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Animal Migration

Module titleAnimal Migration
Module codeBIO3421
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Jason Chapman (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Animal migration, one of nature’s most spectacular and widespread phenomena, has long inspired and puzzled biologists. How do animals navigate across vast distances? How do diverse organisms, from whales to moths, cope with the physiological stressors? In this module we will explore the evolutionary and ecological dynamics of migration, using case studies to illustrate specific processes, and discuss the challenges faced by such species in a changing world. Practical sessions provide opportunity for you to analyse real-life radar data of migrating organisms to study their flight behaviour and migration patterns.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will provide a comprehensive overview of the processes and consequences of animal migration, in all its many forms. We will follow a range of animals, from insects and plankton to birds and whales, as they carry out their amazing journeys, and you will gain insight into the morphological, physiological, energetic, sensory and genetic adaptations they have evolved to navigate successfully around the globe, whether that is by walking, flying or swimming. The course will also introduce you to the challenges that migratory animals face, the threats they pose to humans, the consequences of such large-scale movement of biomass, and the changes to migratory patterns that may be brought about by our changing planet.

Through attending lectures and discussion groups, contributing to the analysis of radar data in small groups during the practical sessions, completing the assessments and giving a group presentation on your research project, you will further develop the following academic and professional skills that will be transferable to future employment:

  • problem solving (linking theory to practice, developing your own ideas with confidence)
  • analysis, interpretation and communication of complex data (by studying radar-derived animal movement patterns)
  • time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group)
  • collaboration (respecting the views and values of others, taking initiative and leading others, supporting others in their work, maintaining group cohesiveness and purpose), and
  • presentation skills (effective and clear communication of ideas and results, responding to questions).

The teaching contributions to this module involve substantial elements of research undertaken by module staff. Chapman carries out research on insect migration patterns, flight behaviour, population dynamics and navigational capabilities; Wotton carries out research on the genetic control of migration. In addition, the module coordinators will stimulate you to undertake enquiry-led learning, via suggestions for further reading and through the data analysis practical sessions.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Explain in detail the adaptations that animal migrants exhibit
  • 2. Describe the patterns and processes of animal migration
  • 3. Explain the role that large-scale movements of animals play in ecosystem functioning
  • 4. Describe the threats and challenges associated with animal migration

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Describe in detail and analyse essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 6. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise examples from the literature into written work
  • 7. Identify and implement, with limited guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex problems in biosciences
  • 8. Evaluate established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 9. Describe and evaluate in detail 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. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 11. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data
  • 13. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to graduate-level professional and practical skills, and act autonomously to develop new areas of skills as necessary
  • 14. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate 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

12 lectures will cover the various patterns of animal migrations, the form and function of animal migrants, the sensory and physiological processes that facilitate and guide their long-range movements, the ecological and economic significance of such large-scale movements, and the challenges that animal migrants face.

Practical sessions will include:

  • Guided group discussions on a range of migration topics – 2 hours
  • Analyses of radar data on animal migration (I) – 3 hours
  • Analyses of radar data on animal migration (II) – 3 hours
  • Group presentations on the results of the radar analyses – 2 hours

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 Teaching12Lectures introducing patterns of migration, the adaptions evolved by animal migrants, and the consequences of animal migration
Scheduled learning and teaching10Practical sessions, guided analysis of radar data, and group presentations
Guided independent study128Guided reading, preparation, report writing


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentations on radar analyses10 minutes per groupAllWritten

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
Essay601500 wordsAllWritten


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
EssayEssayAllAugust 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 submit a further assessment. 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

  • Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move, by Hugh Dingle (2014)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Migration, dispersal, movement, locomotion, morphology, physiology, navigation, ecology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date