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Blue Planet

Module titleBlue Planet
Module codeBIOM568
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Steve Simpson (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will give you an introduction to marine biology and oceanography and examine the many ways in which different ocean ecosystems shape the climate and support the diversity of life on Earth. You will consider the importance of oceans for climatic and biogeochemical cycles, and explore the interaction between human induced climate change and ocean futures. You will also evaluate the importance of the oceans for food security, energy, transport, tourism, coastal protection and regional to global climate regulation. In addition to lectures and journal clubs, you will undertake field trips to explore the coastal environment and fishing industries of Devon.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module, suitable for both science and non-science graduates, introduces fundamental principles of marine biology and oceanography. It provides a solid platform upon which to explore key issues in marine science, including impacts of climate change, overfishing, habitat loss, ocean pollution, coastal development and aquaculture. Leading marine biologists and climate scientists will combine taught sessions providing introduction in a range of topics with interactive sessions, debates and project work to deepen understanding and develop critical awareness and creative solutions-focussed thinking. A combination of class and lab sessions, fieldtrips, debates and coursework will empower you to play active roles in developing marine policy to improve conservation, environmental protection and food security.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Compare and contrast marine ecosystems, considering environment, biodiversity and human impacts
  • 2. Explain the importance of the oceans for regulating the Earth’s climate and weather
  • 3. Demonstrate understanding about current and future, local and global, threats to ocean ecosystems
  • 4. Exhibit clarity of thinking and empathy to different stakeholders in debates

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Utilise a range of practical and modelling approaches to develop policy recommendations
  • 6. Produce accessible, informative and provocative media outputs relating to module content

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Develop critical awareness and progressive thinking on contemporary challenges
  • 8. Work in groups or individually to innovate solutions and present ideas to stakeholder groups
  • 9. Demonstrate a commitment to deepening knowledge and developing opinions on key ocean issues

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

This module will consist of introductory lectures, delivered by experts in each field. Topics are likely to include:

  • Oceanography
  • Marine ecosystems
  • Biodiversity
  • Oceans and climate change
  • Fisheries and aquaculture
  • Marine pollution

Lectures will be followed by discussion sessions based on topics within the lectures, with reading materials circulated in advance where appropriate.

Supplementing the core lectures will be debates, journal clubs, debates and problem-solving sessions (e.g. pitched by an industrial or policy partner).

Practical sessions may include wet-lab (e.g. fish forensics), modelling (e.g. Marine Protected Area design) and fieldtrips (e.g. rocky shore ecology, sustainable fisheries) to provide you with a wide exposure of methods and approaches to understanding marine sustainability.

You will be supported to work in groups to produce a short film on a contemporary issue in the ocean environment.

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 teaching10Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching8Seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching2Labs
Scheduled learning and teaching5Field trip
Scheduled learning and teaching1Introduction to the module
Scheduled learning and teaching2Preparation for assessment tutorial
Guided independent study122Reading and research for tutorials and assessment


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practical workbooks500 words1, 4-5, 7, 9Written/oral on request
Presentations in debates10 minutes1-4, 7-9Oral and peer feedback

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
Group marine impacts film5010 minutes2-4, 6-9Written/oral on request
Sustainable fisheries knowledge exchange project50Group presentation and written coursework1-5, 7-9Written/oral on request


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group marine impacts filmEssay on marine impacts2-4, 6-9Referred/deferred period
Sustainable fisheries knowledge exchange projectWritten summary of sustainable fisheries knowledge exchange project1-5, 7-9Referred/deferred 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

Text books and review articles will be recommended at the start of the module, and will include:

The module lead will provide more information in advance of the start of the module.

We will draw on popular science books for motivation and to frame discussions, including:

  • Roberts, C., 2007. The Unnatural History of the Sea: The Past and Future of Humanity and Fishing The Unnatural History of the Sea. Shearwater Books.
  • Kurlansky, M., 2008. The Last Fish Tale: The Fate of the Atlantic and our Disappearing Fisheries. Random House.
  • Earle, S.A., 2009. The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One. National Geographic Society.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

• ELE page: URL (specific resources, including primary research papers, will be provided throughout the module using the dedicated ELE page)

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Marine biology, oceanography, ecology, ecosystems, biodiversity, climate change, warming, ocean acidification, sea level rise, fisheries, aquaculture, global change biology, pollution, plastics, coastal protection

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date