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Spatial Ecology

Module titleSpatial Ecology
Module codeBIO2453
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Victoria Hobson (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will provide training in fundamental and applied principles of spatial data collection, analyses, management and interpretation. The module will provide training, ranging from simple approaches to present and analyse spatial data through to complex techniques for manipulating and mapping remote sensing and biologging data. The module coursework will involve you preparing a high-quality report with supporting oral presentations. The module will conclude with a GIS assessment, producing a high quality scientific report conducted as a piece of coursework under a short time constraint; you will be supplied with data and instructions and expected to implement appropriate analyses and provide written material to support the adopted rationale and decision-making process.

Module aims - intentions of the module

You will learn from research-led examples delivered by academic staff working in the field of spatial ecology.

To provide a detailed understanding of the principles and techniques underlying the field of spatial ecology, with particular emphasis on mapping marine ecosystems. To train you in modern day techniques used in spatial analysis for GIS, including data collection using GPS, mapping of point, line, polygon and raster data, spatial interpolation and spatial statistics.

The skills you gain from the module are becoming increasingly essential for careers in the environmental sector. 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)
  • presentation skills 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. Recognise and critically evaluate the utility of GIS in spatial ecology and management applications
  • 2. Evaluate aspects of current research that highlight the use of spatial analyses with reference to research articles, reviews and textbooks
  • 3. Communicate complex issues relating to handling spatial data
  • 4. Apply critical thinking approaches to best direct the collection and use of spatial data for questions with specific relevance to ecology and conservation
  • 5. Correctly identify the relevant tools required to conduct scientific (spatial) research in ecosystems

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 means 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. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 15. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The practical sessions will comprise:

  • Introduction to spatial ecology, and basic map making
  • Spatial analyses (I) and making shape files
  • Spatial analyses (II) and interpolation of spatial data
  • Survey design and planning (introduction to fieldwork and planning)
  • Remote sensing (climatologies, anomaly mapping and time-series extraction)

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 teaching24Integrated lectures and practical training sessions
Guided independent study126Additional research, reading and preparation for module assessments


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

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
Written report402000 wordsAllWritten
Written report602000 wordsAllWritten


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written reportWritten reportAllAugust ref/def
Written reportWritten reportAllAugust 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 write a further assessed practical. 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

  • Applied Spatial Data Analysis with R by Bivand, Pebesma and Gomez-Rubio
  • Ecological Census Techniques by William Sutherland

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Spatial ecology, mapping, GIS, marine species, marine habitats, climate change, satellite remote sensing, oceans

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date