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Pembrokeshire Field Course

Module titlePembrokeshire Field Course
Module codeBIO2436
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Stephen Votier (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

On this field trip you will learn about some of the most important marine sites in Europe. In Pembrokeshire  you will have access to important intertidal regions that support a wide diversity of marine life as well as key offshore sites. This includes Skomer Island, one of only three underwater Marine Nature Reserves in the UK and home to one of the most important assemblages of marine predators in Europe – more than half of the world’s Manx shearwaters and ~100,000 pairs of Atlantic puffins nest alongside other large aggregations of seabirds. In contrast, neighbouring Ramsey Island supports far fewer seabirds by virtue of the introduction of Norway rats. These have since been eradicated but this provides an illustration of the legacy of invasive species. Moreover, Ramsey has the largest grey seal pupping sites in Britain. The diversity of marine life from the base of food-webs to the apex will be at the forefront of this field course, with an emphasis on marine conservation. You will also carry out individual projects on topics ranging from behaviour, group-living and foraging ecology. Furthermore, you will be encouraged to use the fieldwork skills you have attained and further develop those skills to better equip you to apply them to practical situations in the workplace.

To address the climate emergency and potential impact of this module, through specific local carbon offsetting this field course will aim to be carbon neutral. We aim to provide vegetarian/vegan food, use low emission transport wherever possible for internal travel, and encourage students to consider how they will manage their carbon impact over-and-above carbon offsetting. Students will also be encouraged to avoid single use plastics and other avoidable impacts on the local environment and engage in sustainable practices throughout.

When participating in field courses, you will be required to cover any visa costs and, if necessary, purchase anti-malarial medication and relevant immunisations. You will also need to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, eg. walking boots, rucksack, mosquito net, sleeping bag, binoculars. You may incur additional costs dependent upon the specific demands of the research project chosen. Details of specialist equipment, vaccinations and visas that you must supply at your own expense are provided at

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to promote understanding of the skills and techniques that marine biologists use to measure and survey marine life by means of first-hand experience, observation and learning in a field environment. It will complement and unify the other modules that comprise Stage 2. The module as a whole builds on the introductory fieldwork experiences of Stage 1. Specifically, this will be achieved via field observations combined with collaborative and individual projects, set within a wider context of formal field-learning exercises, which themselves illustrate the fundamental principles of the core disciplines.

The Stage 2 field course modules as a whole will familiarise you with a range of marine habitats and their characteristic organisms.  During the module, you will become more familiar with the types of approaches marine biologists use to assess a range of phenomena (biodiversity, population size, species ranges, foraging behaviour), understanding how these interact with a changing environment and why it is important that we are able to measure them.  More generally you will become familiar with a range of habitat types, consolidating your abilities to identify organisms, using a variety of methods, and become more able to place them within a wider phylogenetic, ecological and conservation framework.

The module has a large research-led component in which you carry out group projects to deliver scientific objectives. By planning hypotheses, piloting methods and then collecting data you will develop valuable skills in critical independent enquiry. The skills you gain from fieldwork, teamwork, working with unfamiliar biodiversity, and working around the clock, will all stand you in good stead for careers in the environmental sector by developing or enhancing your employability. 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) 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. Explain how to quantify and measure a range of ecological phenomena and the significance of such measurements
  • 2. Identify a range of marine taxa from plankton to top predators
  • 3. Complete a group project, including statistical evaluations of data gathered in field
  • 4. Describe how the environment might shape phenomena such as biodiversity, population size, species ranges and foraging behaviour

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, particularly with a marine focus
  • 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
  • 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

Group projects will begin on day one with data collection for an investigation into the distribution and composition of plankton communities in different marine ecosystems. Other group-based exercises will include impact of invasive species on islands, seal haul-out aggregations and vigilance behaviour, seabird aggregations and foraging. Small group projects will be carried out to on your own to address specific questions that will be developed via formal hypothesis approaches. Throughout the course there will contributions from local experts along with evening seminars and discussions during which you will be expected to prepare material and contribute in the form of oral presentations and questions.

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 teaching1The module will be preceded by a formal lecture, before departure, advising students of the aims of the component field course modules, as well as focusing on how students should prepare themselves in terms of learning, equipment, reference material, safety, comfort and health.
Scheduled learning and teaching40The core teaching method will be via guided observation and learning in the field, led by experts, complemented by key texts and references. Course leaders from the Environment and Sustainability Institute and the Centre for Ecology and Conservation will organise and oversee group and individual projects. Individual observations, investigations and study will also be fostered, under the general guidance of staff. Guidance will be provided on how to manage data collection in groups, and on the subsequent synthesis and presentation of data and concepts, both during and after each field course.
Guided independent study109Additional reading, research and preparation for the assessed reports


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during the field courseOngoing 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
Project presentation during field course3012 minute group presentation + 3 minutes for questions1-12, 15Oral feedback during discussions
Report 1351500 words1-12Written
Report 2351500 words1-12Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Project presentation during field courseNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable
Report 1Report 11-12August assessment period
Report 2Report 21-12August 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 project presentation is not deferrable because it takes place during the field course and the mark comprises both group and individual components. If you are not able to participate in the presentation during the field course, and you are successfully granted mitigation, you will be awarded the group component marks for your presentation and this mark will be scaled accordingly. 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 re-submit report 1 and/or report 2. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Kaiser MJ et al. (2011) Marine Ecology: Processes, Systems, and Impacts. OUP. ISBN-10: 0199227020
  • Levinton JS (2010) Marine Biology: International Edition: Function, Biodiversity, Ecology. OUP. ISBN-10: 0199766614
  • A wide range of field guides and reference works related to the identification, observation and study of behaviour, animals and plants in the field (books and research articles provided).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Marine biology, ecology, conservation, food-webs, statistics, biodiversity, animal behaviour, plankton

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date