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BIO2041 : Vertebrate Biology

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Mark Shirley
  • Lecturer: Dr Richard Bevan
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


To provide training and expertise in field study and monitoring of mammal populations. The course will provide a broad view of different methods, analysis and their applications in wildlife population management and conservation.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will be taught as a week long field course at Cockle Park Farm. Students will learn practical skills involved in collecting data using four field survey techniques. During the course the students will learn how to analyse population and distribution data using the latest software packages in R. Students will consider the application of the techniques to different survey and monitoring situations in including ethical considerations and experimental design.

Field techniques may include:

Radio-tracking of habitat use by mammals:
A practical exercise will provide experience in tracking of mammal species. Students will be trained in the use of telemetry equipment and the analysis of spatial point data.

Small mammal trapping to estimate population density:
Assessing mammal population density is difficult because most mammal species in the UK are rarely observed. We will train students in the use of baited trapping (of rodents) with mark-release recapture as a means of analysing population density.

Dietary Analysis
Student will be trained in the dissection of owl pellets to reconstruct diets. Skills developed will be in identification of rodent skulls and dentition and in community composition analysis using multipvariate techniques.

Distance sampling for estimating abundance and density
Students will be trained in distance sampling methodology for estimating abundance and density. Students will learn how to estimate detection rates and incorporate error into their abundance estimates.

Camera Trapping
Students will learn how to set camera traps for monitoring and surveying. Students will learn how to estimate detection rates and incorporate error into their abundance estimates

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion135:0035:00Preparation and completion of Essay
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials201:0020:00Non synchronous lecture material via Canvas
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading160:0060:00Consolidation of lecture material
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical33:009:00PiP - Dissections in Laboratory
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study201:0020:00Lecture follow up
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study130:0030:00Study of lectures, Recap, Canvas etc.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study33:009:00Practical assessments and assessment preparation (Canvas tests and formative assessment)
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study33:009:00Practical preparation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk81:008:00Synchronous online module talks
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module will be practical based, each technique will be introduced with a short lecture providing the background on the ecology of the species to be monitored and the practical, welfare and ethical considerations of the technique. Students will be given a brief of each task and shown how to use specific equipment in small groups,to ensure adequate demonstration and to allow the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the uses and benefits of each technique. All students will have the opportunity to use all the techniques.
Data analysis will be guided with detailed hand outs on how to correctly collate data and basic usage of the packages and functions. Where limited data have been collected in the field suitable datasets for full analysis will be provided. Students will be encouraged to use available resources (books, papers,websites) to further their knowledge for details on more advanced analysis.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Computer assessment2M30Canvas quiz following practical 3
Essay2M70Time limited Essay
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Computer assessment2MCanvas quiz, assessment of first dissection allows students to learn skills and to practise the representation of dissection.
Computer assessment2MCanvas quiz - assessment of the second dissection allows students to learn skills and to practise the representation of dissection.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The report will directly assess understanding of the practical, welfare and ethical considerations of the techniques covered and will include writing up data analyses and structured discussion (based on specific questions to determine depth of knowledge).

Reading Lists