Coronavirus (Covid-19) Information

Module OSX-3011:
Extreme Marine Habitats

Module Facts

Run by School of Ocean Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Laura Grange

Overall aims and purpose

The vast array of habitats found within the Earth's oceans is central to a wide diversity of life. Amongst them are the Polar Regions of the Arctic and Antarctic where temperatures plummet, corals reefs that represent some of the densest and most diverse habitats in the ocean, deep-sea habitats that exist thousands of meters from the surface, and deep-sea reducing habitats that thrive on reduced chemicals and the unique metabolic processes of microbial communities. In this module, we will focus on a range of different extreme marine habitats, introducing the physiologically challenging conditions that determine the abundance, distribution patterns and ecology of the marine organisms that live there.

This module will: - Explain why no extreme habitat is extreme to the organisms that live there. - Introduce a range of extreme habitats including the Polar Regions, coral reefs, the deep sea and deep-sea reducing habitats such as hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. - Examine the physiological and morphological adaptations that organisms have undergone to fully exploit each extreme habitat.

Course content

This module will consider the environmental and physiological factors that determine the abundance, distribution patterns and ecology of marine organisms in a range of extreme marine habitats. The habitats covered are: the Polar Regions, coral reefs, deep-sea habitats, and deep-sea reducing habitats such as hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. How the organisms have managed to adapt physiologically within these environments will be discussed and you will be shown the similarities and differences between these habitats and those considered less extreme.

Assessment Criteria


Knowledge and basic understanding reliant entirely on the taught programme. Basic understanding of subject-specific theories, concepts and principles. Presents a competent overview of an extreme habitat in their assessment.


Wider knowledge and moderate understanding based on the taught programme, but with evidence of enquiry beyond that. Understanding of subject-specific theories, concepts and principles and some understanding of specialist areas. Presents a detailed, well researched and illustrated assessment showing clear understanding of the topic and questions posed


A very wide knowledge base extending well beyond the directly taught programme showing an in-depth understanding of the concepts presented. Thorough understanding of subject-specific theories, concepts and principles and in-depth understanding of more specialist areas. Presents an insightful, carefully argued, illustrated assessment showing clear evidence of independent thought.

Learning outcomes

  1. By the end of this module, you should be able to:

    1. Outline the environmental and biological factors controlling the abundance, distribution patterns and ecology of organisms in extreme marine habitats in the oceans.
    2. Summarise how organisms are able to cope with the physiological demands of their extreme marine habitat.
    3. Using examples from the lecture material and peer-reviewed literature, question the concept of extreme marine habitats and consider whether these habitats are in reality extreme for the organisms that live there (now and in the future).
    4. Considering the key characteristics and concepts that are unique to extreme marine habitats and/ or organisms, present a case study in a way that is engaging yet rigorous in its scientific content and accessible to a general audience.
    5. Critically appraise a variety of evidence to inform your knowledge of extreme marine habitats and organisms, and make recommendations relevant to enhancing the accessibility of the information and your knowledge in light of your synthesis of appraised evidence.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COURSEWORK "The Conversation" article 50
EXAM Exam 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Private study - reading time, preparing for and taking assessments: 170 hours


16 x 1 hour lectures (typically 2 per week), 3 x 2 hour lectures (week 6), 1 x 2 hour revision lecture: 24 hours


2 x 3 hour workshops - formative coursework exercises and peer-review session: 6 hours


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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


Courses including this module