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Ecology and Conservation

Module titleEcology and Conservation
Module codeBIO1426
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Frank Van Veen ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

How do animals interact with each other and with their environment? What is the nature and status of the Earth’s biodiversity? How can we protect species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction? This module will introduce you to the breadth and scope of ecology as a discipline and the key ideas used in modern conservation biology. You will have the opportunity to gain experience first-hand of the diverse approaches to the study of ecology by undertaking experimental studies and by observing mist netting demonstration in the field.

By the end of the module you will have gained a core understanding of the fundamental concepts in these key biological fields that will provide you with an excellent knowledge platform for the rest of your degree.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to introduce you to the key concepts in conservation and ecology, and to begin training you in critical independent thinking. You will also be trained in fundamental skills that will be needed throughout your university career. You will be exposed to a suite of lectures covering the principles that underpin each topic (What is ecology? What is conservation biology?) and from there will be introduced to key concepts and ideas within ecology and conservation biology.

The loss of biodiversity is one of the greatest crises our planet faces; the module will provide you with detail on the most up to date thinking in this area, often drawing on real examples from ongoing research from the lecturers’ own research groups. The following are all covered in the module and draw on examples from research conducted by academics in the department:

  • the value and ethics of marking animals,
  • demography across the annual cycle,
  • foraging,
  • symbiotic mutualisms,
  • predator-prey interactions, and
  • community scale metabolism.

The practical demonstrations introduce you to:

  • the basic methods used in answering major research questions;
  • the assumptions and problems associated with these techniques;
  • the current areas of interest and advances within these fields.

The module will provide you with the core knowledge which will provide grounding for Stage 1 and 2 modules in ecology and conservation and is a foundation for many Stage 2 modules in Cornwall.

Working both singly and in groups, the module aims to develop a series of transferrable skills including an awareness of the importance of teaching and learning, time management, problem solving, collaboration and negotiation all of which will strengthen employability potential.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Illustrate the key concepts in conservation and ecology
  • 2. Think critically about these ideas and principles
  • 3. Discuss ideas and construct coherent arguments regarding conservation biology and ecology

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

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

  • 9. Develop, with guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound conclusions
  • 10. Communicate ideas, principles and theories using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 11. Collect and interpret appropriate data and undertake straightforward research tasks with guidance
  • 12. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills identified by others
  • 13. Reflect on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Lectures will cover increasing ecological scales from individual behaviour to populations, communities, biogeography and ecosystems. Practical sessions will reinforce concepts covered in lectures, emphasising the nature of scientific enquiry.

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 teaching and learning 22Lectures – covering material including topics such an introduction to ecology, population ecology, community ecology, ecosystems, and conservation biology.
Scheduled teaching and learning 12Practical sessions take either the form of a demonstration of techniques (which you will take part in) or the collection of data for analysis in the laboratory session. These include capture, mark, recapture of small birds (weather permitting) and the investigation of ecological interactions using laboratory microcosms.
Scheduled teaching and learning 3Online fora
Scheduled teaching and learning 2MCQ examinations
Guided independent study111Additional reading, revision and research for the course laboratory reports and examinations.


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
Practice MCQOnlineAllOnline via scores
Laboratory report 11000 words3, 7-11Written and oral

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
MCQ examination601 hour (40 questions)1-2, 4-11Written
Laboratory report 2101000 words3, 7-11Written and oral
MCQ class test301 hour (30 questions)1-2, 4-11Oral


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
MCQ examinationMCQ examination1-2, 4-11August assessment period
Laboratory report 2Laboratory report from different lab class or with alternate dataset3, 7-11August assessment period
MCQ class testMCQ test1-2, 4-11August 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 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 sit a further examination. 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

  • Level 4 foundation textbook: Reece JB, Urry LA, Cain ML, Wasserman SA, Minorsky PV and Jackson RB (2011) Campbell Biology 9th Edition, Pearson: ISBN 10:0321739752

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Conservation biology, ecology, population ecology, life histories, dispersion, community ecology, community structure, succession, ecosystems, nutrient cycling, biodiversity and restoration ecology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date