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Unit information: Oceans in 2021/22

Unit name Oceans
Unit code BIOL30011
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Genner
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

Marine ecosystems provide a wealth of opportunity to teach biological phenomena through engaging and thought-provoking examples. We will teach key concepts relating to the evolution and ecology of life in oceanic systems. We will examine evidence of how oceanic ecosystems have changed over evolutionary timescales, and the drivers of spatial and temporal patterns of oceanic biodiversity over macroecological gradients. We will discuss how the distributions and behaviours of marine species are related to environmental variables, and the sensory, morphological, physiological and behavioural adaptations that have enabled species to occupy those niches. We will describe how technological advances in fields such as sensing, telemetry and genomics are helping us to understand the marine biodiversity in more detail than ever before. We will describe the latest evidence for human impacts on marine ecosystems and discuss proposed strategies for mitigation and conservation. Throughout the course we will emphasise how methodological and technological innovation has and will continue to be critical for providing the increasingly robust insights that developed the field over recent years.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students should be able to:

  1. Explain how and why the oceans have changed over long evolutionary timescales
  2. Describe the processes that drive the structure of marine biodiversity
  3. Illustrate how key environmental variables affect biological communities and ecological interactions.
  4. Explain how sensory, morphological, physiological and behavioural adaptations have evolved through natural selection.
  5. Describe the challenges faced by marine organisms in the Anthropocene, and measures to mitigate or alleviate those human- induced challenges where possible.
  6. Evaluate the strength of scientific evidence presented in scientific papers relevant to the theories presented in the unit
  7. Apply understanding of underlying key principles (1-5 above) to construct research agendas to study and explain novel scenarios.
  8. Combine knowledge of scientific literature to support research proposed in 7, above.

Teaching Information

Lectures, directed reading, research and/or problem-solving activities; and independent study.

Assessment Information

Summative written assessment, with one essay question to be selected from a choice of two.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. BIOL30011).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.