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Study information

Bio Penryn 2nd Year Field Course

Module titleBio Penryn 2nd Year Field Course
Module codeBIO2454
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Andrew McGowan (Convenor)

Dr Nicola Weber (Convenor)

Professor Annette Broderick (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

On your field trip you will visit a number of special natural and semi-natural habitats and study their biodiversity, fundamental and applied ecology, conservation issues, environmental pressures, evolutionary backgrounds and human stakeholders. Locations are tailored to suit the marine and/or terrestrial specialties of our degrees. You will also carry out small-group research projects on ecological, behavioural, evolutionary or conservation topics that could potentially range from the spatial distribution of flowers, to invertebrate food webs, to foraging ecology in vertebrates, to human-wildlife conflict resolution. Furthermore, you will be encouraged to use the fieldwork skills you have attained to enhance your own interests in ecology, behaviour, evolution and conservation and further develop those skills to better equip you to apply them to practical situations in the workplace.

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 and offset any additional costs of this. We actively encourage students taking this module to carefully consider their travel options and where possible minimise their carbon expenditure. We aim to provide vegetarian/vegan food when subsistence is provided via the course organisers. We also use low emission buses and boats for transport wherever possible for internal travel within field courses, and encourage students to consider how they will manage their carbon impact. 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 costs of travelling to the starting point of the field course. You will also need to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, e.g. walking boots, rucksack, sleeping bag, binoculars. Details of specialist equipment, that you must supply at your own expense are provided on a bespoke ELE page and in consultation with module staff.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to promote understanding of the skills and techniques that ecologists use to measure and survey animals and plants by means of first-hand experience, observation and learning in a field environment. It 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 will familiarise you with a range of natural habitats and their characteristic organisms.  During the module, you will become more familiar with the types of approaches field biologists use to assess a range of phenomena (e.g. biodiversity, population size, species ranges, foraging behaviour), understanding how these interact with a changing environment and why it is important that we are able to measure them.  More generally you will become familiar with a range of habitat types, consolidating 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 with unfamiliar biodiversity, and to tight deadlines will stand you in good stead for careers in the environmental sector. Transferable skills to other sectors include data handling, experimental design, giving presentations, report-writing, focus groups and discussions.

The teaching contributions on this module involve elements of research undertaken by module staff. Moreover, you are encouraged to undertake enquiry-led learning, specifically through the mini research projects and sourcing material for factsheets and subsequent discussion.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Explain how to quantify and measure a range of ecological phenomena and the significance of such measurements
  • 2. Analyse animal and plant biodiversity
  • 3. Complete a group project, including statistical evaluations of data gathered in field
  • 4. Describe how the environment might shape phenomena such as biodiversity, population size, species ranges and behaviour

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

Each day of the field course will involve learning activities relevant to the current location. Data-collection via field exercises will start immediately, and culminate in whole-class synthesis and discussion of information. Planning for small-group research projects will proceed from Day 1, in consultation with module staff. Small group projects will be carried out in the latter half of the field course, ending with group presentations of initial findings. Throughout the course aims to provide contributions from local field biology experts along with evening seminars and discussions during which students will be expected to prepare material and contribute in the form of oral contributions and questions.

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 students of the aims of the component field course, as well as focusing on how students should prepare themselves 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 for the assessed reports

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during the field courseOngoing throughout the module AllOral
Continuous assessment based on contribution to group exercises, discussions and field workOngoing throughout the module 1-12, 15Oral during sessions
Project presentation during field course8 minutes1-12, 15Written

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 of A41-6, 9-15Written
Project report751000-1500 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 reassessment period
Project reportProject report1-12August reassessment 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 project presentation is not deferrable because it takes place during the field course and the mark comprises both group and individual components. If you are not able to participate in the presentation during the field course, and you are successfully granted mitigation, you will be awarded the group component marks for your presentation and this mark will be scaled accordingly. 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

 ELE page:

Indicative learning resources - Other resources


Key words search

Ecology, Conservation, Phylogeny, Statistics, Biodiversity, Animal Behaviour.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date