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Wildlife Disease

Module titleWildlife Disease
Module codeBIO2423
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Andrew Pye (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Parasitic organisms are a common and integral part of ecosystems. Wildlife diseases can have a devastating impact on biodiversity, livestock health, human health, and the economy. During this module you will consider the dynamic interactions between parasites and their hosts. Each week will focus on a particular group of parasites (prions, bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa and helminths). Lectures will cover the key characteristics of each parasite (microbiology), the response of the host to the parasite (immunology), along with their wider economic and ecological implications. Each lecture will be illustrated with real world wildlife disease case studies. While not exhaustive of every wildlife disease on the planet, through the use of key case studies, this module should enable you to have a better understanding of the lives of some of the smallest and most influential members of ecosystems should you encounter them in your future career.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to develop knowledge of infectious wildlife disease. The module will focus on the main causes of infectious disease (prions, viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and helminths) and how these disease causing agents interact with wildlife, including immunological adaptations and responses of the host. Key examples will be used to illustrate the basic microbiology and immunology and place this knowledge into a wildlife context. Key examples will include diseases such as chronic wasting disease (prion) in deer, avian flu (viral) in birds, West Nile virus (viral) in birds, tuberculosis (bacterial) in badgers and cattle, and whirling disease (parasite) in salmon.

By understanding the subject through real life case studies you will be exposed to the latest results of research in this field. You will also be exposed to practical research and investigative skills during the ‘Save our frogs’ practical class. During the three consecutive weeks of this practical series you will have to swab, culture, identify and treat ‘animals’ (artificial jelly frogs) infected with real microbes (real live microbes will be used). A wider understanding of wildlife disease will be of benefit if you wish to work in the fields of conservation, zoology, environmental science, environment and human health. The analytical skills developed during this module will be of value to a large number of potential employers.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Outline the main infections agents
  • 2. Explain how infections agents cause disease
  • 3. Describe immune response
  • 4. Give relevant wildlife disease examples

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

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will follow a spiral curriculum with all infectious organisms being covered in the first two weeks. This information will then be revisited in the following weeks (one organism per week) with the ‘meat’ being added to the ‘bones’ of the first two weeks. Each infectious agent will be considered in relation to disease and immune response. Key wildlife case studies will be used as illustrative examples.

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 teaching 15Lectures – covering material such as parasites, parasite defences, animal defences, bacterial disease, prion disease, protozoan infections and worm infections.
Scheduled learning and teaching 9New emerging disease scenario – problem based learning; you are given a scenario that you research for 3 weeks. You then hold a mock international press conference and give a formative presentation.
Guided independent study126Additional reading, research and preparation for assessments.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during the lectures and practical sessionsOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral
Identification of microorganismsInterpretation of lab resultsAllOral

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
Essay401500 words1-12Written
Essay 601500 words1-12Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-12August assessment period
Essay Essay 1-12August 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 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 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

  • Infectious Diseases of Wild Mammals and Birds in Europe - Dolores Gavier-Widn, J. Paul Duff, Anna Meredith 2012 (eBook has been purchased for this module and is available through ELE)
  • John Playfair and Gregory Bancroft, Fourth Edition, (2013) Infection and Immunity. Oxford University Press (Suggested text for immunology, copies available in the library, preview available on ELE other immunology books may also be suitable).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Immunology, prions, viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, disease, microbiology, ecology, zoology and infection

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date