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Animal Ecophysiology

Module titleAnimal Ecophysiology
Module codeBIO2427
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Andrew Young (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

In this module we will explore (i) how adaptation has tuned physiological mechanisms to an animal’s ecology and (ii) how an understanding of physiological mechanisms can help to inform the study of ecology and evolution. We will do this through a series of lectures and practicals covering  life history trade-offs, oxidative stress, ecoimmunology, the ecology and evolution of nervous and endocrine systems, animal signalling, maternal effects, senescence and global change physiology. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to build on the background provided in Stage 1 (by BIO1420 Physiology and BIO1429 Evolution) by exploring the interactions between physiological mechanisms and evolutionary processes. Topics covered include  life history trade-offs, oxidative stress, ecoimmunology, the ecology and evolution of nervous and endocrine systems, animal signalling, maternal effects, senescence and global change physiology. Where appropriate, the module content will draw directly on the relevant research experience of module leads Andrew Young and Jon Blount, who between them have conducted research in all of these areas.

We will draw throughout on cutting edge research in the field and address how an understanding of animal ecophysiology can inform problem solving in real-world scenarios that are relevant to the workplace. You are also encouraged to build transferable employment-relevant skills, including how to communicate science to a non-specialist audience through the preparation of a press release.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Distinguish between proximate and ultimate explanations in ecology, and the importance of mechanistic studies for our understanding of evolution
  • 2. Outline the major physiological processes in animals, and their integration, and how these relate to ecology and evolution
  • 3. Describe the principles of vertebrate endocrinology and how adaptation has shaped endocrine systems to species’ ecology
  • 4. Explain the evolutionary and physiological origins of ageing
  • 5. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding in organismal physiology and ecology

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 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. Understand the importance of, and gain experience in, communicating research findings to the public
  • 15. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 16. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Lectures will cover:

  • proximate and ultimate explanations in ecology
  • life history trade-offs
  • nervous system ecology and evolution
  • reproductive endocrinology
  • the role of testosterone in mediating trade-offs
  • stress physiology
  • animal signalling
  • maternal effects
  • ecoimmunology
  • senescence
  • physiology of global change

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 (15 x 1 hour)
Scheduled learning and teaching 6Practical sessions (2 x 3 hours)
Guided independent study129Additional reading, research and preparation for module assessments.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Verbal short answer questions during the 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
Essay 601500 words1-7, 9-13Written
Press release40500 words1-3, 5-14Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay Essay1-7, 9-13August assessment period
Press release Press release 1-3, 5-14August 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 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

  • No key textbook is required and all resources will be provided on the ELE page.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Ecology, physiology, energy, animal signalling, endocrinology, behavioural ecology, reproduction, stress, respiration, senescence, life histories

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date