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Marine Biology

Module titleMarine Biology
Module codeBIO2074
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Matthew Witt (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will introduce you to the field of marine biology, during which you will be taught the fundamental principles of marine biology and oceanography. Topics will focus on the many important functions our oceans play in supporting a huge diversity of plants and animals, the regulation of the earth’s climate, and in providing ecosystem goods and services. The major ecosystems will be examined as will special adaptations of their dominant species groups. The major ecological principles controlling species distributions and interactions in estuaries, rocky shores, coral reefs and the deep sea will be addressed. Methods of surveying and management of fisheries will also be discussed.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module builds on the ecological foundation provided in Year 1 and develops expertise in the specialised sub-discipline, marine biology. The module aims to provide a grounding in basic oceanography and investigate how organisms are adapted to life in marine environments. This knowledge will then lead to a study of the key processes in marine systems (e.g. primary production) and the functioning of a range of marine communities (e.g. coral reefs, rocky shores and deep seas). Throughout the module, relevant threats to marine systems and their conservation will be considered.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Explain the physics and chemistry of the oceans, and use this to explain the generation, functioning and biological consequences of tides, waves and currents and the adaptations of marine organisms
  • 2. Compare the functioning and key processes of a range of marine communities, including major similarities and differences
  • 3. Discuss the threats to marine systems and the key principles behind their conservation

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of organismal biology and ecology with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles
  • 5. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a subdiscipline of the biosciences
  • 6. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 7. With guidance, learn selected techniques of analysis, practical investigation and enquiry within the biosciences

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 8. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently by written means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 9. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 10. Collect and interpret appropriate data, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 11. 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

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some, or all, of the following topics:

  • Waves, currents and tide
  • Ocean productivity
  • Benthic ecosystems
  • Pelagic ecosystems
  • Rocky shores
  • Estuaries
  • Tropical ecosystems
  • Polar oceans
  • Deep seas
  • Fisheries
  • Aquaculture
  • Behavioural and sensory ecology
  • Connectivity and dispersal
  • Human interactions with marine ecosystems

The practical sessions will deliver training in modern marine biodiversity survey and animal tracking, including:
(i) the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), (ii) underwater baited remote video cameras, and (iii) analysis of cetacean acoustic detection from sound recording data. Coursework will involve the production of a podcast in small groups on a topical issue in marine science and conservation. (iv) A fish identification practical involving regionally-relevant species to south west England, which will involve handling fish and dissection of dead specimens obtained from a commercial fishery, will also be undertaken.

Accessibility statement:

Practical sessions: Computer-based practical as part of this module will be undertaken in a computing laboratory (of approx. 75 students) that are up to 3 hrs in duration. The fisheries practical will be undertaken in one of the main undergraduate teaching laboratories. Breaks are possible in all practical sessions and students can leave the laboratory environment for short periods if necessary.

Coursework: As part of this module, you will undertake group work that contributes towards your summative assessment.

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 Teaching19Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching12Practical sessions (4 x 3 hours)
Guided Independent Study69Lecture and practical consolidation and associated reading
Guided Independent Study50Coursework and exam revision


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Lecturer and demonstrator feedback during practical sessionsPractical sessions1-5, 7, 11Oral

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
Essay examination601000 words1-6, 8-10Written
Group podcast405-min duration podcast1-6, 8-10Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay examinationEssay examination1-6, 8-10August Referral/Deferral
Group podcastIndividual narrated PowerPoint presentation on topic of podcast1-6, 8-10August Referral/Deferral

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 group podcast is not deferrable because it is group work; on deferral, you will be required to submit a narrated PowerPoint presentation on the original topic of the podcast. 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. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • M.J. Kaiser, M.J. Attrill, S. Jennings, D.N. Thomas and D.K.A. Barnes (2011). Marine Ecology - Processes, Systems, and Impacts (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Marine, environment, aquatic, global warming, ocean acidification, over-fishing, coral reefs, zooplankton, phytoplankton, food webs, rocky shores, deep sea, fisheries, marine protected areas

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO1331 Animals, BIO1336 Ecology

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date