ATOC 555 (Barbados fieldcourse)

ATOC 555 is a field studies course that focuses on observing weather, climate, and air quality on tropical Barbados. It facilitates the design of hands-on analyses of field-based observations, analysis and understanding of the climate in the tropics.

The field course preparations generally start in April and students travel to Barbados for two weeks in May. This course will NOT be offered in Summer 2020. A more accurate timeline will be published under the 'Scientific Program' and the 'How to apply section' in January.

Prerequisites for this course are ATOC 214 and ATOC 215 or permission of the instructor. Lab and field work experience are strongly recommended.nd,

Objectives of the course are to
1. Develop an understanding of current tropical weather, climate and air quality
2. Develop an understanding of the role of the ocean in tropical weather, climate and air quality processes
3. Introduce students to field methods of research including atmospheric measurements, ocean measurements and data analysis

There are many benefits of taking a field course

We list a few here.

1) You get to study and identify real problems in real environments with real data that you will record

2) You get to solve real problems while experiencing discussions of real world situations (in small group settings)

3) You get to plan and implement your own research project outside of classroom setting in a hands-on, independent learning environment.

4) Small group settings means close contact with professors and other students during presentations, discussions and preparation of the course report

Bellairs Research Institute

The field course will take place in Barbados. The country gained independence from UK in 1966. 285,719 people live there. The people of Barbados are referred to as Barbadian or Bajan. The capital is Bridgetown.

McGill has a campus on the beautiful west coast of Barbados- Bellairs Research Institute. The Institute was founded and endowed in 1954 by the late Commander Carlyon W. Bellairs to provide a facility through which staff at McGill might develop a scholarly interest in the tropics.It is Canada's only teaching and research facility in the tropics.


Located in Holetown, Barbados, Bellairs Research Institute is a McGill University facility which maintains an open-door policy to all researchers with academic interests in tropical terrestrial and marine environments.The campus consist of Seabourne House (original Bellairs’ house), Brace Building (library, offices, classrooms) and residences.

Who was Carlyon W. Bellairs?


Carlyon Wilfroy Bellairs was a commander in the British Royal Navy as well a politician serving in Churchill's cabinet. He lived from 1871 - 1955. He retired to barbados after World War II. He spent years trying to draw interest to his property,  Seabourne House, in barbados. He invited McGill scientist to his estate in 1952 to study marine biology. The Bellairs Research Institute was officially opened in 1954 after he donated the property to McGill. It plays host to students and scientists from around the world for field courses, workshops and research projects involving both marine and terrestrial environments. Bellairs also maintains close association with local academic, government, and non-government organizations. 


The fee for the course is $2000. It includes:
1) Accommodations
2) Meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
3) Local transportation

--> Students accepted in the course will receive a $500 Laboratories without Borders award. 

The following expenses are NOT included in the fee and as such the student is responsible for these expenses
1) Tuition
2) Airfare to Barbados
3) Meals on weekends
4) Immunizations
5) Travel insurance

Preparation for travelling to Barbados

We require all students to get 

1) Physical examination 

2) Immunization for
Tetanus/Polio/Diptheria (dpt)
Mumps/Measles/Rubella (mmr)
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B

3) Insurance 
Full medical coverage
Medical evacuation (Medivac)

Course Topics

Topics covered in this course include 1) Tropical weather 2) Tropical climate 3) Air quality

Course structure

mid-April -May 7: Preparation time & definition of research question in Montreal

You will have time to Define and present a research question to the instructors before you leave for Barbados.

