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BIO2040 : Field-based Ecology: designing experiments, and residential field course

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Zarah Pattison
  • Other Staff: Dr Evelyn Jensen, Dr Richard Bevan, Dr Marion Pfeifer, Professor John Bythell, Dr Gavin Stewart, Professor Darren Evans, Professor Aileen Mill, Dr Simon Peacock
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


(1) developing scientific questions with clear aims and objectives, and hypotheses; (2) the design, planning, conducting, and reporting of field investigations, using a variety of field work techniques; (3) approaches to obtaining, recording, collating, analysing, and presenting data using appropriate statistical analyses and (4) undertaking field investigations of living systems in a responsible, safe and ethical manner. This provides formative training, assessment and feedback that equips students to carry out their final year Research Project (BIO3199 and others) in any subject area, as well as increasing their practical field work, data processing and interpretation skills.

Outline Of Syllabus

A two-week block module.

Week 1: utilising virtual environments of three habitats (Freshwater, Terrestrial and Marine) students will learn a variety of sampling techniques appropriate to each habitat; common statistical problems encountered when designing experiments for field-based research; critical thinking for defining aims, objectives, and hypotheses for scientific research; EDI and Health and Safety in the field

Week 2: at one of three residential centres students will implement skills learnt in Week 1 to design and implement a field-based including group project planning, training in field work techniques, data collection, analysis, presentation, and critical appraisal.

Afterwards: preparing an individual write-up in the form of a scientific paper.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00Assessment - individual report using group collated data from group activity - 85% course mark
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion110:0010:00Assessment - group oral presentation using group collated data from group activity - 15% course mark
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials103:0030:00Prep work and Follow up to workshops – Includes background reading and review of lecture notes
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture51:005:00Online via canvas: short lectures on health and safety, EDI, experimental design, sampling
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities53:0015:00Non-synchronous - Learn materials on canvas, virtual environments
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops53:0015:00PiP or Synchronous online health and safety, EDI, experimental design, sampling
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork510:0050:00PiP Residential Course (if permissible)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery51:005:00PiP or Synchronous online sessions
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity201:0020:00Virtual environment tasks building skills for fieldwork, preparatory work for residential course.
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity201:0020:00Data collection, analyses and presentation
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Habitat and sampling technique exploration and planning are conducted in virtual environments, enabling access to a range of habitats. This prepares students for potential pitfalls, experimental design challenges and safety considerations prior to project design in the field. Detailed planning, field data collection and group data analysis are all undertaken at the residential centre, with each team of up to 8 students assigned to an individual staff supervisor. Writing up is an individual activity for each student.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research paper2M85Project report (2500 words)
Oral Examination2M15Group oral presentation (15-20 minutes)of results at residential centre
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Prof skill assessmnt2MTeam Contribution Assessment
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The completion of a piece of scientific research is normally signalled by submission of a paper to a peer-reviewed journal. An individually written submission (85%; up to 2,500 words) of this kind is submitted 2 weeks after the end of the residential field course. Marked by the group supervisor and moderated by module leader.
Oral assessment (15%; 15-20min) at the end of the residential field visit will check understanding and practice oral presentation skills; group presented.
Effective teamwork will have an influence on the utility of data collected, and the quality of analysis and interpretation, so each student’s contribution is formatively assessed by their staff supervisor and group peers for academic impact and industry in the field.

Reading Lists