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Scillies Field Course

Module titleScillies Field Course
Module codeBIO2442
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Alastair Wilson (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

During this field course you will learn to study animal behaviour and biodiversity in a field setting, through observation, formulation of ideas and hands-on research. The Isles of Scilly is an ideal location for this due to the wide range of marine, intertidal, and terrestrial habitats in a small area and the many habituated populations of birds and other animals whose behaviour can often be studied at close proximity. You will carry out research projects on animal behaviour and practical exercises to survey biodiversity, using, for example, transect sampling, focal watches and camera traps. During the module, you will have constant access to lecturers to discuss any ecological or behavioural topic, learn new identification skills, go on a boat trip to the wild Western Rocks to see seals and puffins and much more.

To address the climate emergency and potential impact of this module we carefully consider the carbon budget of travel and subsistence throughout the course and offset any additional costs of this. We will use the most appropriate  travel options to minimise carbon expenditure on the course (i.e. boats rather than flights). We will offer vegetarian/vegan food and, as far as possible, locally sourced animal based protein. We encourage students to think about their impacts on the local environment and engage in sustainable practices throughout, but also to consider the particular challenges imposed by island living (e.g. food miles, recycling) and how best practices might subsequently differ from on the mainland.

When participating in field courses, you will be required to cover any costs of travelling to the starting point of the field course. You will also need to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, eg. walking boots, rucksack, sleeping bag, binoculars. Details of specialist equipment, that you must supply at your own expense are provided at

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to promote your understanding of animal behaviour, biodiversity and ecology by means of first-hand experience, observation and learning in a field environment. In addition it aims to increase your knowledge and experience of biodiversity survey techniques. It will complement and unify the other modules that comprise stage 2. The module as a whole builds on the introductory fieldwork experiences of stage 1, which are all based in SW England. Specifically, this will be achieved via field observations combined with group projects, set within a wider context of formal field-learning exercises, which themselves illustrate the fundamental principles of the core disciplines.

The stage 2 field course modules as a whole will familiarise you with a range of European habitats and their characteristic organisms. During the module, you will become more familiar with methods of testing ideas on the function of animal behaviours in the wild. You will also investigate the ecological relationships among the different components of biodiversity from individuals to communities and the range of influences that might impinge on their conservation biology.  More generally you will also consolidate your abilities to identify organisms, using a variety of methods, and become more able to place them within a wider phylogenetic, ecological and conservation framework.

The module has a large research-led component in which you carry out group projects to deliver scientific objectives. By planning hypotheses, piloting methods and then collecting data you will develop valuable skills in critical independent enquiry. Skills acquired during this module will be particularly useful for a future career in academic research or ecological consultancy. The experiences you gain from fieldwork, teamwork, working with unfamiliar biodiversity, and working around the clock, will all stand you in good stead for careers in the environmental sector. Transferable skills to other sectors include data handling, experimental design, presentations, report-writing, focus groups and discussions.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Explain how to quantify and test ideas on the function of animal behaviours
  • 2. Demonstrate knowledge of UK and European animal and plant biodiversity
  • 3. Complete group projects successfully, including statistical evaluations of data gathered in field
  • 4. Evaluate the links between, behaviour, biodiversity, ecology and conservation

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 6. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 7. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing specific research problems in biosciences
  • 8. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 9. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of biosciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 11. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 13. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 14. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements
  • 15. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

There will be a number of components to this module (some of which are weather dependent) including: surveys of intertidal fauna and diversity, small group projects on behavioural ecology, visits to various islands with local conservation experts, guided walks. Throughout the module there will be evening seminars and/or discussions during which students will be expected to prepare material and contribute in the form of oral presentations and questions.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching1The module will be preceded by a formal lecture, before departure, advising you of the aims of the component field course modules, as well as focusing on how you should prepare yourself in terms of learning, equipment, reference material, safety, comfort and health.
Scheduled learning and teaching48The core teaching method will be via guided observation and learning in the field, led by experts, complemented by key texts and references. Course leaders will organise and oversee group projects. Individual observations, investigations and study will also be fostered, under the general guidance of staff. Guidance will be provided on how to manage data collection in groups, and on the subsequent synthesis and presentation of data and concepts, both during and after each field course.
Guided independent study101Additional reading, research and preparation of the assessed reports


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during the field courseOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Pre-field course factsheet201 side of A41-6, 9-15Written
Project presentation during field course205-10 minute group presentation1, 4-5, 7, 10-13, 15Written
Project write-up in the form of a brief scientific paper602 pages A41, 3-12Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Pre-field course factsheetPre-field course factsheet1-6, 9-15August assessment period
Project presentation during field courseNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable
Project write-upProject write-up1, 3-12August assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The project presentation is not deferrable because it takes place during the field course and the mark comprises both group and individual components. If you are not able to participate in the presentation during the field course, and you are successfully granted mitigation, you will be awarded the group component marks for your presentation and this mark will be scaled accordingly. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to re-submit the project write-up. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • A wide range of field guides and reference works related to the identification, observation and study of behaviour, animals and plants in the field (books and research articles provided).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Animal behaviour, biodiversity, sampling, analysis, ecology, phylogeny, conservation

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date