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Last modified: 22 May 2019 17:07

Course Overview

In essence, this course addresses the question ‘How do marine ecosystems work?’

You explore the ecology of different marine ecosystems, examining current understanding of the patterns seen and the processes underlying them.

Interactive lectures and other materials present key information on marine ecosystems and guide your navigation of the marine ecological literature and the Ecosystem Approach to understanding and managing living marine resources.

In practicals you sample and measure biological and environmental aspects of marine environments, investigate adaptations of marine organisms to their environment. Reporting practical findings develops your skills in data analysis and scientific writing.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 3
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Dr Philip Smith

Qualification Prerequisites

  • Either Programme Level 3 or Programme Level 4

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

The course addresses questions, such as ‘What determines the distribution and abundance of species?’, ‘What processes govern the population dynamics and productivity of individual species?’, ‘What causes the variation seen in marine biodiversity in space and time?’, ‘How and why does the structure of marine food webs vary?’, ‘How do these variations relate to ecosystem processes, such as the efficiency of energy transfer and nutrient recycling?’

Lectures will deepen your understanding of essential physical oceanography, and the key components of marine food webs and how they interact, before exploring the characteristics of major marine ecosystems, such as polar oceans; shelf seas; coastal systems, both temperate and tropical; and the deep sea. Related topics in marine management and conservation will also be covered.

The practicals include a three-week multidisciplinary study of an estuarine ecosystem; investigation of the morphology and adaptations of a wide range of fishes from shallow and deep water; and quantitative analysis of deep-sea imagery. The practicals will develop your field and laboratory skills, both in groups and individually, as well as your abilities in data analysis and producing reports of marine biological investigations.

Associated Costs


Further Information & Notes

The course is available only to students in Programme Year 3.

This course runs in weeks 13–17 with an introductory session in week 12, and is scheduled in Thread 1, so may have contact hours in any or all of these times:  Mondays, 0900–1300; Thursday, all day; Friday, 0900–1300. 

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

1st Attempt: 1 three-hour written examination (50%), assessment of laboratory work (50%).

Resit: Similar to 1st attempt, with continuous assessment mark(s) and /or exam mark carried forward with an opportunity to resit either or both, depending on what was failed in the first attempt.

Formative Assessment

There will be informal verbal feedback throughout practical sessions.


Feedback will be provided as marks and written comments for each task.

Course Learning Outcomes


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