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Study information

Global Challenges Field Course (MSci)

Module titleGlobal Challenges Field Course (MSci)
Module codeLESM007
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Martin Stevens (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will use the most relevant location to explore biodiversity and how humans interact with, influence, and threaten wildlife, from the exploitation of natural resources to aspects such as wildlife trade. The location will comprise a number of comparatively preserved natural ecosystems, from forests through to marine habitats, with a wide range of biodiversity initiatives and green spaces. We will explore issues such as urbanisation, sustainability,eco-friendly farming, and biodiversity with examples including habitats such as forests, wetlands, urban spaces, and marine zones. The course therefore is geared to studying biodiversity, ecology, evolution, and behaviour, and to explore the challenges facing wildlife on global and regional scales. You will undertake activities both in the more developed regions, learning about threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, and more rurally studying ecology and behaviour, again especially focussing on biodiversity threats and initiatives. Further information on the module will normally be provided in term 2 of the final stage, including practical details about the field course.

When participating in field courses, you will be required to cover any visa costs and, if necessary, purchase anti-malarial medication and relevant immunisations. You may also need to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, e.g. walking boots, rucksack. You may incur additional costs dependent upon the specific demands of the research project chosen. Details of specialist equipment, vaccinations and visas that you must supply at your own expense are provided at

To address the climate emergency and potential impact of this module we will: pay for carbon offsetting for every attendee, aim to provide vegetarian/vegan food when subsistence is provided via the course organisers, use public transport (e.g. underground) wherever possible for internal travel, and encourage you to keep a diary of how you will manage your carbon impact over-and-above carbon offsetting. You will also be encouraged to avoid single use plastics and other avoidable impacts on the local environment.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to develop scientific knowledge and an understanding of biodiversity, but in particular in the context of the many threats facing wildlife and ecosystems regionally and globally, as well as biodiversity initiatives to solve these problems. A practical understanding of these issues will be developed through activities and data collection in in a variety of settings. You will undertake group tasks, observations, and experiments exploring issues relating to food consumption and effects on marine environments, wildlife trade (for pets, traditional medicine, and food), and how biodiversity can persist even in highly urbanised areas. You will also explore more rural areas with tasks and experiments to understand ecosystems that may include coral reefs, intertidal zones, wetlands, and forests, including how they function, aspects of species interactions, and behaviour, and how they are being affected by human actions. You will conduct your own project involving the conception, design, and execution of this.

The activities on this field course are driven by research and initiatives that are currently taking place regionally and globally. You will have the opportunity to learn from local experts and researchers, and engage in projects of relevance to biodiversity, ecology, and the environmental challenges faced in an area of high population pressure.

The skills you gain from fieldwork, teamwork, working with unfamiliar biodiversity, and working around the clock, will all stand you in good stead for careers and employability in ecology, evolutionary biology, and the environmental sector by developing or enhancing your employability. Transferable skills to other sectors include:

  • problem solving (linking theory to practice, responding to novel and unfamiliar problems, data handling),
  • time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group),
  • collaboration (taking initiative and leading others, supporting others in their work),
  • self and peer review (taking responsibility for own learning, using feedback from multiple sources),
  • presentation skills and audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively in multiple formats).

The teaching contributions on this module involve elements of research undertaken by module staff, such as work on animal ecology, behaviour, anthropogenic impacts, and marine biology, and human interactions, behaviour, and evolution.

Due to the fact that this is a field-based unit that may involve both urban and rural environments, it may present a challenge for students with impaired physical abilities and certain mental health conditions. Such students wishing to choose this module should seek advice from the module co-ordinator.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Explain in detail the problems of conservation and threats to biodiversity locally and globally
  • 2. Compare and contrast the attributes and diversity of animal and plant life regionally and globally, species interactions, and behavioural ecology
  • 3. Apply descriptive, comparative, and experimental techniques in novel ecological and urban settings
  • 4. Design and implement data collection for experiments alone and in groups

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Describe systematically and critically evaluate current problems and/or new insights in wildlife threats and conservation, and theory related to biodiversity and evolutionary ecology
  • 6. Describe in detail techniques and methodological approaches applicable to research in conservation, ecology, and biodiversity
  • 7. With guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis and enquiry within the fields of ecology and behaviour

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 8. Communicate ideas effectively and professionally by written, oral, and visual means
  • 9. Tackle and solve problems independently and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level
  • 10. Interact effectively in a group, and with people from other cultural backgrounds

Syllabus plan

A ten-day field course (plus travel) will take place, usually in October/November. . The field course will move around using local public transport, coaches, and taxis and with the help of local contacts. Details of specific locations, activities, and content of the field course, along with further reading lists will be issued prior to departure.

Pre-field course seminars and discussions will prepare you for the practical element of the module. This knowledge is reinforced through preparation of an assessed poster on a relevant conservation or biodiversity topic upon return from the field (poster session approximately three weeks after return). In the field, relevant skills are developed through tutoring in ecology, biogeography, conservation, behaviour, and evolution, which are applied in group observation and data collection. The research project will focus on some aspect of ecology or behaviour of local wildlife, or related to wildlife threats to the ecosystems.

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 Teaching and Learning3Preparatory seminars / discussions
Scheduled Teaching and Learning112Field-based tutoring from members of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation in biodiversity, behaviour, ecology, conservation and other biological topics
Guided independent study185Additional reading, research and preparation for the module assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions throughout the field course and poster sessionsOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral
Participation in seminar sessionsOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral

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
Post-field course poster on some aspect of the field course not directly related to or replicating the research project undertaken on the field course50A3 posterAllWritten
Ecological and/or behavioural monitoring training and research project culminating with a presentation (if you are unable to attend the field course for valid personal reasons the continual assessment will be replaced by a critical essay of 2000 words)50Ongoing throughout the moduleAllWritten

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Post-field course posterPost-field course posterAllDuring an appropriate specified time period before the end of July
Research project presentationCritical essayAllDuring an appropriate specified time period before the end of July

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 continual assessment is not deferrable because of its practical nature and, on deferral will be re-assessed by a 2000-word critical essay. 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 submit a 2000 word critical essay. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the mark and will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Myers, S. (2016). Wildlife of Southeast Asia (Princeton Pocket Guides).
  • Oswell & Davies. (2005). Black Market: Inside the Endangered Species Trade in Asia. Mandala Publishing Group.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Conservation, tropical, ecology, animal behaviour, biogeography, conservation, wildlife, evolution, observation, data analysis, field work

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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