Coronavirus (Covid-19) Information

Module OSX-4005:
Marine Vertebrates

Module Facts

Run by School of Ocean Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Jan Geert Hiddink

Overall aims and purpose

The aim of this module is to provide a broad overview of the diversity of marine vertebrates conduct an independent desk study on a specific aspect of the biology/ecology of a marine vertebrate (chosen by the student in consultation with staff) and develop independent study skills and research skills. The specific aims are:

1) To develop knowledge and understanding of the diversity of marine vertebrates and their biology and ecology. 2) To develop and test specific hypotheses through the logical use of published literature and datasets 3) Teach students how to communicate through scientific writing

The student, under the supervision of an appropriate member of staff, will be in control of the project from its inception through to the final report. The report will, therefore require students to apply their imagination, initiative and self-discipline.

Course content

In this course, students will be given a broad overview of the diversity of marine vertebrates, their biology and ecology. In consultation with staff, the students will select a topic of their choice and conduct a detailed desk top study and write a report on this topic. Students will formulate a specific hypotheses and search for supporting and contrary evidence in the scientific literature and published datasets (such as fishery landings). The course will start with a series of lectures in which students will receive an overview of the diversity of the different groups of marine vertebrates (fish, mammals, reptiles and seabirds) and aspects of their biology and ecology. During these lectures they will also receive guidance on the type of topics that are acceptable for the desktop study. Students can suggest their own topic or choose from a list of suggested topics provided by staff. Emphasis will be on, but not limited to, testing hypotheses on the interaction between ecology of marine vertebrates and anthropogenic effects. After the lectures, all students will submit a topic; the suitability of these topics will be assessed, by a member of staff. At the end of the module, students will produce a report based on their analyses with a 10 000 word limit. During the course, students will also go to sea on the SOS research vessel Macoma to have the opportunity observe the behaviour of marine mammals and seabirds in the field.

Assessment Criteria


A good range of literature covered with several hypotheses is presented. Communication skills are good and the essence of the work is communicated in written form with general accuracy and little ambiguity


A very wide and detailed coverage of the literature is achieved with several eminently testable hypotheses proposed. Logical attempts at testing more than one hypothesis are presented showing an excellent understanding of the topic area. Communication skills are excellent. The essence of the work is communicated entirely accurately with no ambiguity and excellent interpretation.


A basic coverage of the literature and a limited attempt to formulate hypotheses. A limited knowledge of the detail within the topic area and little ability to attempt hypothesis testing. A basic communication of the topic area, which is largely very general, lacking specific detail and occasionally ambiguous.

Learning outcomes

  1. Specialist knowledge within a specific marine vertebrate topic

  2. Display the ability to conduct research independently.

  3. Ability to gather information from the scientific literature and condense it in a clear and coherent argument in an interpretive report.

  4. On completion of the module students will be able to demonstrate:

    Broad knowledge of the diversity of marine vertebrates

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
REPORT Vertebrates Report 75
REPORT Field Trip Report 25

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Point Lynas trip


One to one help sessions with vertebrates vertebrate report


29 hours of lectures

Individual Project 147

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

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Engagement with current developments in the biosciences and their application.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies of living systems.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.


Reading list

Helfman et al 2009. The diversity of fishes. Available as ebook through library

Gaston 2004, Sea birds: a natural history. Available in library

Hoelzel 2006. Marine mammal biology: an evolutionary approach. Available as ebook through library

Plus lecture-specific material provided in lectures and on Blackboard

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: