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EK5001
Personal Research Development
CREDIT POINTS 10

Course Co-ordinator: Professors David Robinson and Dr Rene van der Wal

Pre-requisite(s): None

Co-requisite(s): None

The course will comprise a series of interactive tutorials. Subjects to be covered will include:
· What are the current research issues in ecology?
· The use and abuse of hypotheses.
· How are new ecological ideas developed?
· How is ecological research funded?
· What ethical issues do different types of ecological research raise?
· Making the best of bad data.
· How to read, write and publish a scientific paper.
· Planning an ecological research project.
Other content will, however, be dictated to some extent by the students’ needs, which will vary from year to year. Feedback from students early in the course will guide the exact composition of later elements. This flexibility will also offer the opportunity for students to request and receive dedicated training on topics or techniques they identify in response to their experience in concurrent modules. Examples of these could include: data collection methods; statistics; taxonomy; environmental legislation. To meet this need external experts will be invited to run relevant tutorials as appropriate. In all tutorials, students will be encouraged to participate in class discussions, to assemble relevant background information and to use it to present structured arguments. This course also allows essential skills to be developed for the Project Review (ZO5501) which is an essential precursor to the Research Project itself.

Tutorials

4,000 word Research Project Review. As well as forming the assessment for this course it will serve as a vital planning document for students' individual research projects.

EK5404
Responding to Global Change
CREDIT POINTS 7.5

Course Co-ordinator: Nick Morely

Pre-requisite(s):

This course will use ongoing field experiments as case studies to illustrate how key ecological issues can be addressed in practice. The pros and cons of possible experimental designs, environmental manipulations (e.g., warming treatments, nutrient inputs) and measurements (e.g., CO2 fluxes, nutrient budgets, carbon modelling) will be introduced and will form the basis of class discussions. Actual data sets will be used to develop students’ skills in analysing and interpreting the results of complex experiments. Consideration of the multiple drivers of climate change (e.g., land use, pollution) will be explored via climate envelope modelling, an approach that is becoming prominent in aiding in the prediction of sustainable options under different climate scenarios. Aspects of the policy framework in which climate change scientists increasingly have to operate will also be included. The course will include aspects of global change that go beyond climate change, i.e. pollution, food security etc.

EK5405
Advanced Ecological Techniques
CREDIT POINTS 7.5

Course Co-ordinator: Dr. Piertney

Pre-requisite(s):

x

EK5506
Ecology and Society
CREDIT POINTS 15

Course Co-ordinator: Dr Michelle Pinard

Pre-requisite(s): None

Co-requisite(s): None

In the course, students will
· examine a variety of research initiatives that fall on the interface between ecology and society (e.g. ecosystem services and restoration ecology; sustainability and resilience and the links between ecological systems and social systems);
· consider current issues and their relevance for ecologists (e.g. policies for increasing public involvement in natural resource conservation and management for ecologists, promotion of traditional knowledge);
· compare the roles of quantitative, qualitative and action research and to explain how research objectives and methods are matched to method;
· consider how ecological research findings impact on policy development; become familiar with tools used in the preparation of research proposals that have an applied, social element.

The class will meet for 12-16 hours, with sessions including lectures, discussions, presentations and task-based tutorials.

Assessment will be based on short, written critiques of research papers (40%), a concept note (40%), and participation in discussions and tutorials (20%)

EK5508
Personal Research Development
CREDIT POINTS 10

Course Co-ordinator: Dr Rene van der Wal and Dr B Scott

Pre-requisite(s):

The course will comprise a series of interactive tutorials. Subjects to be covered will include:
• What are the current research issues in ecology?
• The use and abuse of hypotheses.
• How are new ecological ideas developed?
• How is ecological research funded?
• What ethical issues do different types of ecological research raise?
• Making the best of bad data.
• How to read, write and publish a scientific paper.
• Planning an ecological research project.
Other content will, however, be dictated to some extent by the students’ needs, which will vary from year to year. Feedback from students early in the course will guide the exact composition of later elements. This flexibility will also offer the opportunity for students to request and receive dedicated training on topics or techniques they identify in response to their experience in concurrent modules. Examples of these could include: data collection methods; statistics; taxonomy; environmental legislation. To meet this need external experts will be invited to run relevant tutorials as appropriate. In all tutorials, students will be encouraged to participate in class discussions, to assemble relevant background information and to use it to present structured arguments. This course also allows essential skills to be developed for the Project Review (ZO5501) which is an essential precursor to the Research Project itself.

Tutorials

4,000 word Research Project Review. As well as forming the assessment for this course it will serve as a vital planning document for students' individual research projects.

EK5702
Applied Ecological Modelling
CREDIT POINTS 7.5

Course Co-ordinator: Dr Justin Travis

Pre-requisite(s):

The course aims to teach students how to construct and implement their own models. The course introduces simulation techniques and programming in either R or C++.

The main learning outcomes are:

- Increased ability for abstraction
- Ability to develop a model
- Ability to critically evaluate a model and the results that it produces
- Programming skills
- Development of oral presentation skills.

The course will comprise three practical sessions per week, where the students will be guided through the various steps involved in designing, implementing and analysing a model. The final session of the third week will provide the students with the opportunity to present their findings to the rest of the group.

3 three-hour sessions a week. Additionally, one longer session in the final week where students each present a talk. The length of this session will be determined by the number of participants.

Continuous assessment (write up of a model application (50%); critical appraisal (2000 words; 50%).

EK5802
Advanced Ecological Concepts
CREDIT POINTS 15

Course Co-ordinator: Profs Xavier Lambin and David Robinson

Pre-requisite(s): None

Co-requisite(s): None

Aim: This is a course designed to introduce students to the latest ecological research and to use this as a means to develop skills in analysing and exploring complex scientific arguments.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the course you should be able to:
· prepare a reasoned scientific argument
· participate in a structured class discussion
· discuss issues relevant to the range of ecological concepts presented
Content: The course will comprise a series of seminars by professional ecologists invited from the School of Biological Sciences and from neighbouring research institutes (e.g., Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Macaulay Institute). Each invited speaker will (a) provide a list of essential reading material in advance of the seminar; (b) deliver a formal seminar describing a particular piece of current ecological research: and (c) lead a structured class discussion during which students will have the opportunity to ask in-depth questions and to explore any of the issues raised by the seminar. The emphasis is on student participation and on developing skills in preparing relevant questions, in developing scientific arguments, and gaining experience in exercising critical judgment about concepts at the frontiers of ecological research. The range of topics covered will change from year-to-year to reflect the subject’s continuing development.

12 one-hour seminars and 12 two-hour tutorials/discussions during the course

1 three-hur written examination (80%) and in-course assessment (20%)

EK5803
Ecological Field Research Methods (Black Isle Field Course)
CREDIT POINTS 7.5

Course Co-ordinator: Rene van der Wal

Pre-requisite(s): Students must be registered on the MSc/MRes Ecology and Environmental Sustainability programme.

A field course of 8 days, followed by further data analysis and writing up time:
Day 1 - travel up (half day); exploration of premises and immediate surroundings
Day 2 - Exploration of various environments on the Black Isle to hone in to (for that year and weather conditions) suitable places to set research questions; exposure to ongoing research activities in the evening
Day 3 - Setting of research questions in the field; exposure to local ecological issues as framed by professionals in policy (SNH, RSPB) in the evening
Day 4-6 - Data collection in the field; processing and exploring of data in evenings
Day 7 - Data analysis
Day 8 - Travel back.

All field work based.

100% project report (10 pages maximum).

EK5804
Environmental Impact Assessment
CREDIT POINTS 15

Course Co-ordinator: Dr Lenka Maderova

Pre-requisite(s):

1) Origins of EIA; development of, and legislative background to, EIA in the US, EU, UK and worldwide
2) The EIA process and stages in this process
3) Screening and scoping criteria
4) Impact identification and evaluation techniques
5) Predicting environmental impacts: prediction methods, criteria for selecting methods, examples of prediction techniques
6) Mitigation and compensation measures, monitoring and evaluation
7) Planning process, public involvement and decision making
8) Related issues: Cumulative and Strategic Environmental Assessment
9) Case studies to encourage participative learning related to components of the EIA.

2 two hour lectures, 1 guest lecture and 1 one hour tutorial per week.

Continuous assessment (100%).

EK5903
Controlled Environment Research Project
CREDIT POINTS

Course Co-ordinator: Rene van der Wal

Pre-requisite(s): Having obtained a CAS 15 or higher for both Experimental Design & Analysis as well as Advanced Statistics.

Co-requisite(s): Be deemed ready to do an own research project by Christmas.

Note(s): Numbers will be restricted to only four students. This course has a value of 22.5 credit points.

A theme will be set and all students will work on individual questions related to this, thereby promoting discussion between students. The theme this year will be the invasion of the non-native plant tree mallow on Scottish seabird islands. Students will conduct experiments aimed at revealing some of the drivers behind this invasion to collectively generate a good level of understanding of cause and effect of this rather dramatic example of a non-native plant species on island ecosystems (impacting both plants and seabirds). Students will have to develop their own projects but will be encouraged to think about studying frost tolerance, plant-plant interaction studies, paleabotanical investigations, grazing tolerance studies, local adaptation.

Teaching will largely be through individual supervision, hence the cap on numbers.

Assessment will be an individual project report.

EK5904
Individual Research Project (without Bettyhill)
CREDIT POINTS

Course Co-ordinator: Rene van der Wal

Pre-requisite(s): Having achieved normally CAS 12 or higher for all thought modules.

Note(s): This course has a value of 67.5 credit points.

An individual project will be selected by the student and supervised by a member of staff, or where appropriate, also by an academic outside the University of Aberdeen.

Teaching will consist of project supervision.

Assessment will be an individual project report in the style of a research paper.

EK5905
Research Project Planning
CREDIT POINTS 7.5

Course Co-ordinator: Dr Rene Van der Wal

Pre-requisite(s): Registered for the MRes Ecology and Environmental Sustainability programme.

Co-requisite(s): None

How to write a literature review; how to plan a project; how to write a research proposal.

There will be one 3 hour session in each of the three weeks where the class meets with the co-ordinator. The other contact time will be arranged with project supervisors within the School.

100% continuous assessment in the form of a literature review and project plan.