Module Catalogue 2023/24

GEO2228 : Biogeography

GEO2228 : Biogeography

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Nick Cutler
  • Lecturer: Dr Maarten van Hardenbroek van Ammerstol
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System

Modules you must have done previously to study this module

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.


Modules you need to take at the same time

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, a fieldtrip, 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 using fieldtrips and visual online materials.
•       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 in space (e.g., the emergence and persistence of patchy distributions) and time following natural and anthropogenic disturbances.

•       Ways to measure biodiversity (alpha, beta, gamma, genetic, functional)
•       Natural drivers of spatial patterns in biodiversity (island theory, nutrient/energy sources)
•       Human impacts, e.g., deforestation and pollution

•       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.
-       Understand how to 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
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture161:0016:00Timetabled, 14 lectures in person, 2 synchronous online (can be pre-recorded lectures if required)
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities12:002:00Computer practicals asynchronous online guided learning
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities11:001:00Virtual fieldtrips Asynchronous online guided learning
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1129:00129:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical22:004:00Timetabled synchronous in-person teaching
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical13:003:00Computer practical in cluster (could be replaced by asynchronous online guided learning if required)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching22:004:00Groupwork on posters
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching31:003:00Timetabled, seminars (could be replaced be synchronous online teaching)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops13:003:00Poster pres. conference with pres. and feedback (replaced by small group synchro online if req)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork13:003:00Fieldtrip (could be replaced by virtual fieldtrip if required)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery21:002:00Structured Q&A for computer practicals Timetabled (could be replaced by synchronous online teaching
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.

One virtual fieldtrip and one in-person fieldtrip 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 also be trained in the laboratory, and in computer practicals 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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Poster2M50Group poster, presentation, and feedback to another group's poster
Practical/lab report2M502000 words.
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Prob solv exercises1MSubmitting output (numerical values to questions/a figure) from the computer practical in sem 1 to assess understanding of computer practical output
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

In semester 1, students will be trained to think about research questions/hypotheses, sampling design, and how this impacts on results. This will be introduced during a virtual fieldtrip and computer practical. Advance planning and understanding the pros/cons of a chosen sampling strategy is an essential skill for any fieldwork activity and will help building towards the dissertation. This is assessed via a formative assessment (Canvas Quiz).
Building from seminars and the formative assessment, students will then create a science-type conference poster as a group (50% of overall module mark) dealing with a contemporary example of anthropogenic impacts on species distributions. Posters will assess research questions and sampling design, understanding of the chosen topic, and ability to convey complex issues visually. Posters will be presented orally in small groups at the start of Semester 2, and provide written feedback (250 words) on a poster of one nother group as part of the assessment. Providing detailed, explicit, useful feedback to peers is an important professional skill that students will be taught during this module.

In semester 2, students will collect data during a fieldtrip in small groups, and further analysed during laboratory practicals, followed by individual data analysis and the writing of a consultancy report (2000 words, 50% 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. 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.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


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