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Module OSX-4002:
Habitat Ecology/Coastal Survey

Module Facts

Run by School of Ocean Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Stuart Jenkins

Overall aims and purpose

The module aims to provide the ecological knowledge and understanding of survey techniques to assess the abundance, distribution and diversity of marine life in coastal habitats.

Specific objectives:

1) To provide students with the understanding of the principles behind ecological surveys including appreciation of the inherent variability of marine biological systems

2) To develop knowledge of the ecology of major coastal habitats with particular reference to appropriate survey techniques

3) To develop the ability to plan and undertake an effective survey in a defined coastal habitat

4) To provide an understanding of health and safety and logistical constraints on field survey work

5) To develop the ability to produce a concise informative report on the background and specific results of survey work

Course content

This module provides an opportunity to understand the principles of ecological surveys in relation to a range of coastal habitats, both temperate and marine, and to put that knowledge into practical use by undertaking surveys in inter-tidal habitats of north Wales. The module begins with introductory lectures on the principles and background behind ecological surveys including an in depth look at the variability inherent to many marine ecological systems. This is followed by lectures on different coastal habitats and the kinds of survey techniques utilised. Following these lectures a practical exercise is undertaken involving group work to make surveys at a diverse coastal site nearby. Workshops are initially used to plan the practical work, followed by reconnaissance trips and finally the survey itself. A reporting workshop will be used to disseminate results.

Assessment Criteria


Basic report with acceptable layout and presentation but missing detail. Survey design acceptable but not the most appropriate and implemented to produce the bare minimum of acceptable results. Discussion of results minimal with limited insight into the ecology of the habitat surveyed.


Report with generally good layout and presentation. Survey design well suited to the habitat and well implemented with attention to detail and effective work in the field. Methodology described well in a concise scientific fashion with important relevant details. Results described clearly with good tabulated and graphical presentation of data and appropriate statistics. Pertinent discussion giving insight into the habitat surveyed with some appropriate references. Good appreciation of the pros and cons of techniques utilised.


Outstanding report of a well designed thoroughly implemented survey. Report having a concise introduction covering all relevant aspects of the study and giving full references. Materials and methods fully and succinctly described, data well presented in tabular and/or graphical format, data fully analysed using the correct analytical methods for all data sets. Discussion focused, critical and concise, covering all aspects of the study, and fully referenced. Design and layout of report exceptional.

Learning outcomes

  1. Know the principle characteristics of a range of temperate and tropical coastal habitats. Understand a range of different survey techniques and how and why they are used in different habitats.

  2. Understand how to plan and undertake an effective ecological survey. Know what makes an effective survey.

  3. Understand the importance of health and safety during fieldwork and the logistical constraints imposed by a range of factors

  4. Know the principles behind ecological surveys and understand how survey techniques are used to effectively describe variable systems

  5. Know how to produce a concise informative report on the results of survey work including the use of appropriate statistical analyses

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Shell Island Survey Group Report 60
Peer evaluation of contibution to group work 25
Survey group presentation report 15

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Field visits Field visits to local intertidal sites will be undertaken as a group to initially plan and then undertake biological surveys of key coastal habitats


Workshops A number of workshops will be held to facilitate the planning, execution and reporting of the biological surveys

Group Project

13 hours of lectures Lectures on the principles of biological survey, on survey design and on appropriate analysis will be given, followed by lectures on a variety of coastal habitats with focus on appropriate methodology for survey. Habitats covered are likely to include soft sediment environments, rocky shores, saltmarshes, coral reefs, sea grass beds and estuaries.

Private study 163

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in


Resource implications for students

Suitable clothing and footwear

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: