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Module OSX-3002:
Marine Ecosystems & Processes

Module Facts

Run by School of Ocean Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Martin Skov

Overall aims and purpose

The course aims to provide students with an integrated understanding of the key abiotic and biotic drivers that shape marine communities and habitats. It aspires to give students a framework for understanding the processes that cause marine systems to persist or to change. Drawing on course content and wider degree contents, the intent is that students will pull together their wider knowledge of systems and processes into a framework centred on the concept of ‘ecosystem functioning’.

The module is structured as three types of lectures, as well as a practical component. Lectures are on: (i) The main Drivers of Marine Ecosystem Function; these lectures aim to generate in students an understanding of the factors that underpin ecosystem functioning, as well as the factors that can cause ecosystems to change; (ii) Selected Marine Ecosystems (estuarine, mangrove, coastal shelf seas, pelagic and benthic subtidal); these lectures aim to illustrate ecosystem functioning, and aspects that affect ecosystem function, in an array of marine ecosystems; and (iii) Lectures on important current Global Impacts on the functioning of marine ecosystems: climate change, ocean acidification, invasive species, coastal development and fisheries disturbance. A practical component explores functional diversity in a coral reef setting, through analysis of published data. In three practicals the dataset is processed, analysed and presented (poster presentation).

Course content

The module takes as an over-arching theme the concepts of ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services. It commences with 5 introductory lectures that illustrate the factors that underpin ecosystem functioning, as well as factors that can cause ecosystems to change. The key corner-stones that underpin ecosystem processes are detailed. A particular focus is made on exploring the role of biodiversity in maintaining ecosystem functions and services. Drivers of ecosystem change and resistance to change are considered in the contexts of ecosystem resilience, system vulnerability and ecosystem regime-shifts. The role of biodiversity in maintaining resilience in marine systems is examined. Factors that determine secondary production of systems are considered, with particular focus on fisheries, marie vertebrates, zooplankton and marine benthos.

The practical shapes of ecosystem functioning, services, resilience and vulnerability are then illustrated by a series of lectures that consider the biology, ecology and conservational status of key ecosystems in detail. Systems for which particular focus is made are: estuaries, mangroves, coral reefs, coastal shelf seas, seabirds, pelagic systems and the open ocean.

The module also has emphasis on reviewing the influences of some of the most important current drivers of change in marine ecosystems (‘Global Impacts’). Six dedicated lectures examine the effects of invasive species, climate change, benthic exploration and fisheries disturbance on the functioning of marine ecosystems.

The course includes a marked course-work component. The practical component focuses on examining how guilds of coral reef fishes interact with coral reef structure. This component has particular emphasis on how functional diversity of coral reefs affect the traits of reef fishes. In the first practical session, students are asked to process an existing dataset, using R Statistics. I the second session, students progress to analyse the data and present it graphically. Students then, individually, produce a poster for assessment, from where two continuous-assessment marks arise; one poster mark arises from presenting the poster in a poster conference; the other mark is allocated to the quality of the poster itself (content, structure, design, appearance).

Assessment Criteria

excellent

Knowledge extending beyond the directly taught programme with evidence of enquiry beyond that contained in lectures, and beyond that derived from internet resources; excellent ability to integrate lines of evidence from a range of sources to support findings and hypotheses, excellent understanding of subject specific theories, concepts and principles, good ability to consider issues from a range of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspectives. Consistent and frequent referencing to relevant literature.

threshold

Knowledge based on the directly taught programme, basic ability to integrate lines of evidence from a range of sources to support findings and hypotheses, basic understanding of subject specific theories, concepts and principles, basic ability to consider issues from a range of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspectives.

good

Knowledge based on the directly taught programme with some evidence of enquiry beyond that perhaps derived from internet resources, good ability to integrate lines of evidence from a range of sources to support findings and hypotheses, good understanding of subject specific theories, concepts and principles, good ability to consider issues from a range of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspectives.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will demonstrate a good knowledge of the key environmental and biological drivers that affect marine processes and ecosystem functioninng, and the relevant temporal and spatial scale at which these operate

  2. Students will demonstrate a good knowledge of the specific processes that relate to each of key marine systems addressed in the course

  3. Students will be able to integrate systems ecology with systems processes

  4. Students will have the ability process, analyse and present a large dataset.

  5. Students will demonstrate an in-depth understanding of how biodiversity contributes to the resilience and regime shifts of marine systems, and appreciate the importance of functional diversity on ecosystem functioning.

  6. Students will have the ability to make and present a conference poster that conveys, simply and clearly, the results of a piece of research

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Group presentation (practical) 15
Scientific Poster 35
Exam 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Private study

Directed reading based on the course content and reading lists given. The student may in addition use web-based references, videos and images.

151
Private study

Questionnaire design task and group presentation

10
Practical classes and workshops

Three practical sessions lasting a total of 13 contact hours. This is split into three practicals: (1) a 5 hour practical in which students, working in groups, develop a survey questionnaire. (2) A 5 hour practical in which students analyse their survey results and draft a group presentation. (3) A 3 hour practical in which student groups present the results of their student surveys. (4) A 3 hour practical in which students present their posters.

16
Lecture

Formal lectures, averaging 2.5 per week (23 in total)

23

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
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • 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

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: