"Field Science Course" aims to train students to do fieldwork on the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site on Yakushima Island, Japan. Young scientists from abroad and graduate students in Kyoto University attend the course together, using English as an official language.
"Genome Science Course" aims to train students in the molecular biology, from rudimentary DNA sequencing techniques to the analyses of high-throughput next-generation sequencer data. In this course, various samples collected in the preceding “Field Science Course" will be analyzed. Through the two courses, students will experience the whole process of scientific research, sampling in the field, analyzing in the laboratory, conducting data analysis and presentation of the results. Three ‘beginners' courses and an ‘advanced' course will be provided.
No previous experience is required to take these courses and we welcome both students who engage in fieldwork and those who engage in laboratory work. We also welcome students who have few chances to communicate in English. Please communicate with foreign students of the same generation.
In the Field Science Course, students will learn the fundamental methods to study the ecology and behavior of various wild animals. We stay in a small village, having local food. We hope you enjoy the nature and culture of Yakushima Island.
We form four groups: monkeys, insects, mushrooms and deer. Each group will engage in different tasks. Choose your preference of the groups, from first to fourth. Please note that we cannot ensure your first preference, due to limited capacity of each group.
We will observe wild Yakushima monkeys (Macaca fuscata yakui), one of the endemic species on Yakushima Island. Monkeys in the western coastal area are well-habituated to human due to long-term studies since 1975. While Yakushima monkeys are thought as a seed disperser of drupes, it has also been reported that they sometimes crack the seeds.
Through behavioral observation and fecal analysis (e.g., counting cracked/intact seeds in feces), we will discuss the ecological role of Yakushima monkeys in seed dispersal. Particularly, we will focus on fruits of yamamomo (Myrica rubra), the main food item for the monkeys during the course. We will evaluate whether the monkeys are seed dispersers or seed predators for yamamomo trees.
Insect ecology is very diverse. Some insects may fly, walk on the ground, gather on flowers, gather near light, etc. In the insect group, we will learn how to collect such various types of insects and learn how to identify those insects to their family or genus classification.
During the practical fieldwork of 2013 and 2014, we collected the feces of Yakushima macaques that ate insects. We collected the feces in hopes of being able to identify the insects’ DNA contained inside the feces. However, there were very few DNA data found in the feces, which resulted in insufficient analysis. Therefore, the goal of this year’s Genome Science Course will be to instead collect the insects that are likely to be eaten by the Yakushima macaques, and conduct a mitochondrial DNA sequencing in order to create a DNA barcode database of those insects. We will mainly collect insects at lowland broad-leaved evergreen forests.
We aim to reveal whether mushroom-forming fungal species in Yakushima show spatially aggregated or segregated patterns. To do this, we collect mushroom-forming fungi along line transects at low-altitude zone and high-altitude zone forests in Yakushima, record each sampling location, and compare spatial distribution of these fungi. We welcome anyone who is interested in the natural history of mushroom-forming fungi with or without preliminary knowledge of fungi.
We will collect DNA samples from feces of Yakushima deer, a subspecies of sika deer (Cervus nippon yakushimae). Using these samples, we will try to identify the individual of the host in the genome course. We will collect DNA from fresh feces of identified individual to examine whether we can identify individuals from DNA. We also collect DNA from feces whose hosts are unknown, to estimate the density of deer. Note that fecal sampling of deer may demand endurance and we may walk in hilly mountain areas for long distances.