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MSc Global Research Skills Virtual Field Course

Module titleMSc Global Research Skills Virtual Field Course
Module codeBIOM4047
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Christopher Laing (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The Global Research Skills Virtual Field Course showcases the locations visited by the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC) for teaching and research. It is a guided module run by staff that will introduce you to a wide range of examples from these locations that have been specifically designed to convey ecological research skills in an online environment appropriate for MSc students studying in the CEC. Organised by skill type, there are examples of behavioural observation, image analysis, distance sampling and biodiversity surveys that are brought to life with digital media so they can be studied remotely. Skills activities will be selected from a range of locations that could include Costa Rica, Yukon and Alaska, Kenya, Borneo and the Azores with new material being added all the time. The activities revolve around research questions that are central to the expertise of our staff such as understanding biodiversity, social behaviour and human-wildlife conflict. They include introductory videos, supporting literature and links to resources and datasets that are hosted on our bespoke web-based platform ‘FieldSite’. This platform has been designed by the CEC to ensure the clear and effective delivery of content for distance learning and to present a rich array of digital media that includes 360° photography, videos, photos, audio files and complex datasets. There are introductions to each location, staff videos that guide you through the activity, quizzes to test your knowledge and then digital resources to gather your datasets from. Each activity teaches field skills that are directly aligned with ecological research you can embark on locally to develop a research project with the same theme that links to your particular field of interest.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to develop your ecological field skills and demonstrate how to apply them to answer specific questions in evolutionary, behavioural and conservation ecology.  The survey methods we use apply to various taxonomic groups in a range of habitats.  During the field course you will learn how to apply those skills learnt to answer your own research questions. 

The skills you gain from these activities, teamwork, working with unfamiliar biodiversity, and problem-solving, will all be beneficial for careers in any scientific sector by developing or enhancing your employability. Transferrable 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)

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 applicable to students studying evolution, behaviour, conservation & ecology
  • 2. Demonstrate a broad understanding of marine and terrestrial biodiversity in tropical to temperate ecosystems
  • 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 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

The virtual course will be run to coincide with other courses planned for the cohort and normally lasts 10 days.  Prior to beginning, students will be provided with information and guidance in order to research the concepts of the module.  Contact time and task setting will be interspersed with time for you to work independently and engage in wider reading while staff are on hand to answer questions. The module will be structured around two or three research skills which are taught based on data from a different location each time. You will be introduced to the location and skill along with guest speakers from those locations using a mixture of live and pre-recorded content. After this, you will be asked to complete tasks on the FieldSite website by following the instructions on the pages and check-in with staff a few hours later for support. Days will either end with a lecture by staff summarising the skills and task completed or guest lecture, followed by discussions on the topics set before the field course. Prior to the field course, students will produce a factsheet to describe key ecological concepts that relate to the content of the module and these will form the basis of discussions during the module.

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 110Skills teaching, task completion and data gathering
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 factsheet502 sides of A4 (Size 12 font)2, 5, 6, 9Feedback sheet
Post-field course poster of research project50A3 posterAllFeedback 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
Post-field course poster of research projectResearch PosterAllAugust 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 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 sit a further examination and/or re-submit a further factsheet and/or poster. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Sutherland 2006 Ecological Census Techniques: A Handbook. 

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date