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Study information

Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation

Module titleMarine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation
Module codeBIOM4033
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Richard Sherley (Convenor)

Professor Brendan Godley (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Through seminars and discussions this module will see you interacting with a wide range of our renowned academics and their research on marine vertebrate ecology and conservation. You will gain insights into how the careers of the staff and our external partners have developed and the cutting-edge approaches they take to their research and conservation work. This will mean that you will be exposed to many of the research topics being offered by staff for research projects. You will prepare a literature review on an important ecological topic of your interest and an oral presentation on an important conservation topic.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module deals with the full range of important issues in the ecology and conservation of marine vertebrates and will contribute to a synthetic understanding of the scientific processes which underpin these endeavours. The module particularly focuses on leading edge research into how the ecology of marine vertebrates can be understood, threats to their status assessed, and how their biodiversity can be measured and preserved.

Researchers and the general public are increasingly aware of the serious decline in some marine vertebrates and that this may have unforeseen consequences. However, conservation workers and students of ecology and conservation are frequently unaware of the general underpinnings of their disciplines or of the general principles and information that can be found elsewhere. This module aims to school you in these general principles. For example, you will be given an overview of the latest research informing marine vertebrate ecology and conservation, and will consider critically how this research can be applied in real-world contexts.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate full and systematic knowledge of the key concepts in marine vertebrate ecology and conservation
  • 2. Critically and independently assess literature related to marine vertebrate ecology and conservation and write a critical analysis

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Discuss ideas and construct coherent arguments based on your independent and critical assessment of the discipline
  • 4. Solve practical problems in biology
  • 5. Critically assess scientific literature

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Professionally present new ideas and results
  • 7. Present written reports in a clear, concise, and logical manner
  • 8. Think critically, and critically appraise and logically solve problems

Syllabus plan

Diversity and abundance: you will be exposed to research covering the diversity and status of the different marine vertebrate taxa.

Objectives and monitoring methodology: you will be exposed to a diversity of approaches used to study the ecology of marine vertebrates and undertake their conservation. While content may vary across years depending on the profile of seminar speakers, this is likely to include bioacoustics, biologging, capture-mark-recapture, demographic modelling, fisheries stock assessment, GIS, marine spatial planning, passive acoustic monitoring, population genetics, protected area management, remote sensing (including use of drones) and socio-economic studies.

Threats and conservation: through student-led seminars and associated discussion, you will cover topics of global relevance based on the threats they pose to biodiversity and the consequences for conservation programmes: e.g. climate change, invasive species, over-exploitation and pollution.

The module will be delivered via face-to-face seminars, discussions and workshops.

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 Teaching5Mini-symposia including topics such as ecotourism, climate change, fisheries, pollution and marine protected areas
Scheduled Learning and Teaching24Seminars and discussion groups based on assigned readings covering topics such as fisheries, international trade, satellite tracking, population genetics, stable isotopes, and ecological modelling
Guided independent study121Additional reading, research and preparation for the module assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short student presentations during discussion sessions3 minutes1-8Oral
Short answer questions during lectures and seminarsOngoing throughout the module1-8Oral

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
Critical synthetic report – literature review in the format of a Trends in Ecology and Conservation (TREE) journal article502000 words1-8Written
Oral presentation508 minutes + 2 minutes questions1-8Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Critical synthetic reportCritical synthetic report1-8August reassessment period
Oral presentationOral presentation1-8August 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 mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and the work submitted 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 50%) you will be required to submit a further critical synthetic report. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the module mark and will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Rees AF, Avens L, Ballorain K, Bevan E, Broderick AC, Carthy RR, Christianen MJA, Duclos G, Heithaus MR, Johnston DW, Mangel JC, Paladino F, Pendoley K, Reina RD, Robinson NJ, Ryan R, Sykora-Bodie ST, Tilley D, Varela MR, Whitman ER, Whittock PA, Wibbels T, Godley BJ (2018) The potential of unmanned aerial systems for sea turtle research and conservation: a review and future directions. Endangered Species Research. 35: 81–100. doi: 10.3354/esr00877
  • Lewison R, Oro D, Godley BJ, Underhill L, Bearhop S, Wilson RP, Ainley D, Arcos JM, Boersma PD, Borboroglu PG, Boulinier T, Frederiksen M, Genovart M, González-Solís J, Green JA, Grémillet D, Hamer KC, Hilton GM, Hyrenbach KD, Martínez-Abraín A, Montevecchi WA, Phillips RA, Ryan PG, Sagar P, Sydeman WJ, Wanless S, Watanuki Y, Weimerskirch H, Yorio P (2012) Research priorities for seabirds: Improving conservation and management in the 21st century. Endangered Species Research 17: 93–121. doi: 10.3354/esr00419
  • Dulvy NK, Fowler SL, Musick JA, Cavanagh RD, Kyne PM, Harrison LR, Carlson JK, Davidson LNK, Fordham SV, Francis MP, Pollock CM, Simpfendorfer CA, Burgess GH, Carpenter KE, Compagno LJV, Ebert DA, Gibson C, Heupel MR, Livingstone SR, Sanciangco JC, Stevens JD, Valenti S, White WT (2014) Extinction risk and conservation of the world’s sharks and rays. eLife 3: e00590. doi: 10.7554/eLife.00590
  • Hays GC, Bailey H, Bograd SJ, Bowen WD, Campagna C, Carmichael RH, Casale P, Chiaradia A, Costa DP, Cuevas E, de Bruyn PJN, Dias MP, Duarte CM, Dunn DC, Dutton PH, Esteban N, Friedlaender A, Goetz KT, Godley BJ, Halpin PN, Hamann M, Hammerschlag N, Harcourt R, Harrison A-L, Hazen EL, Heupel MR, Hoyt E, Humphries NE, Kot CY, Lea JSE, Marsh H, Mazwell SM, McMahon CR, Notarbartolo di Sciara G, Palacios DM, Phillips RA, Righton D, Schofield G, Seminoff JA, Simpfendorfer CA, Sims DW, Takahashi A, Tetlet MJ, Thums M, Trathan PN, Villegas-Amtmann S, Wells RS, Whiting SD, Wildermann NE, Sequeira AMM. (2019) Translating Marine Animal Tracking Data into Conservation Policy and Management. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 34: 459–473. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2019.01.009

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Ecology, conservation, climate change, marine mammals, sharks, seabirds, marine turtles, bycatch, pollution, ecotourism, fisheries, marine protected areas, international legislation

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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