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NES3302 : Current Research in Ecology

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Darren Evans
  • Lecturer: Dr Jordan Cuff, Professor Per Berggren, Dr James Guest, Dr Dave George, Professor Angharad MR Gatehouse
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 99 student places

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

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


Rooted in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), this module will cover how advances in ecological theory can be used to address global challenges, in particular SDG 2 Zero Hunger; 13 Climate Action; 14 Life Below Water; and 15 Life on Land. The module will consist of contemporary topics in a range of biomes, each taught by experts intimately involved with the research developments being discussed. A central focus is the application of ecology to real-world problems, drawing on international examples as well as in Newcastle and the wider region, and the importance of effectively communicating scientific knowledge into clear guidelines that can be used by policy-makers, natural resource managers and/or the general public.

Outline Of Syllabus

Lectures will be based on up to four of the following topics in ecology, based on expertise of the teaching team including (but not limited to):
• Management of pest and beneficial species in agro-ecosystems
• Marine resource management
• Upland ecology
• Rewilding
• Afforestation and woodland management
• Efficacy and biosafety of GM crops
• Application of network ecology for restoration
• Evidence synthesis
• Biodiversity in agro-ecosystems: multifunctional land-use in farmed landscapes
• Coral reef restoration
A unifying theme is how to effectively communicate at the science-policy interface.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00Policy brief
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00Written assignment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion180:309:00Preparation for written assignment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials118:0018:00>90% course content, all PiP
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading111:0011:00Project presentations
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops52:0010:00Roleplay to understand and resolve competing interests of natural resource management
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork18:008:00Choice of fieldtrip to focus on one of the topics
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery71:007:00Online - guidance, consultation and feedback
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study139:0039:00Directed Reading
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study182:0036:00Study of lectures and other provided material
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study181:0018:00Lecture follow up
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk21:002:00Module talks
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will include case studies to demonstrate the application of ecological theory in practical contexts. Students will choose one of the topics for further investigation as part of a small-group field trip, use what they have learned for a guided roleplay exercise focussed on ecological practice relevant to that topic (part of the Policy or Management Brief assessment), and learn the skills needed to communicate scientific findings to policy makers.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M40Policy or Management Brief 6-8 pages
Written exercise1M60Critique of two key papers, each related to separate topics covered in the lectures (up to 1500 words each)
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 exercises1MGroup roleplay on application of ecological theory to a real-world sustainable development goal problem.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Both assessment methods will give students an opportunity to demonstrate that they have a thorough understanding of both underlying ecological theory, and how this can be applied to real-world situations and broader areas of the module content. Students will be expected to integrate material from multiple lectures, a fieldtrip, a roleplay exercise plus additional study, in order to answer the questions effectively.

The Policy Brief will assess students’ abilities to communicate often complex ecological concepts in clear, concise yet precise language, suitable for non-scientists to understand and make informed decisions.

The Critique of a choice of key papers appropriate to the topics covered will assess the students’ abilities to both describe contemporary ecological theory and evaluate its effectiveness in addressing an applied ecological problem. It will allow the assessment of students’ ability to critically evaluate methodology, types of analysis, scientific limitations and suggested improvements and identify knowledge gaps and future research questions.

Reading Lists