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NES2506 : Deep-Sea and Polar Biology

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Benjamin Wigham
  • Lecturer: Dr William Reid
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


To appreciate the diverse range of deep-sea and marine habitats and the challenges they provide for the organisms living there.
To develop an understanding of how variability in the form and function of these organisms allows them to exist in a range of challenging environments and habitats.
To gain knowledge of the physiology and life-history of a range of deep-sea and polar marine organisms and how certain specialisations enhance the ecological success of those species.
To develop and understanding of how the links between geology, chemistry and biology in these system helps to shape the distribution of species.
To appreciate the particular challenges faced by these systems from anthropogenic perturbation and climate change.

Outline Of Syllabus

Lecture-based course focussed on the following themes will be delivered;

Bathyal, Abyssal and Hadal Ecology
Adaptations to life in the dark
Vision and Bioluminescence
Food-webs and energy sources
Reproduction and larval biology
Diversity and endemism of deep-water and polar fauna
Adaptation and responses to low temperature
Adaptation and responses to warming temperatures
Anthropogenic impacts on deep-sea and polar ecosystems

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion316:0048:00Formative and summative coursework
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture251:0025:00Lectures
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading242:0048:00Wider subject reading
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities81:008:00Weekly online quiz completion
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities122:0024:00Online supplementary materials relating to case studies inked to lecture topics
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study147:0047:00Lecture material follow-up and engagement with supplementary materials
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures and associated supplementary materials are designed to give students a broad factual knowledge of key concepts in deep-sea and polar biology and ecology. The lectures will focus on key deep-sea and polar habitats and the traits and characteristics of the inhabitants that allow for their adaptive success in these environments. In all systems the importance of energy (food) supply and cycling will be emphasised as key structuring elements in determining the composition of the community and the evolution of form and function through natural selective pressures.  

Directed research, through the use of supplementary online material and activities, and wider reading of the scientific literature will support the information received through lectures. Independent study will be guided through the use of these materials and online access to key primary research papers/eBooks. Students will be encouraged to become more independent in their learning at this stage in their programmes to develop key skills such as Active Learning, Goal Setting and Action Planning, Decision Making, and Initiative, which they will require at Level 6.  

Assessment preparation and completion will allow students to fully prepare for both their formative and summative coursework assessments. They will have the opportunity to consolidate and build upon knowledge gained in lectures.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Digital Examination1502A70Digital Inspera exam. 2.5hr comprising two parts. Part A . Short note questions (10); Part B Short Essay (1 from 4)
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Prob solv exercises2M30Data collection, presentation and analysis exercise
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Prob solv exercises2MData collection, presentation and analysis exercise
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The 2 x 1000 word (or equivalent) pieces of formative and summative (30%) coursework will assess student’s knowledge of specific aspects of the course through a combination of written work and data analysis, in addition to examining their use of the relevant literature to support their ideas and their ability to present visual information and data in an appropriate scientific format.

The Inspera digital examination (70%) comprises 10 short notes questions to assess breadth of knowledge and understanding of key concepts, and one (1500-word equivalent) essay from a choice of four. Each essay question will cover key topics from the lecture themes.

Reading Lists