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Skills in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation

Module titleSkills in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation
Module codeBIOM4034
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Victoria Hobson (Lecturer)

Dr Kristian Metcalfe (Lecturer)

Professor Brendan Godley (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

A broad suite of practical and communication skills is now central to secure a future career in applied scientific research, industry or as a conservation practitioner. This module aims to help you achieve your current and future goals by providing you with a good working knowledge of the theory and practice underpinning commonly used field and analytical methods as well as providing a good grounding in scientific communication including writing in scientific prose, oral presentation and film production. The teaching style will combine fieldwork in Cornwall, UK, with workshops and bespoke training sessions to foster the self-reflection necessary to becoming a confident, competent and independent scientist in the modern world.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The overall aim of this module is to provide you with a set of key skills that will help you succeed in your MSc degree and future careers. To these ends, you will receive comprehensive training that will build your portfolio of:

  • field skills in marine vertebrate ecology and conservation through field visits and workshops.
  • Scientific communication through applied experience of scientific writing, oral presentations and film editing and production and associated dissemination on social media platforms.

The training provided will be field and discussion-based, with ample opportunity for direct learning through observation of others (social) and personal (trial and error) learning. A key aim will be to foster self-reflection and confidence.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate enhanced field skills in marine vertebrate ecology
  • 2. Describe in detail the form and function of communication
  • 3. Communicate effectively through prose, film and orally
  • 4. Self-reflect effectively

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Assess critically the presentation of your own and others’ research

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Study autonomously and undertake projects with minimum guidance
  • 7. Appropriately select and properly manage information drawn from books, journals, and the internet
  • 8. Interact effectively in a group
  • 9. Critique and edit the work of others, understand your own limitations and weaknesses

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module will include:

  • Field ID skills on field trips around Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, covering – species ID, baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVs), marine survey methods and stakeholder engagement
  • Theory and applied experience of deploying BRUVs
  • Marine mammal rescue and post-mortem techniques
  • Multiple day workshop leading to Marine Mammal Observer qualification
  • Lecture/workshop on Ecotourism including WISE qualification
  • Lecture/workshop on passive acoustic monitoring for cetaceans  
  • Workshop on bycatch mitigation
  • Workshop on evidence-based conservation
  • Lecture/workshop on short film production

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 Teaching50Lectures and workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching30Field trips: field-based tutoring from members of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation in marine vertebrate biodiversity, behaviour, ecology, conservation and other biological topics
Guided independent study70Additional research, reading and preparation for module assignments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lectures Ongoing throughout the moduleAllOral
Discussion during classesOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral
Scientific oral presentation (during field course)5 minutesAllOral

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 Related Science Communication505 minute video and allied social media infographicsAllWritten
Scientific report502000 word scientific report analysing field dataAllWritten


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Project Related Science CommunicationPresentation of research project proposalAllAugust reassessment period
Scientific reportScientific reportAllAugust reassessment 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 50%) you will be required to redo the relevant assessment. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Camphuysen, C. 2006. Top Predators in Marine Ecosystems: Their Role in Monitoring and Management (Conservation Biology) (I. Boyd & S. Wanless, Eds.). Cambridge University Press.

Norse, E.A. and Crowder, L.B. 2005. Marine Conservation Biology. Island Press

Turbek SP, Chock TM, Donahue K, et al. Scientific Writing Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Undergraduate Writing in the Biological Sciences. Bull Ecol Soc Am 2016;97:417-26. 10.1002/bes2.1258

Weinberger CJ, Evans JA, Allesina S. Ten simple (empirical) rules for writing science. PLoS Comput Biol 2015;11:e1004205. 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004205

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Key skills, scientific writing, communication, employability; dolphin, whale, shark, turtle, seabird, ecology, conservation

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date