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Module OSX-3010:
Marine Mammal Observation

Module Facts

Run by School of Ocean Sciences

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr James Waggitt

Overall aims and purpose

This module focuses on marine mammal survey techniques. Teaching is divided into lectures, fieldwork and workshops. Lectures will introduce students to conservation issues, data requirements and survey techniques. Fieldwork will provide students with experience of boat-based and shore-based surveys; performing observations using a systematic technique, recording these observations on standardised forms, and processing these observations for analyses. Experienced observers from the Sea Watch Foundation will help students identify species, estimate group-size, distinguish between age classes, determine behaviour, and assess sea conditions. Both surveys are performed in north Anglesey; a region associated with frequent sightings of bottlenose dolphin, grey seal, harbour porpoise and Rissos dolphin throughout the year. Workshops will introduce students to analyses in R Statistics.

Course content

This module will guide students through the survey process - introducing them to observation techniques in the classroom, providing practical experience of these techniques in-the-field, and analysing data using appropriate software. Students will be formally and informally assessed throughout the module. First, students will develop their observation skills in an 'Identification Test' using photographs of UK species. Second, students will apply these observation skills to collect data on the abundance and distribution of marine mammals along the north Anglesey coastline. Finally, students will use their data to produce a 'survey report' investigating relationships between marine mammals and environmental conditions within this region.

Assessment Criteria


Limited knowledge and basic understanding reliant entirely on the taught programme.


Wider knowledge and moderate understanding based on the taught programme, but with evidence of enquiry beyond that. Able in data collection, data analysis and presentation. Understanding the limitations of methods used to collect data.


Extensive knowledge and comprehensive understanding based on the taught programme, and with extensive evidence of enquiry beyond that. Competent in data collection, data analysis and presentation. Understanding the limitations of the methods used to collect data, and suggestions as to how data collection might be improved.

Learning outcomes

  1. Analyse and report on data collected during surveys.

  2. Be familiar with surveys commonly used for marine mammals.

  3. Identify a range of marine mammal species.

  4. Record the abundance, ages and behaviour of marine mammals.

  5. Assess sea conditions during surveys of marine mammals.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COMPREHENSION TEST Species Identification 20
ESSAY Survey Report 80

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 50

Introduction to conservation issues, data requirements and survey techniques.


1 day of boat-based surveys and 3 days of shore-based surveys.

Practical classes and workshops

Analysis for the 'Survey Report'.


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
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team

Courses including this module