Module Catalogue 2020/21

MST8011 : Marine Ecosystems

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Nick Polunin
  • Lecturer: Dr William Reid, Dr Miguel Morales Maqueda, Professor John Bythell
  • Teaching Assistant: Dr Matthew Cobain, Dr James Guest
  • Other Staff: Mrs Julia Robinson
  • 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 marine ecosystems.

A rare mix of ecology and oceanography 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 (NP). 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 (JG). Heterogeneity of primary production, in particular phytoplankton in the oceans, relationships between spring blooms and sub-surface chlorophyll maxima on shelf seas with vertical ocean mixing processes (MM). Light and nutrient availability controlling primary production, effects of ocean physics on particular systems (MM). Marine animal diseases: prevalence, importance, prominence and ideas about their origins (JB). Large-scale climate change prediction in the sea and planning for it (JB). 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.

Teaching Methods

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials11:001:00Online module introduction
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion43:0012:00Online via Canvas: role play
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion168:3068:30Essay
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials151:0015:00Online via Canvas - short recordings of lecture material and text published on VLE
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical11:001:00Online - library search
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading153:3052:30Online - lecturers will give students reading for module topics throughout
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities22:305:00Online via Canvas - library based skills development
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching161:0016:00Online - tutorials to discuss topics, feedback
Guided Independent StudySkills practice23:307:00Practice talks
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities151:0015:00Online reading/small-group discussion for quizzes or presentations, according to individual topics
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops13:003:00Role play presentations
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00Online on Canvas - Q and A on plan for paper
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

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research paper1M70Max 2500 words excluding figures, tables, references and appendices
Prof skill assessmnt1M3015 minute team presentation (role play)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Research paper1MFormative feedback on individual research papers is available
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

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 that are summatively assessed.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes

Reassessment will include a revised project paper.

Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2020/21 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 2021/22 entry will be published here in early-April 2021. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.