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Study information

Evolutionary Ecology

Module titleEvolutionary Ecology
Module codeBIO2414
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Angus Buckling (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Evolution and ecology are intimately linked, with ecology ultimately driving evolutionary change, and evolution determining the nature of species interactions. In this module, we demonstrate to you how this interplay is responsible for explaining some of the most interesting evolutionary phenomena, such as sexual reproduction and why parasites harm their hosts. During this module you will investigate evolutionary ecology at a range of biological scales, from individual adaptation to the physical environment, through to coevolution within communities.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to develop and expand your understanding of the principles introduced in Introduction to Evolution and Ecology by considering the ecological mechanisms underlying evolutionary change. This module will focus on the concepts of environmental variation and the mechanisms underlying how and why the diversity of life has evolved, including concepts of speciation, co-evolution, plant-animal interactions.

The module will develop transferrable analytical and research skills. Through attending the seminars and completing the assessments, you will further develop the following academic and professional skills that will be transferable to future employment:

  • problem solving (linking theory to practice, developing your own ideas with confidence, being able to respond to novel and unfamiliar problems)
  • managing structure (identifying key demands of the task, setting clearly defined goals, responding flexibly to changing priorities)
  • time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group)
  • collaboration (respecting the views and values of others, taking initiative and leading others, supporting others in their work, maintaining group cohesiveness and purpose), and
  • audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively in multiple formats, persuading others of the importance and relevance of your views, responding positively and effectively to questions).

The module content is heavily influenced by Buckling’s active research programme in microbial evolutionary ecology over the last 20 years.  The lectures will incorporate cutting edge research – some in the pre-publication stage – from Buckling’s research group.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Explain the evolutionary analysis of form and function
  • 2. Outline the mechanisms of coevolution
  • 3. Identify and explain the mechanisms of selection, including natural and kin selection
  • 4. Illustrate knowledge and understanding in evolution

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

Syllabus plan

The module will be delivered with face-to-face lectures, discussions and practicals.

Lectures will include topics such as: adaptation; sexual reproduction and coevolution.


Practical sessions will reinforce topics covered in lectures, emphasising the nature of scientific enquiry.

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 - covering material such as speciation, life histories, selection, ageing, inbreeding, adaptive evolution and conflicts.
Scheduled learning and teaching9Practical sessions
Guided independent study131Additional reading, research and preparation for the pre-laboratory report, laboratory report and the essay examination. Research and preparation for timetabled sessions

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lectures and practical sessionsOngoing throughout the module1-14Oral
Experimental design1 page4-12Written

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 examination602 hours1-12Written feedback
Laboratory report402,000 words4-12Feedback sheet

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay examinationEssay examination 1-12Referral/deferral period
Laboratory reportNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable

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 laboratory report is not deferrable because of its practical nature. 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 assessment. 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

  • Freeman, S. and J.C. Herron. 2007. Evolutionary Analysis, 4th Ed. Pearson Educational Ltd

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE page

Key words search

Evolution, ecology, life histories speciation, selection, ageing, inbreeding, adaptive evolution and conflicts

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date