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Pyrenees Field Course

Module titlePyrenees Field Course
Module codeBIO2449
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Karl Wotton (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The Pyrenees bridge Central and Mediterranean Europe, separating the Iberian peninsula from the rest of Europe. ¬†They represent one of the key European glacial refugia and are characterised by steep altitudinal gradients, high biodiversity and endemism. These mountains harbour some of Europe’s remaining megafauna such as brown bears and bearded vultures, and serve as the western migration corridor for many birds and insects. The field trip will expose you to native, endemic and invasive species and their habitats. We will discuss the measurement of behaviour and biodiversity in insects, mammals, birds and plants. We will consider human-wildlife conflict issues that are special to the mountain ranges and the Mediterranean. You will perform independent research projects on topics as diverse as insect-plant interactions, bird behaviour, diversity-disturbance relationships and altitudinal gradients. We will stay in a high mountain refuge and learn about important work on evolutionary ecology and conservation in this eco-region.

To address the climate emergency and potential impact of this module we carefully consider the carbon budget of staff travel and subsistence throughout the course. We actively encourage students taking this module to carefully consider their travel options and where possible minimise their carbon expenditure. Our destination can be reached from the UK by train or ferry and once at our field site we move around on foot only. Students will also be encouraged to avoid single use plastics and other avoidable impacts on the local environment and engage in sustainable practices throughout.

When participating in field courses, you will be required to cover any visa costs and, if necessary, purchase medication and relevant immunisations. You will also need to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, eg. walking boots, rucksack, sleeping bag, binoculars. Details of specialist equipment, vaccinations and visas that you must supply at your own expense are provided at

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to promote your understanding of animal behaviour, biodiversity, evolution and ecology by means of first-hand experience and learning in a field environment. In this field course, you will use ecological field sampling and observations to study Pyrenees biodiversity and animal behaviour. These approaches link to our ongoing research projects on animal migrations through these mountains..

This module will complement and unify the other modules that comprise Stage 2. The module as a whole builds on the introductory fieldwork experiences of Stage 1, which are all based in SW England. Specifically, this will be achieved via field observations combined with collaborative and individual projects, set within a wider context of formal field-learning exercises, which themselves illustrate the fundamental principles of the core disciplines.

The Stage 2 field course modules as a whole will familiarise you with a range of European habitats and their characteristic organisms. During the module, you will become more familiar with methods of testing ideas on the function of animal behaviours in the wild. You will also investigate the ecological relationships among the different components of biodiversity from individuals to communities and the range of influences that might impinge on their conservation biology.  More generally you will also consolidate your abilities to identify organisms, using a variety of methods, and become more able to place them within a wider phylogenetic, ecological and conservation framework.

The skills you gain from fieldwork, teamwork, working in an unusual climate and in a foreign country, working with unfamiliar biodiversity, and working around the clock, will all stand you in good stead for careers in the environmental sector. Transferable skills to other sectors include data handling, experimental design, presentations, report-writing, focus groups and discussions.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Explain how to quantify and test ideas on the function of animal behaviours
  • 2. Demonstrate knowledge of UK and European animal and plant biodiversity
  • 3. Complete group projects, including statistical evaluations of data gathered in field
  • 4. Explain the links between, behaviour, biodiversity, ecology and conservation

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 6. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 7. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing specific research problems in biosciences
  • 8. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 9. 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...

  • 10. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 11. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 13. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 14. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements
  • 15. 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

There will be a number of components to this module including large group projects on one or more of the following: behavioural ecology of pollinators, plant-pollinator interaction webs, effects of anthropogenic stressors on community ecology, biodiversity assays and understanding altitudinal gradients and shifts in in animal and plant distributions. This will be followed small group projects on behavioural ecology, conservation or evolutionary ecology. Throughout the module there will be and discussions and additional activities including light and camera trapping.

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 teaching1The module will be preceded by a formal lecture, before departure, advising you of the aims of the component field course modules, as well as focusing on how you should prepare in terms of learning, equipment, reference material, safety, comfort and health.
Scheduled learning and teaching48The core teaching method will be via guided observation and learning in the field, led by experts, complemented by key texts and references. Course leaders from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation will organise and oversee group and individual projects. Individual observations, investigations and study will also be fostered, under the general guidance of staff. Guidance will be provided on how to manage data collection in groups, and on the subsequent synthesis and presentation of data and concepts, both during and after each field course.
Guided independent study101Additional reading, research and preparation of two assessment reports.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions and discussions during the field course & Project presentation during field courseOngoing throughout the module1-15Oral

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 factsheet251 side A41-6, 9-15Written
Project report751500 words1-12Written


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 factsheetFactsheet1-6, 9-15August assessment period
Project reportProject report1-12August 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 re-submit the project report, and/or the factsheet. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • A wide range of field guides and reference works related to the identification, observation and study of behaviour, animals and plants in the field (books and research articles provided).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Animal behaviour, biodiversity, ecology, conservation biology, phylogeny, behavioural ecology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date