Module Catalogue 2018/19

MST8011 : Critical Appraisal of Coastal Production Systems

  • Offered for Year: 2018/19
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Nick Polunin
  • Lecturer: Professor John Bythell, Dr Alan Jamieson
  • Visiting Lecturer: Dr Christopher Sweeting, Professor Alasdair Edwards
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



An advanced understanding of the major biological, ecological and physical processes affecting critical evaluation of human impacts on productive coastal systems.

A rare mix of ecology and oceanography of the coastal zone with case studies and principles of ecosystem functioning and management. The module provides a unique background to the scientific understanding and management issues surrounding the most human-impacted areas of the planet.

Outline Of Syllabus

Seminars: module introduction, introduction to projects (NP). Science, advocacy, approaches to gathering evidence, including strengths and weaknesses of experimental and macro-ecological data (NP). Population and community ecology, interactions between species especially predator-prey and prevalence of trophic cascades (NP). Alternate states, role of biodiversity in ecosystem integrity, and climate change, fishery exploitation and societal as drivers of marine ecosystem structure (NVCP). Marine protected area effects on ecosystems and fisheries, concepts of ecosystem management and ecosystem services (NP). Social-ecological systems and interdisciplinary marine environmental science (NP). Ecosystem restoration: concepts, strengths and pitfalls (AJE). Food web ecology and use of stable isotope approaches to understanding structure and dynamics (CJS). Ecosystem health and concepts of ecosystem health indicators, their design and application to monitoring and detection of ecosystem changes (CJS). Tropical marine systems in an era of climate change (BB). Heterogeneity of primary production, in particular phytoplankton, in the oceans (AW). Light and nutrient availability controlling primary production, effects of ocean physics (AW). Relationships between spring blooms and sub-surface chlorophyll maxima on shelf seas with vertical ocean mixing processes (AW). Marine animal diseases: prevalence, importance, prominence and ideas about their origins (JCB). Carbon futures: CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere, impacts on the ocean, different scenarios and planning for these (JCB)

Tutorials: Introduction to project, scoping projects, identification of research topics, progressing projects, oral presentation, writing a paper (NP).

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

On successful completion of this course, students will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

IKO1: An appreciation of what the coastal zone is, what systems constitute it, what the principal environmental issues affecting it are, and what ‘coastal management’ is.
IKO2: Understanding of the principal natural and anthropogenic processes maintaining and altering structure and function of coastal systems, and constraining the scope for management.
IKO3: Key concepts in ecosystem, management and conservation science.

Intended Skill Outcomes

On successful completion of this course, students will develop the following subject specific and intellectual skills:

ISO1: Sourcing and synthesising multi-sourced information.
ISO2: Reporting information in both oral and written forms, to address issues in Coastal Zone Management.
ISO3: Peer assessment of oral reports.
ISO4: Examination of issues across disciplines, role play and team work.

Graduate Skills Framework

Graduate Skills Framework Applicable: Yes
  • Cognitive/Intellectual Skills
    • Critical Thinking : Assessed
    • Data Synthesis : Assessed
    • Active Learning : Present
    • Literacy : Assessed
    • Information Literacy
      • Source Materials : Assessed
      • Synthesise And Present Materials : Assessed
      • Use Of Computer Applications : Present
  • Self Management
    • Personal Enterprise
      • Initiative : Present
      • Independence : Present
      • Problem Solving : Present
  • Interaction
    • Communication
      • Oral : Assessed
      • Interpersonal : Present
      • Written Other : Assessed
    • Team Working
      • Relationship Building : Present
      • Negotiation : Present
      • Peer Assessment Review : Present
  • Application
    • Occupational Awareness : Present
    • Commercial Acumen
      • Market Awareness : Present
      • Governance Awareness : Present
      • Financial Awareness : Present

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion175:0075:00Final Project Paper
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading140:0040:00Literature searching and project scoping
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching551:0055:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity115:0015:00Planning exercise and presentations
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDissertation/project related supervision115:0015:00Presentation skills, scenario building
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Seminars will provide a range of information and access to further information sources on physical, biological and socially-relevant processes in the coastal zone. Seminars and tutorials will best allow students to reflect on environmental issues facing coastal populations, their problems, causes and potential solutions and the aspects that they wish to focus on for their projects (IKO1-3). Skills in literature research and communication will be built by a scientific literature review (ISO1-4), for which students will each select their own topic.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research paper1M60Max 2500 words excluding figures, tables, references and appendices
Prof skill assessmnt1M2010 minute presentation
Prof skill assessmnt1M2015 minute team presentation (role play)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation1MPeer assessment of oral presentation
Research paper1MFormative feedback on individual research papers is available
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Short presentations will enable each student to gain from the knowledge and experience of peers to improve their work, which will be a critical review of existing scientific papers. Formative feedback will be given to students on development of project ideas and objectives. Criticism and summative assessment of the project paper will test each student's ability to: present a well-structured scientific report with good English usage, citation, referencing, and word processing, and appropriate illustration/tables; review of topic with fidelity, clarity of understanding and adequate scientific literature coverage; and show clarity and innovation of scientific argument. Electronic document submission will allow for originality assessment to be made.
Students' ability to work in teams to prepare and present a marine spatial plan, negotiate and learn lessons from competing interests will be assessed by the role play exercises one formative, the other summatively assessed.

Peer assessment (see also summative assessment/feedback forms).
The Graduate Skills Framework entries indicated as 'A' are also assessed in this way.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes

Reassessment will include a revised project paper.

Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2018/19 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 2018/19 entry will be published here in early-April 2018. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.