Module Catalogue 2019/20

GEO2228 : Biogeography

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Maarten van Hardenbroek van Ammerstol
  • Lecturer: Dr Nick Cutler, Dr Ian Stevens
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Code Title
GEO1020Introduction to Physical Geography
Pre Requisite Comment

Exchange students that wish to take this module, please contact the module leader to discuss relevant background knowledge.

Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



Understanding which processes drive the distribution of species on our planet (Biogeography) is crucial for understanding threats to biodiversity and planning successful policies for conservation and protection of species and habitats.

This module will provide a state-of-the-art overview of the way in which species distribution is impacted by environmental conditions. This will be done by a combination of lectures, fieldtrips, and practicals. The module aims are as follows:
•       To make students aware of the spatial patterns in species distributions and the environmental processes driving these distributions.
•       Examine the response of populations and communities to environmental change (past, present and future).
•       Evaluate the possible anthropogenic impact on species distributions in the future.
•       To better understand relevance of biogeography for policy and conservation.
•       Provide training in field observations and data collection during two short fieldtrips.
•       Teach quantitative methods in analysing and integrating environmental data used to investigate and understand species distributions.
•       Provide training in data integration, data interpretation, group work, poster design and report writing.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus will consist of an introduction to how environmental conditions impact species distributions in the past, the present and the future. Topics that will typically be covered during lectures include:

•       Overview of the module
•       The history of biogeography

Geology and Evolution of life
•       How species evolve
•       Effect of plate tectonics on the distribution of species
•       The effect of long-term climate trends (icehouse/hothouse)

Biomes: the distribution of species
•       Terrestrial (soils, vegetation zones with latitude/altitude, consumers)
•       Freshwater (rivers, lakes, littoral, deep)
•       Marine (coastal, pelagic, deep)

Succession: changes in the distribution of species
•       Spatial
o       Water to Land (freshwater and marine)
o       Wet to Dry (high to low precipitation)
o       Warm to Cold (terrestrial and marine)
o       Nutrient poor to nutrient rich (terrestrial, freshwater, marine)
•       Temporal
o       Recovery from rapid events (fire, volcanic eruption, anthropogenic)
o       Response to slow events (soil development, lake infill, climate, anthropogenic)

•       Ways to measure biodiversity (alpha, beta, gamma, genetic, functional)
•       Natural drivers of spatial patterns in biodiversity (island theory, nutrient/energy sources)
•       Human impacts
o       Land use (deforestation, fragmentation)
o       Aquaculture & fisheries (food web change)
o       Pollution (toxins, nutrients, plastic)
o       Invasive species introductions

•       Policies & Regulations at local/national/international level
•       Monitoring & Restoration
•       Opportunities for citizen-science, volunteering, taking role as ambassador

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

After taking this module students should be able to:
-       Describe how geological, environmental, and ecological processes drive the distribution of species on Earth.
-       Explain and illustrate how human impacts affect species distributions
-       Demonstrate how policy development, monitoring, and conservation efforts can help to reduce negative human impacts on species distributions
-       Discuss which field and laboratory analytical techniques are available to study species distributions in space and time.

Intended Skill Outcomes

After taking this module students should be able to:
-       Conceptualise the geographical distribution of species in the context of environmental and species data.
-       Design appropriate sampling strategies to monitor and assess human and natural environmental impacts on species distributions.
-       Employ appropriate field and laboratory skills to collect and analyse samples.
-       Apply quantitative methods for analysing and integrating environmental and species data to understand species distributions in time and space.
-       Integrate results from data analysis into current debates on (changing) species distributions.
-       Set a topic in its wider context by summarising and prioritising key elements in a debate and presenting them in a clear and well-illustrated way (on a poster).
-       Recognise their role in groups and describe personal strengths and weaknesses in group work.
-       Recognise how they can contribute to group work efficiently.
-       Realise how they can communicate clearly with other group members about meetings, tasks, and deadlines.
-       Provide constructive feedback on the work of others using marking criteria provided.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture161:0016:00Theoretical background
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1162:00162:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical62:0012:00Lab/Computer
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching21:002:00Group Poster
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork24:008:00Off Campus
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will provide an introduction to key concepts in Biogeography, and provide an overview of species distributions at different spatial and temporal scales. The lectures will provide both the theoretical framework and applied examples via guest lectures.

Two short field excursions will be used to introduce students to the array of methods and data used to measure and observe species distributions in terrestrial and freshwater environments. Students will be trained in the field, the laboratory, and in the computer cluster to collect, process and quantitatively analyse datasets to understand the physical processes that determine species distributions.

Being able to work in a team is an important skill and will be trained via a guided exercise that will result in creating and presenting a poster, and providing feedback on a poster made by others.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
PC Examination602A25Computer Aided Exam
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report2M25Group work and individual report (1000 word)
Poster1M20Group work: creating scientific poster
Prof skill assessmnt1M5Group work: peer assessment of poster of one other group (200 words)
Report1M25Individual consultancy report to the Environmental Agency (1000 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Each semester, a data-based project will be undertaken.
Semester 1: students will collect data in small groups during a short fieldtrip and laboratory practicals, followed by individual data analysis and the writing of a consultancy report for the Environmental Agency (1000 words, 25% of overall mark). The consultancy report requires students to bring together different data sets and views on a contemporary topic that relates human impact on species distributions. Semester 2: students will be trained to analyse an existing dataset, which will be introduced during a field visit, and write an individual report (1000 words, 25% of overall mark).
Many of the graduate jobs taken up by students on this module will likely contain report writing, hence this is an important professional skill to develop.
The poster assessment in semester 1 consists of the creation of a science-type conference poster dealing with a contemporary example of anthropogenic impacts on species distributions. Posters will be presented in a “conference” style setup. Students work in groups to create posters (20% of overall mark) and provide written feedback on one poster of another group (200 words, 5% of overall mark). Providing detailed, explicit, useful feedback to peers is an important professional skill that students will be taught during this module and on which they will also be assessed.
The computer assessed exam enables the understanding of key concepts to be assessed at the end of semester 2. The exam (25% of overall mark) comprises a variety of question types, to test knowledge, understanding and application of material covered in lectures and core reading.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2019/20 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2020/21 entry will be published here in early-April 2019. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.