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Module BSX-2037:
Spain Field Course

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof George Turner

Overall aims and purpose

The experience is aimed at inspiring and enthusing students, developing important skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning, including teamwork, presentation and written communication skills, and enhancing abilities to ask and address research questions on the environmental, ecological, or behavioural factors governing the distribution and abundance of biodiversity in European ecosystems.

Course content

The module is a 1-week fieldcourse to southern Spain, and includes excursions to a variety of habitats in the region (typically Donana National Park, and the area around Tarifa and Gibraltar). Students are given initial guidance on habitats, key species and observational methods and are expected to make detailed note of environments and organisms, building towards a comprehensive field notebook based on the principle of treating species identification as a scientific hypothesis, showing the stages of development of the improving ID. Additional opportunities include learning about conservation issues and behavioural patterns such as annual migration of birds between Africa and Europe.

Assessment Criteria


- A Can record observations thoroughly, systematically and clearly, without significant omissions, taking trouble to find out details of identification to fine taxonomic level or to uncover theories of the function and evolution of the behaviour observed. Clear evidence of original, unguided observations. Exhibits clear awareness of the ecological, biogeographical or environmental context of observations. Presents findings accurately and succinctly with clarity, imagination, originality and strongly-developed aesthetic sense. Able to identify many organisms, clearly demonstrating how IDs have been arrived at, and showing awareness of uncertainties and potential pitfalls.


-B Can record observations clearly and systematically, with a grasp of the practical issues relating to collection and presentation of data/observations, and few major omissions. Exhibits strong knowledge of habitats and biota visited. Shows awareness their ecological, biogeographical and environmental context. Able to identify a majority of organisms to the appropriate level (usually species), and demonstrates use of a range of data in reaching ID conclusions. Presents findings accurately and with flair, clarity and originality


-D Threshold: Can record observations in a reasonably clear and systematic fashion and has some grasp of the practical issues relating to collection and presentation of data/observations. Considerable inconsistencies in note-taking remain. Exhibits some knowledge of habitats and biota visited and the relevant conservation/ management issues, although this may be very incomplete and contain significant errors. Presents findings largely accurately and clearly. Able to identify many organisms at least to the level of major group, and demonstrates some grasp of the ID process as a scientific hypothesis test

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate identification skills and knowledge relating to fauna of visited regions.

  2. Demonstrate the ability to make detailed, thorough and original field observations and to record and present them systematically.

  3. Demonstrate the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (undertaking directed reading, time management, working to a deadline)

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Essay 40
Field Notebook 50
Group Presentation 10

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Fieldwork involving morning walks, drives and seminars.

Group Project

Students will work in teams to present a formative presentation on a topic related to their essay choice. They will get feedback from staff and students.

Private study

Private study for essay


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
  • 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

Subject specific skills

Field work, taxonomic identification, technical drawing


Resource implications for students

Students will be expected to contribute around £600 (for which bursaries are available). They should bring a field notebook and outdoor clothing, including footwear suitable for cross-country walking, and cold and wet weather, as well as sunscreen.

Reading list

We will bring field guides, but some useful sources include: A Photographic Guide to Insects of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean A bird ID book A herp ID book (Axel Kwet's New Holland European Reptile & Amphibian Guide is good)

Useful websites: Bird Migration Study at Tarifa: Donana National Park:

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: