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Study information

Governing the Seas in a Changing World

Module titleGoverning the Seas in a Changing World
Module codeGEOM424
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Rachel Turner (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Oceans, seas and coasts may be considered a new frontier in sustainability science, with marine environments and coastal communities at the forefront of social-ecological change. This module examines the dynamic nature of marine and coastal social-ecological systems. Drawing on current environmental social science research, the module will examine issues of vulnerability, adaptation, resilience, social justice and governance for coastal communities and ecosystems. The module will be problem-focused and draw on real-world examples, using these to inform your understanding of the challenges involved in transitioning to more sustainable outcomes in the context of rapid social and environmental change.

This module is interdisciplinary (with a social science focus) and assumes no specific skills or experience. There are no pre-requisite modules required. It is accessible for non-specialist students, including those on multi-disciplinary pathways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module seeks to develop your understanding of the complex and dynamic relationships between society and marine environments, through critical appraisal of contemporary thinking around existing and future challenges. A series of lectures will challenge you to engage with environmental social science research that draws on multiple disciplines and theories, to consider how these can be deployed to tackle sustainability challenges. Module content will draw on current research-led case studies to examine the relevance and application of diverse theories and approaches.

An emphasis on self-directed learning will allow you to explore the module themes in a way that reflects your own interests. Lectures in this module will be supported by seminars in which you will have the opportunity to lead discussions and debates about the module topics. This will enable you to practice academic and professional skills useful for a wide range of future careers including: working independently and as part of a team; identifying problems and potential solutions; organising and presenting material effectively; planning and leading a seminar; and reflecting on your own performance. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe, illustrate and apply several key concepts used to understand human responses to environmental change.
  • 2. Critically evaluate different approaches to governance of marine resource use in the context of global environmental change.
  • 3. Apply case studies and theories to evaluate problems and solutions for different scales and places.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Synthesise material from a broad range of academic and non-academic sources
  • 5. Analyse and critically evaluate essential facts and theory relevant to governance and policy for marine and coastal social-ecological systems
  • 6. Demonstrate a self-reflective approach to learning

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Independently devise and communicate a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 8. Work as part of a team and independently
  • 9. Organise and present material and ideas effectively in different formats
  • 10. Manage deadlines and targets
  • 11. Design and lead a workshop or seminar based on defined learning outcomes
  • 12. Critically reflect on your performance

Syllabus plan

Each week will have a specific theme which will be outlined in the lecture. Lectures will be complemented by student-led and designed seminars based on the principles of active learning and building on the lecture content. These sessions are intended to allow you to explore specific aspects of your choice within each theme.

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:

  • Emerging challenges in marine and coastal environments
  • Vulnerability to change
  • Adaption and adaptive capacity
  • Equity and justice
  • Resilience of social-ecological systems
  • Governance of marine and coastal resources
  • Collective action, co-management and multi-scalar governance

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 and class-based discussion
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Seminars
Guided independent study130Additional reading, research and preparation for module seminars and assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar planning and delivery60 minutesAllPeer review and oral
Participation in seminarsSeminarsAllOral

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
Reflective report301500 wordsAllWritten
Essay703000 words1-10Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Reflective reportReflective reportAllReferral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1-10Referral/Deferral 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 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 re-submit the original assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Roe et al., eds. Biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.
  • Dryzek and Schlosberg (2005) Debating the Earth, Oxford University Press, Oxford
  • Adger and Jordan (2009) Governing Sustainability, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  • Leach, Scoones and Stirling (2010) Dynamic Sustainabilities, Earthscan, London
  • Walker and Salt (2006) Resilience thinking, Island Press
  • Brown K (2015) Resilience, Development and Global Change, Routledge

Key words search

Marine, coastal, sustainability, social-ecological systems, environmental change, vulnerability, adaptation, resilience, governance, co-management

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date