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Study information

Biology of Marine Vertebrates

Module titleBiology of Marine Vertebrates
Module codeBIO3098
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Lucy Hawkes (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Marine megavertebrates (including turtles, sharks, rays, cetaceans, penguins and other aquatic birds) are charismatic species of conservation concern, which attract much policy, public and research attention. The study of marine vertebrates incorporates techniques and approaches across disciplines, including biologging (the attachment of tracking devices), satellite remote sensing and physiology. Building on Stage 1 and 2 modules, you will learn about the different techniques used to study each group of marine vertebrates, and research themes at the cutting edge of this research field. Critically, you will develop computer-based analytical skills to work with marine vertebrate data, and the module will feature research-led teaching to understand the very latest developments in the field. The module will also provide you with key employability skills in analysis and communication.


Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of the module is to provide you with an in-depth insight into vertebrate life in the water and the ways in which marine vertebrates can be studied for conservation and management. This insight will help you to develop critical and creative thinking about studying vertebrates in the wild and provide key employability skills in analysis and communication.

The practical knowledge and skills acquired by taking this module are relevant to many areas of employment such as conservation, consultancy, environmental planning, medicine and forensics. By taking part in the computer-based practicals you will learn skills of observation, accurate data recording and demonstrate critical thinking which are key to careers in fundamental and applied sciences.

The module content is updated every year to explore topical research areas, some of which are being carried out in the department, and some of which are of global relevance. For example, we debate cutting edge research into animal biologging and conservation. We share latest manuscripts submitted to journals, grant reviews in which we are engaging and brand new publications as they come out during term time. You will learn about the tools required to study marine vertebrates, and explore how science can inform policy and practice, which is useful in the context of careers in conservation policy, science, in NGO and consultancy as well as academia.


Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe the ecology, physiology, role and importance of a range of marine vertebrates
  • 2. Critically evaluate a range of case studies concerning marine vertebrate ecology and physiology
  • 3. Understand and discuss the use of ‘biologging’ approaches for studying marine vertebrates

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Identify critical questions and methodologies from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 5. With limited guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 6. 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...

  • 7. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 8. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance

Syllabus plan

The module will commence with an orientation session that will provide full details of the module aims, content and assessment criteria, whilst also outlining what is expected of students. Thereafter, the module content is organised into distinct topics, providing a logical progression towards the understanding of the thematic areas highlighted above. Throughout the module, lecture content will be supplemented with additional resources, including relevant scientific articles and reports. In parallel with lecture content, computer practicals will provide training in analytical skills. These skills will provide the foundation for the formative, and later summative assessments that aim to develop your data analysis and interpretation skills, and your ability to effectively communicate research outcomes.

Lectures will include, but are not limited to:

  • Biologging techniques that archive sensor data
  • Biologging techniques that remotely transmit data
  • Biologging techniques to make inferences about the behaviour and location of marine vertebrates
  • The biology of migration in marine animals
  • Diving physiology (oxygen storage, hypoxia tolerance)
  • Specific case studies including bluefin tuna, basking sharks and sea turtles (which directly map to the course assessment).

Accessibility statement:
As part of this module you will undertake sessions in the computing laboratory that are of 2-3 hrs in duration. Breaks are possible and students are able to leave the laboratory for short periods. Please contact the module convenor if you require any particular support within practical sessions.

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 teaching12Lectures (12x 1 hr)
Scheduled learning and teaching12Computer-based practicals (4x 3 hr)
Guided independent study64Lecture and practical consolidation, and associated outside reading
Guided independent study62Completion of formative and summative coursework assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions throughout lectures and practical assessmentsAd hocAllOral
Formative feedback on draft of analyses prior to poster hand inAd hocAllOnline/written

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
Poster70A3 poster1-8Written
R markdown301,000 words plus unlimited images1,2,4,6Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PosterA3 poster (70%)1-8August Ref/Def
R markdownR markdown (30%)1,2,4,6August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons that are approved by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. If deferred, the format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). The mark given for a deferred assessment 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 (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) and the module cannot be condoned, you will be required to complete a re-assessment for each of the failed components on the module. The format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). If you pass the module following re-assessment, your module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Marine vertebrate, cetacean, shark, fish, turtle, snake, lizard, physiology, ecology, adaptation, diving, biologging

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO1331 Animals, and BIO2082 Animal Ecophysiology or BIO2074 Marine Biology

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date