Skip to main content


Marine Spatial Ecology

Module titleMarine Spatial Ecology
Module codeBIO3416
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Victoria Hobson (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will provide training in fundamental and applied principles of marine spatial data collection, analyses, management and interpretation. The module content ranges from teaching simple approaches to present and analyse spatial data through to complex techniques for manipulating and mapping ocean remote sensing and biologging data. You will make extensive use of the spatial software packages ArcGIS and QGIS, you will use the R programming language to undertake complex spatial programming tasks. The module will conclude with a timed GIS assessment conducted under examination conditions; you will be supplied with data and instructions and expected to implement appropriate analyses and provide written material to support the adopted rationale and decision-making process.

Module aims - intentions of the module

You will learn from research-led examples delivered by academic staff working in the field of spatial ecology.

To provide a detailed understanding of the principles and techniques underlying the field of spatial ecology, with particular emphasis on mapping marine ecosystems. To train you in modern day techniques used in spatial analysis for GIS, including data collection using GPS, mapping of point, line, polygon and raster data, spatial interpolation and spatial statistics.

The skills you gain from the module are becoming increasingly essential for careers in the environmental sector. Transferable skills to other sectors include:

  • problem solving (linking theory to practice, responding to novel and unfamiliar problems, data handling)
  • time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group)
  • collaboration (taking initiative and leading others, supporting others in their work)
  • self and peer review (taking responsibility for own learning, using feedback from multiple sources)
  • presentation skills and audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively in multiple formats).

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Recognise and critically evaluate the utility of GIS in marine spatial ecology and marine management applications
  • 2. Evaluate aspects of current research that highlight the use of spatial analyses in the marine realm with reference to research articles, reviews and textbooks
  • 3. Communicate complex issues relating to handling spatial data
  • 4. Apply critical thinking approaches to best direct the collection and use of spatial data for questions with specific relevance to marine ecology and conservation
  • 5. Correctly identify the relevant tools required to conduct scientific (spatial) research in marine ecosystems

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 6. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 7. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 8. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing specific research problems in biosciences
  • 9. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 10. 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...

  • 11. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 12. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 13. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 14. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 15. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The practical sessions will comprise:

  • Introduction to marine spatial ecology, and basic map making
  • Simple spatial analyses and making shape files
  • Managing and analysing seabed depth data
  • Extracting environmental data from satellite imagery
  • Georeferencing historic maps
  • Animal movement analysis
  • Spatial point pattern analysis and interpretation
  • Ocean drifters
  • Ocean remote sensing (climatologies, anomaly mapping and time-series extraction)

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 Teaching24Integrated lectures and practical training sessions (8 x 3 hours)
Guided independent study126Additional research, reading and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lectures and practical sessionsOngoing 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
Written report402000 wordsAllWritten
Assessed practical under exam conditions603 hoursAllWritten


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written reportWritten reportAllAugust ref/def
Assessed practical under exam conditionsAssessed practical under exam conditionsAllNot applicableAugust ref/def

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 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 write a further assessed practical. 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

  • Applied Spatial Data Analysis with R by Bivand, Pebesma and Gomez-Rubio
  • Ecological Census Techniques by William Sutherland

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Spatial ecology, mapping, GIS, marine species, marine habitats, climate change, satellite remote sensing, oceans

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date