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Biosciences Penryn Virtual Field Course

Module titleBiosciences Penryn Virtual Field Course
Module codeBIO2450
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Andrew McGowan (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The Biosciences Penryn virtual fieldtrip offers an opportunity to you to develop and apply your research skills in a “virtual” real world environment. The virtual fieldtrip mirrors a current second year fieldtrip to Scotland, studying Caledonian Pine remnants in the Cairngorms, upland freshwater habitats, moorland and coastal cliffs. These habitats are host to many species of high conservation priority in the UK, including the red squirrel, common dolphin, otter, osprey, golden eagle, black grouse, black-throated diver. While conservation issues will be at the forefront of many of our discussions you will also carry out botanical surveys along an altitudinal gradient, consider the human wildlife conflict that exists in many of Scotland’s precious habitats, and investigate speciation via the carrion/hooded crow species complex. Furthermore, you will be encouraged to use the skills you have attained to enhance your own interests in ecology and conservation and further develop those skills to better equip you to apply them to practical situations in the workplace.

It will consist of two main parts:

  • Pre-trip preparation: this involves an introductory lecture to the field course, fact sheet preparation, and self-directed study that provide you with the necessary background information and data to successfully undertake the field class. This will run jointly with the Scotland fieldtrip group.
  • Five days of self-directed learning using online resources provided.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to promote understanding of the skills and techniques that ecologists use to measure and survey animals and plants 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, which are all based in SW England. 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 European habitats and their characteristic organisms. During the module, you will become more familiar with the types of approaches ecologists 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, using a variety of methods, and become more able to place them within a wider phylogenetic, ecological and conservation framework.

The skills you gain from fieldwork, teamwork, working in an unusual climate and in a foreign country, working with unfamiliar biodiversity, and working around the clock, will all stand you in good stead for careers in the environmental sector. Transferable skills to other sectors include data handling, experimental design, presentations, report-writing, focus groups and discussions.

The teaching contributions on this module involve elements of research undertaken by module staff, such as work on avian ecology (McGowan & Russell), mammalian ecology and management (McDonald) and foraging specialisations in seabirds (Bearhop). Moreover, you are encouraged to undertake enquiry-led learning, specifically through the mini research projects and sourcing material for factsheets and subsequent discussion.

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. Analyse UK and European animal and plant biodiversity
  • 3. Complete a project, including statistical evaluations of a dataset that was gathered in the 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
  • 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. 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 trip will “virtually” visit Scotland. The syllabus will be through online material and interaction with the module convener. Topics covered by this module include:

  • Speciation
  • Human-wildlife conflict
  • Conservation challenges facing Scottish habitats

Details of specific locations, activities, and content of the field trips will be issued during the previous semester.

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 Teaching2Preparatory lecture sessions
Scheduled Learning and Teaching8Discussions and advice sessions with Virtual Trip leader
Guided Independent Study40Virtual field trip – online directed learning
Guided Independent Study100Reading, research and completing coursework


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Continuous assessment based on contribution to discussions with module leadOngoing throughout the duration of the module 1-14Oral during sessions

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
Pre-field course factsheet201 side of A41-6, 9-14Written
Conservation issue poster20A3 poster1-14Written
Project report601000-1500 words1-14Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Pre-field course factsheetPre-field course factsheet1-6, 9-14August Ref/Def
Conservation issue posterConservation issue poster1-14August Ref/Def
Project reportProject report1-14August 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 as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Reading lists appropriate to each field trip will be issued during the previous term.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Field trip

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO1421 Field and Laboratory Techniques

Module co-requisites

BIO2426 Analysis of Biological Data

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date