for my passport and papers?

Passports are valuable items that you want to protect from mold in the rainforest. The best way to do this is to put them in small ziplock bags and then leave them entirely alone.  Do the same with any cash you bring with you also. Paper gets moldy very quickly.

What is the weather like at the field station?

Temperatures range from between 15C (59F) and 30C (86F). Bring clothing that will keep you comfortable in these conditions. 

What medications should I bring?

The course does not provide any medications to students. As such, they must bring a small medical kit for minor issues:

  • A course of broad-spectrum antibiotics (ciprofloxacin is a common and effective one)
  • A course of antibiotics for digestive trouble, and a small number of pills of immodium (to be used in emergencies only)
  • Electrolyte/rehydration packs (hint: the juice flavoured ones are much nicer than the medical ones)
  • Anti-fungal cream/powder (effective on yeast), particularly if you are prone to these infections
  • Anti-itch medication: over-the counter lotions are ok
  • Antacids to comfort your stomach
  • Band-aids, tweezers
  • An Epi-pen if you are allergic to anything at all
  • Antihistamines to be taken in case of mild allergies (something like Claritin/ Zyrtec)
  • Any medications you are taking regularly. Please make sure to pack these in your hand baggage and NOT your checked in baggage.

What vaccinations do I need?

You will have to provide proof of a normal vaccination record (as listed here by the CDC). For travel to Bangladesh, we require that you also get the following vaccines: Typhoid (oral or injectable), Yellow Fever, and Tetanus. If you have the flu shot for the year, all the better. Find a travel clinic and get your shots EARLY. Please follow their recommendations on malaria prophyllaxis, and any other recommended vaccinations. We do not provide medical advice in this regard.

What about health and safety?

Before being accepted to the program, applicants must submit a brief medical history evaluation. This is not meant to discriminate against people, but instead to protect them from being in a situation where they are at a serious or life-threatening disadvantage.

All participants must sign a participation contract, without which applicants cannot participate in our courses or research programs. We make special references to an alcohol policy in our participation contract – we have a zero tolerance policy at this field station. You will also sign a sexual and gender-based misconduct contract (and so will your supervisors). This is not to suggest that this issue is a problem on this field course in particular. However, there has been a large amount of reporting on these matters in the press of late, and we want to assure you that we take any such violations extremely seriously. We want our participants to be as safe and comfortable as possible.

For specific information on emergency protocols please contact our staff at info@fieldprojects.org

Basic Amenities

Do I need to bring linens and towels?

Please bring a towel, but there’s no need to bring any linens at all.
How do I care for electronics in the field?

We strongly encourage you to bring your laptops to the field course, as well as your cell phones. They will come in handy for data entry, entertainment, assignments and for checking email. Due to the intermittent/slow nature of the internet, Chromebooks are not recommended.

Electronics have to be treated differently in the rainforest than you would anywhere else. Do not bother to bring a soft sleeve for the laptop with you, because it will suck up moisture from the air and will envelop your laptop in it, which is bad news. We find that simple plastic ziplock bags work better than sports dry bags. We recommend that you purchase at least two ziplock bags that are large enough to fit your computer. You can also purchase silicon gel packages online (Amazon Smile or Jake’s Silica Gel are good places to try, along with local stores like REI). Put a couple of 5-gram packets inside the ziplock with your computer and bring at least 2 more packets with you.

Bangladesh uses a different set of plugs than the U.S. Please check here to see which converters you need to bring. Please CHECK your electronics to make sure they are compatible before plugging them in while on your trip. If they don’t work at both 110V and 220V, you will need to bring a step up converter such as this one.  Also, note that you will not find three-pronged sockets in most places, so definitely at least bring a three-to-two prong modifier (such as this) for your electronics.

Do not bring a hair dryer, electric razor, or electric toothbrush because those are very much considered an unnecessary luxury on these trips. 

Is there internet at the field station?

Dhaka will have good internet. But there is no internet availability at all in the Sundarbans. Sreemangal might have internet, but it won’t be very reliable. Overall, whenever you are out in the field you can’t expect good and reliable internet in most places.

Is there phone service at the field station?

Except deep in the Sundarbans, most places have cell phone service. You have to buy your own SIM card locally or activate international roaming on your own cell phone. We will also provide you with the instructor’s phone to use in an emergency if necessary.

How do I do laundry at the field station?

You will have laundry done locally during the field trip and should be prepared for at least a week’s worth of clothing. It is relatively inexpensive for someone to do your laundry for you. 

How do I plan for my arrival in Dhaka?

When all students on the course have submitted their travel information, we will collate this information and send you an Arrival Packet. This document will let you know if others are traveling on the same flight/bus as you, and provide you with their email addresses so you can get in touch in advance (if you want to).  You will also receive exact instructions on what to do when you land, and an image of your instructors so you can look out for them at the airport/bus station. The Arrival packet will also provide you with instructions on what to do if you have been delayed, or if your luggage should go missing. In addition, it will include local contact information for your instructors so that you can get in touch with them if needed to let them know if your travel plans were forced to change for some reason.
Course Information
June 8: Arrive in Dhaka
June 9: Morning bus to Lawachara area
June 10-12: Stay in the Lawachara area
June 13: Bus back to Dhaka
June 14: Morning in Dhaka, flight to Khulna
June 15 - June 17: Sundarbans Reserve Forest
June 18: Flight to Dhaka
June 19: Reserve day in Dhaka
June 20: Return home

Apply now
AHM Reza

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