Options for Dissertations and Senior Theses

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Operation Wallacea is a network of academics from European and North American universities, who design and implement biodiversity and conservation management research programmes. Research is supported by students who join the programme to strengthen their CV or résumé, gain course credit, or collect data for a dissertation or thesis.

This section describes the undergraduate dissertation or senior thesis topics where academic support is provided on site and these topics can be developed into research questions for dissertations or senior theses. About 25% of students on Operation Wallacea expeditions use their time on site to gather data for their undergraduate or Masters level dissertations or theses. Doing it this way means that you still have the benefit of working in some of these remote environments but can also use your time over the summer to collect data for your degree dissertation or senior thesis.

Over the last couple of years, 92% of the students doing dissertations with Opwall have gained the top two grades for their dissertations and some have even won the best dissertation for their year! In total, 55% of our dissertation volunteers also receive a first for their projects.

Recently, one of our students from the Indonesian project has been awarded a prize from the RGS-IBG for their Island Biogeography dissertation, Comparison of olive-backed sunbird across the Wakatobi Archipelago, commended as an “outstanding study”. Max Bodmer has been awarded the prize for best undergraduate project by Oxford University for his work on sea urchins in Honduras and is hoping to start a PhD on the subject soon. Another, Tom from Plymouth University, also received an amazing 95% on his dissertation on fish fences at our Hoga site in Indonesia, undertaken during the 2013 season. Victoria Mercier of Queen Mary University London got 86.8% for her project on crabs being infected with chytrid – one of the first examples of non-amphibian hosts.

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The 100+ topics have been separated into subject areas (e.g. mammal ecology topics, genetics topics, etc.) and the topics within each subject area are often drawn from a range of countries. Each topic describes an area of study from which students can develop their own research questions. Thus for any particular topic a small number of students can complete theses on different research questions. Some of the topic areas involve data collected as part of the general monitoring effort. In such cases, the data-collection sites and methods are fixed, and the range of possible research questions is therefore limited. However, it also means that the likely sample size of the data collected is large, allowing a variety of research questions to be addressed using the data. Other subject areas, which are not part of the general monitoring effort, allow a much larger range of possible research questions and flexibility in the planning of the work. The main constraints for these projects are logistical (vehicles, safety guard cover, dive launches, etc.).