Module Catalogue 2024/25

GEO2228 : Biogeography

GEO2228 : Biogeography

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Maarten van Hardenbroek van Ammerstol
  • Lecturer: Dr Nick Cutler
  • 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



Biogeography is the study of the distribution of living things in space and time. We need to understand the processes that drive biogeographical variation if we are to predict the impacts of human activities and implement successful conservation policies.

This module will provide an overview of the way in which species distributions are impacted by environmental conditions and human activities. This will be done through a combination of lectures, seminars, fieldtrips, and practicals. The aims of the modules are:

- To demonstrate how environmental processes (past, present and future) shape the distribution of species.
- To evaluate the impact of anthropogenic activities on species distributions.
- To highlight the relevance of biogeography for policy and conservation.
- To provide training in field observation, data collection and biogeographical data analysis.
- To develop transferable skills such as group work, poster design and report writing.

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics that will typically be covered on the module include:

Geology and evolution of life
- How species evolve
- The biogeographical effects of plate tectonics
- The effect of long-term climate change on species distributions

The distribution of species
- The biogeography of different habitats (terrestrial and aquatic)
- Environmental drivers of species distributions
- Biological succession following natural and anthropogenic disturbances

- Measuring biodiversity
- Natural drivers of spatial patterns in biodiversity
- Human impacts on biodiversity, e.g., deforestation and pollution
- Biological conservation policy & practice

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.
- Evaluate field and laboratory analytical techniques used 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).
- Work efficiently in groups by recognising their personal strengths and weaknesses and communicating clearly with other group members.
- Provide constructive feedback on the work of their peers using marking criteria.

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)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical22:004:00Timetabled, synchronous, in-person teaching in laboratory
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical13:003:00Computer practical in cluster
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities12:002:00Computer practicals; asynchronous online guided learning
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities11:001:00Virtual fieldtrip; asynchronous online guided learning
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1129:00129:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching22:004:00Groupwork on posters
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching31:003:00Timetabled seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops13:003:00Group presentations of posters
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork13:003:00Fieldtrip
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery21:002:00Timetabled Q&A/feedback sessions
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 an academic 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, ability to convey complex issues visually and verbal presentation skills. Posters will be presented orally in small groups at the start of Semester 2. The groups will also provide written feedback (250 words) on a poster of one other 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 field data in small groups. The samples they collect will be 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


Welcome to Newcastle University Module Catalogue

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The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2024 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 2025/26 entry will be published here in early-April 2025. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.