Skip to main content


Skills for Ecology

Module titleSkills for Ecology
Module codeBIO3435
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Kelly Moyes (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Biology is at its heart a practical science – to understand the complexities of the world around us we must be able to conduct well designed systematic surveys, observations, and experiments (not to mention the data analysis). During this field course we will develop some of the core practical skills that are the foundation of careers and research in evolutionary, behavioural and conservation ecology. We will use Cornwall as our field site and explore the terrestrial and marine natural history of our home county. In so doing we’ll think about and practice a range of field skills and consider how these might be deployed to answer specific research questions. Cornwall contains nationally rare habitats and wildlife, but the county is also heavy impacted by human activity; will explore this biodiversity and aim to understand it has been shaped by farming, fishing and tourism. Students will gain first-hand experience of methods used to study a variety of flora and fauna through a series of practical sessions, discussions and seminars from a variety of personnel including faculty, professional researchers, local experts and stakeholders. The field course will culminate in an independent group research project in which you will have the opportunity to implement all you have learned during the course and to consolidate your new skills. In your group research projects you’ll be able to focus on a specific aspect of ecology, evolution, human science or animal behaviour and will be guided by a member of staff. By the end of the course, you will have gained some insight into the essential skills and experience needed to help you pursue a career in field biology.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to develop your skills in the field in the terrestrial and marine environment and provide an opportunity to apply them to answer specific questions in evolutionary, behavioural and conservation ecology. The field course will address methods applicable to various taxonomic groups in a range of habitats.

The skills you gain from fieldwork, teamwork, working with unfamiliar biodiversity, and problem-solving, will all be beneficial for careers in any scientific sector and will enhance your employability. Skills transferrable 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)

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Understand and apply practical field techniques
  • 2. Demonstrate a broad understanding of marine and terrestrial biodiversity in a temperate ecosystem
  • 3. Design appropriate field methods to answer specific research questions, while minimising bias and allowing the appropriate testing of hypotheses.
  • 4. Collect data and interpret and communicate results from a research project

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Describe in detail and analyse essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 6. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 7. Identify and implement, with limited guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex problems in biosciences
  • 8. With minimal guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 9. Describe and evaluate in detail 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. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 11. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data and complete a range of research-like tasks with very limited guidance
  • 13. 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

Prior to the field course students will be provided with information and guidance to research the concepts addressed in the field course. During the field course there will be online materials explaining the activities and then we will meet in person to put the skills into practice. Field activities will be varied and include surveying and studying a range of taxonomic groups and habitats (marine and terrestrial) and considering various research aims common to behavioural, evolutionary and conservation ecology. During the field course students will have the opportunity to discuss their work with local professionals and stakeholders in the field.

Prior to the field course students will produce a factsheet to describe foundational concepts that underpin the course. These will be discussed during the field course.

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 110Field-based teaching and online lectures
Guided independent study190Additional reading and research and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during the field courseOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral
Seminars and discussionsContinuous assessment during the field courseAllOral
Group presentation5-10 min talk in a group about research projectAllOral
Experimental design discussionDesign discussion for ~15 minsAllOral

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 factsheet301 side of A4 (Size 12 font)2, 5, 6, 9Feedback sheet
Summary of research project30500 words1-13Feedback sheet
Essay401500 words1-2, 5, 6, 9Feedback sheet


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 factsheetFactsheet2, 5, 6, 9August assessment period
Summary of research projectLay summary on research project1-13August assessment period
EssayEssay1-2, 5, 6, 9August assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Basic reading:

  •  Sutherland 2006 Ecological Census Techniques: A Handbook. 


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Module has an active ELE page

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO2426 Analysis of Biological Data

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date