May 8–22: Observation at the field site in Barbados

You will work on the research question on site in Barbados. Additional data and information you will collect at the field sites include 

  • Experiments (continuous and one-time) 
  • Presentations and discussions 
  • Visits to relevant institutions

end-May - June: Completion of course report and data analysis

Back in Montreal, you will finish analysis of the data you collected and complete the course report


Methods of Instruction

  • Field measurements (continuous and discrete experiments), e.g., daily forecasts and air quality measurements
  • Exploration of local microclimate: Wind, temperature, precipitation; coastal conditions (e.g., sea breeze convergence) and inland contrast (e.g., orographic enhancement of wind and precipitation)
  • Site visits planned to explore atmospheric research on Barbados
  • Comparison and contextualisation with historical data
  • Evening lectures, discussions, and student-led presentations about tropical weather and climate to provide context for research questions



  • Quality of field notes (10%)
  • Organisation and presentation of measured data (30%)
  • Participation in discussions and presentations (20%)
  • Course report on research question (40%)
  • Attendance at all course-related activities is mandatory in order to complete the course.
  • Submission deadline for the course report is 2 weeks after returning from Barbados. Please submit a hardcopy for marking.

Learning Outcomes

  • Discover what factors regulate local weather and climate processes on Barbados and in the tropics
  • Develop research questions using your current understanding of tropical climate (e.g., from your prior course work) in order to advance understanding of a question about tropical weather, climate and air quality at the field site
  • Pursue process-oriented research (following process/causal understanding) by applying the scientific method. Develop hypotheses and testable predictions; make observations through sampling, followed by qualitative and quantitative measurements
  • Evaluate the quality of evidence you gathered using statistics-based methods
  • Practice critical thinking and make judgments and conclusions based on logic and evidence rather than opinion during all stages of your research, including: identify research goals; express thinking and judgement in oral and written form; evaluate information and estimate uncertainty; use relevant scientific literature to motivate and contextualize your research and data obtained
  • Practice effective and pro-active collaborative skills in your research group and with course instructors to solve problems related to performing your research, constructively critique the work of others, and manage timely completion of projects
  • Develop and practice effective communication skills, particularly through writing up field notes, oral presentations of research proposals, and writing about your original research


Please note: more accurate dates will be posted in January.

Please note: This course in not offered in 2020


Sign up to receive updates from the department regarding courses. Email admin.aos [at] (subject: Sign%20up%20to%20ATOC%20555%20updates) (AOS admin) to sign up.


Register for the course for U3 and U4


Register for the course for U2 and U1

Pay the first part of the course fee (1000 CAD) upon registration. Remaining balance to be paid by mid-April.

Electronic submission of application material and forms


The deposit of $1000 is not refundable if course dropped after April 1st, unless the course is cancelled.


Deadline to apply for field course

After registration:

Mandatory meeting with detailed information for students



 *The deadline to apply for summer  field course will be posted in January*

*Please note: This course in not offered in 2020*

To be considered for the course, please email the following documents to admin.aos [at] (subject: Application%20for%20ATOC%20555) (AOS admin):

1) 1-page letter of intent
2) CV
3) Copy of transcript

Once you have been accepted to the field, you will be asked to provide the following forms in order to be eligible to travel to the campus in Barbados:

1) Medical form

  • for the physical examination

2) Immunization form for all the vaccines listed below

  • Tetanus/Polio/Diptheria (dpt)
  • Mumps/Measles/Rubella (mmr)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid

3) Confirmation of insurance

  • Both Full medical coverage and Medical evacuation (Medivac) are mandatory

4) Student acceptance form


1) How will the $500 award be applied?

Once the student is accepted in the course, the $500 (Labs w/o Borders) award will be paid into their student accounts.

2) Will I still be required to pay the $1000 as a deposit?

Yes, the student is required to pay the $1000 deposit to secure their spot and pay the remaining $500 (after award applied) by deadline.

3) If I drop the course, what happens to the $1000?

The deposit of $1000 is not refundable as of April 1st, unless the course is cancelled.

4) When must I have all the medical forms (deadline date) submitted?

The medical forms must be completed before student leave, ideally at least 1 to 2 weeks prior.

5) Other funding available for the students?

Students should check with the McGill Scholarship office for funding opportunities

6) Where can I obtain information for Visa Requirements to Barbados?

Contact the Barbados High Commission in Ottawa (613-236-9517), to inquire about visa requirements for students staying in Barbados only for 2 weeks.


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