Module OSX-2009:
Marine Ecology

Module Facts

Run by School of Ocean Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Gareth Williams

Overall aims and purpose

This module is designed to introduce students to the ways in which various biological and physical environmental factors and their interactions can control community organisation and population structure in a selection of benthic systems ranging from the inter-tidal zone to coastal shelf seas. Examples will be taken from both temperate and tropical regions and will include coral reefs, kelp forests, rocky shores, soft sediment ecosystems, mangroves, and seagrass meadows. Students will undertake fieldwork on a rocky shore in the Menai Strait. Students will also undertake a computer-based practical where they will analyse existing data from a coral reef ecosystem to examine for environmental correlates of community structure across zonation gradients.

Course content

Topics covered will include: rocky shore ecology, keystone species, physical and biological factors, zonation, disturbance, succession, macro-algal production. Soft sediment ecology, saltmarsh, seagrasses, mangroves, tropical and temperate soft sediment shores. Sub-tidal hard substrate ecology, temperate reefs, physical and biological factors, community structure, exposure. Coral reef ecology, types and formation, algal symbiosis, biodiversity and productivity, community structure, development and change, processes leading to stable communities, native (and invasive) species, community resilience and disease as a form of disturbance.

Assessment Criteria


Basic knowledge derived from the lectures and some prescribed reading, but with limited ability to critically synthesize this basic knowledge


Knowledge based around lectures and, for marks at the higher end of the scale, with clear evidence of reading the prescribed literature outside the lectures. The student understands the fundamentals and demonstrates some ability to critically synthesize the various strands of information.


Clear and concise presentation of the fundamentals and the details of all areas of the module supported by reading prescribed (and other) literature outside the lectures. Highly developed ability to critically synthesize the module information and to link with other modules in the programme.

Learning outcomes

  1. Gain experience of rocky shore sampling techniques through field work on an Anglesey rocky shore

  2. Comprehend the physical and biological factors controlling local geographical distribution patterns of temperate and tropical marine organisms.

  3. Understand concepts of marine community structure and biodiversity

  4. Identify and comment on a range of common intertidal organisms that were encountered during the field work practical

  5. Gain experience in processing biological data from a coral reef ecosystem to identify biological community spatial patterns

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Rocky shore field report 20
Exam 65
Computer practical 15

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Lectures: 22 at 1h duration

Practical classes and workshops

Rocky shore field excursion (2h), laboratory practical (6h) and a computer session (3h)

Private study

Directed Study of material in the form of illustrations, references to journal articles, reviews and book chapters will be placed on Blackboard for the students to access. Students will be directed to particular material during the course of the module. There is an expectation that elements of the directed reading will be used to support the lecture material when students are answering essay questions in the final examination.


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.
  • 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

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: