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Unit information: Marine Ecology and Physiology in 2015/16

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Unit name Marine Ecology and Physiology
Unit code BIOL21403
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2C (weeks 13 - 18)
Unit director Professor. Yallop
Open unit status Open


We recommend that students should normally 120 cps of appropriate L1 units or A-level Biology



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

Description including Unit Aims

During this course you will study a number of different marine ecosystems including: open oceans, the deep sea, hydrothermal vents, continental shelves, polar seas, coral reefs, kelp forests, mangroves, estuaries, saltmarshes, and rocky shores. You will consider how the interplay between physical, chemical and biological factors influence their diversity and productivity. You will study a range of organisms representing the whole marine foodweb from microbes, primary producers such as phytoplankton, via zooplankton, to fishes, and marine megafauna.

We will address topics of major concern such as: climate change and the effects of ocean acidification and temperature changes on marine organisms; El Nino and effects of large-scale changes in ocean circulation to productivity in the ocean; iron-fertilisation of the sea; marine pollution. The course includes 15 hours of lectures, together with approx 9 hours of practical work which includes two lab-based assignments (6 hours) and one (3 hours) practical assignment to be carried out in your own time. Primary literature will be provided for independent learning in Reading Week (Week 6). This course may be of interest to Geographers and Earth Scientists in addition to Biologists.


  • To provide a thorough grounding in the study of how the interplay between physical, chemical and biological factors influences marine ecosystems.
  • To provide a foundation for more advanced courses involving marine ecology and physiology.
  • To provide background knowledge for practical projects relating to marine ecology and physiology.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand the nature of the energy transfer in various ecosystems and will understand the relationship between ecosystem structure and function. They will consider the inter-dependency of marine organisms both on their physico-chemical environment and on each other. They will have an appreciation of the impacts of anthropogenic activities on the stability of marine ecosystems. They will gain an understanding of the adaptations of biota to different marine ecosystems. Expertise will be gained in data handing and interpretation.

Teaching Information

The course includes 15 hours of lectures (3 lectures per week during weeks 13-17 inc.), together with approx 9 hours of practical work which includes three practical assignments in weeks 13, 15 and 17.

There is a self-directed learning week (week 18). Students are expected to spend this time on directed reading of primary literature, the content of which is relevant to the end of session exams.

Assessment Information

Continuous Assessment (40%) End of Session exam (60%).

Reading and References

  • Marine Biology, Castro P and Huber ME (9th ed., 2013) McGraw-Hill International)

Other useful background textbooks:

  • Marine Biology an Ecological Approach, Nybakken JW and Berness MD (6th ed., or later, Pearson Benjamin Cummings,(2003)
  • Marine Ecology: Processes, Systems and Impacts
  • Marine Ecology: Processes, Systems and Impacts. Kaiser et al. ISBN-13:978-0-19-924975-6.