Methodology module description

  • A residential one-week field course based in France, which uses the rich natural history, habitat and landscape diversity of the area to focus on the introduction and development of interdisciplinary field study skills. These include:
    • identification of terrestrial and aquatic flora and fauna
    • ecological and biogeochemical sampling techniques for the study of terrestrial and aquatic environments
    • chemical analysis of soils and waters
    • quantitative description and data analysis
    • designing field investigations.

    The field course runs soon after the start of the summer vacation and is supplemented by lectures and practical activities that run at the end of the preceding semester. These activities are designed to introduce some of the techniques and approaches used on the field course. The module does not include assessed group work.

    • Identification of terrestrial plant species including making a collection.
    • Identification of terrestrial invertebrates in different habitats.
    • Terrestrial plant and invertebrate communities: ecological sampling strategies and techniques; analysis of soils; patterns of community structure.
    • Identification of freshwater invertebrate species; freshwater invertebrate communities and assessments of water quality: ecological and chemical water quality sampling techniques; similarity and difference indices for describing ecological communities and assessing biological water quality; biological vs chemical measures of water quality; investigation design.

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

    • have a basic understanding of identification of plants and some animal groups
    • relate theories of the structure and appearance of organisms to practical experience in the field
    • outline the principles of taxonomic classification
    • describe the strengths and weaknesses of different environmental sampling regimes
    • outline the principles and application of a number of chemical analysis techniques
    • explain how errors and uncertainties arise during the collection of environmental data, how they are assessed, and why their assessment is important


    • work safely and competently in the field and laboratory (coursework 1-4 - see below for more details)
    • use keys and other reference materials to identify terrestrial and aquatic plants and invertebrates (cw 1-4)
    • undertake appropriate sampling and chemical analysis techniques, and data handling, quantitative analysis and interpretation methods (cw 2-4)
    • report study findings using accepted formats (cw 3-4).

    Student development of transferable skills is promoted through the inclusion of:

    • a range of assignments that require varied written styles and presentation formats (communication)
    • fieldwork activities that encourage a problem-solving approach (problem-solving)
    • assignments that require use of word-processing and spreadsheet tools (IT).
    Practicals Seminars Tutorials Fieldwork Other Assessment
    9      56   100% coursework

    Coursework details

    1. Keys, Collection and species identification test 25%
    2. Notes and analysis from streams and soils 25%
    3. Woodland and plant species study 25%
    4. Butterfly and invertebrate analysis 25%

    (No groupwork assessment)