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BIO1021 : Diversity of Life: Form and Function

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Mark Shirley
  • Lecturer: Dr Catherine Tétard-Jones, Professor William Willats, Professor Neil Boonham, Dr Maxim Kapralov
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The module aims to provide a broad introduction to the diversity of forms and functions in animals, plants and microorganisms that will stimulate students’ interest in all forms of life. The module will include the basic body plans of major animal phyla and the evolutionary relationships between those phyla, the diversity of plants in relation to different environments and the importance of microorganisms in the natural world as well as for human well-being. The combination of lectures and practical work will engender an understanding of fundamental biological principles and develop cognitive skills through the analysis and interpretation of data and observations obtained within the laboratory.

Outline Of Syllabus

Lectures on animals provide a broad introduction to major animal groups. They explore the evolution of fundamental characteristics such as body cavities, tissue layers, bilateral symmetry and type of cell cleavage during embryogenesis. Beginning with the simplest animals, the module examines the evolution of bilateral symmetry and of more complex characteristics in invertebrates. It then explores the early evolution of the chordates, leading eventually to the vertebrates.
Lectures on microorganisms will examine the diversity of prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms, key features of microbial growth and physiology, interactions with plants and animals and uses of microorganisms.
Lectures on plants will examine relations between plant structures, such as leaves, and their functions, how plants acquire nutrients and the importance of water, how they have adapted to the diverse and in some cases extreme and stressful environments in which they grow, and the likely consequences of climate change.
Practicals will cover:
Morphology of invertebrates and its relation to phylogeny
Comparative anatomy of vertebrates
Structures of microorganisms
Measurement of microbial growth
Nitrate in plant nutrition
Adaptation through Crassulacean acid metabolism

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion63:0018:00Preparation of formatively and summatively assessed lab reports
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion300:3015:00Revision for examinations
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00Examination
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture301:0030:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical63:0018:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study191:3091:30Student selected study of lectures, ReCap, Blackboard, textbooks, etc. to enhance understanding
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study300:4522:30Routine lecture follow up to identify areas requiring further, more detailed study
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study31:003:00Formative Blackboard tests (3 across both Semesters)
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will provide the framework and theory for appreciation of the diversity of form and function among living organisms. Practicals will give students the opportunity for direct observation of organisms, for developing skills in observation and experimental manipulation of organisms, and in collecting, analysing, presenting and interpreting experimental data. Directed reading and links to further information will encourage individual learning and will contribute to greater understanding of the topics within the module.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
PC Examination1202A70N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M10Assessed practical Zoology lab report (max. 2000 words).
Practical/lab report2M10Assessed practical Microbiology lab report (max. 2000 words)
Practical/lab report2M10Assessed practical Plant Biology report (max. 2000 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Practical/lab report1MPractice in analysing and reporting for Zoology
Practical/lab report1MPractice in analysing and reporting for Microbiology
Computer assessment1MBlackboard self-test quiz
Computer assessment2MBlackboard self-test quizzes
Practical/lab report2MPractice in analysing and reporting for Plant Biology
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The exam will assess factual knowledge of the diversity of life and basic ability to interpret biological processes. The practical reports assess the ability to record, analyse and interpret experimental results. Formative assessment through practice lab reports and Blackboard tests will help students prepare for the summatively assessed reports and for the exam by allowing them to gauge their preparedness and identify where improvement is needed.

Study Abroad students may request to take their exam before the semester 1 exam period, in which case the format of the paper may differ from that shown in the MOF. Study Abroad students should contact the school to discuss.

Reading Lists