Biodiversity module description

  • This module takes an integrated approach to the diversity of life. It looks at the classification of the living world, the theory of evolution that links all biology and interactions between organisms and their environment. The module concentrates on major structures and patterns in plants, animals and fungi, how they vary within each kingdom and the interrelationships of some of the phyla. Structure is related to function throughout, with the ecological context and importance of each group. Populations and communities and the impact of environment on behaviour are addressed. The interactions between primary producers, mainly plants and animals, both antagonistic and mutualistic and between both and the wider environment will be examined to understand the functioning of ecosystems and the biosphere.
    • The classification of the living world; hierarchical system of Linnaeus based on similarity. Evolution and its historical context - relationships between living organisms; the kingdoms.
    • Plants: classification and relationships including evolution from algae; the relative success of each major group, their role in the ecosystems of the world.
    • Prokaryotes and basal eukaryotes: classification of the basal kingdoms and the relationship between them. Diversity of Bacteria and Archaea and “protists”.
    • Fungi: characteristics of the major groups, classification and ecological importance.
    • Invertebrates: an outline classification of some major phyla. Evolutionary and developmental trends within invertebrates. The importance and relationships of arthropods.
    • Vertebrates: classification and interrelationships of the groups and the structures and evolutionary success of each major group. Evolution within the birds and mammals.
    • An Introduction to Ecology and Biomes: The scale of ecology; Environment’s impact on the distribution of Organisms; Climate and its relationship to Biological Communities
    • Behavioural Ecology: Genetics and learning on behaviour; Mobility & migration; Foraging behaviour; Communication; Living together; Mating systems
    • Populations Ecology: Understanding populations (quantifying pop density, life tables and survival curves); Population growth; Human population growth; Species Interactions (Competition, Predation, Herbivory, Parasitism
    • Mutualisms and commensalism); Conceptual models;
    • Community Ecology: Community concept; Patterns of species richness; Calculating species diversity; Species richness and community stability; Succession: Community Change; Island Biogeography
    • Ecosystems: Primary production; Secondary production; Food webs
    • Biogeochemical Cycles & Anthropogenic effects: Perfect & imperfect cycles; Carbon cycle; Phosphorous cycle; Nitrogen cycle; Water cycle; Environmental systems
    • Conservation Biology & Biodiversity: Why conserve biodiversity; Causes of extinction and loss of biodiversity; Conservation strategies

    Students will be able to:


    • Have a broad knowledge of the range of living organisms and how the classification system works (cw1, exam)
    • Appreciate the basis and implications of the theory of evolution (cw1, exam)
    • Appreciate the range of structures within the kingdoms, examine the interrelationships between the different phyla (cw1, exam)
    • Demonstrate knowledge of biogeochemical cycles and anthropogenic effects on them (cw3)
    • Describe and exemplify nutrient and energy flow through individuals, populations and communities (exam)
    • Describe the structure, biogeography and diversity of ecosystems in relation to climate and soils (exam)
    • Describe and exemplify patterns of distribution of organisms in relation to biotic and abiotic factors (exam)
    • Demonstrate knowledge of population processes, dynamics and interactions, and associated theoretical models (cw2)
    • Demonstrate knowledge of community structure, succession and associated theoretical models (cw 4, exam)
    • Carry out routine investigations as instructed, using ecological methodologies and data analyses (cw2, cw4).

    On successfully completing this module, students will be able to:


    • Work safely and competently in the field and laboratory (cw2)
    • Acquire, analyse and interpret experimental data (cw2 & 3);
    • Keep full and complete records of experimental methods, results and interpretation (cw2);
    • Report experimental findings using accepted formats (cw2).

    Time and task management and self-performance evaluation through use of formative feedback and staged assessment (self management);

    • Using the library, writing essays and keeping a laboratory notebook record of practical work (learning skills; communication);
    • Student development of transferable skills is promoted through the inclusion of: an essay-writing assignment that requires use of word-processing skills (IT).
    Students will be given the opportunity to attend lectures and visit the botanical gardens and natural history museum as well as carry out practical work. Students are given regular quizzes to encourage them to read throughout the module and get feedback on their development. The students go out into the field and carry out their own ecological investigation to write up as a Formal Scientific report. The students get formative feedback for this exercise.
    Lectures Practicals Seminars Tutorials Fieldwork Other Assessment
    38 18  3   6   40% coursework
    60% examination



    The coursework comprises:

    Class quizzes (20%).
    Population ecology exercise (5%)
    Box model exercise (5%)
    Formal Scientific report (10%)