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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 give students a solid grounding in ecological theory as it applies to marine ecosystems. Topics are taught by drawing on case study ecosystems taken from both temperate and tropical regions and include coral reefs, kelp forests, rocky shores, and mangroves. In addition to the theory, students will learn about field methods for studying zonation in the marine environment using Anglesey rocky shore ecosystems as an example case study. Students will also undertake a computer-based practical where they will analyse existing data from a coral reef ecosystem to examine for evidence of predictable patterns in benthic community structure across depths and how these might relate to environmental (abiotic) and biological (biotic) drivers.

Course content

Topics covered include predator-prey dynamics, marine disease ecology, invasive species ecology, early life history strategies of marine organisms, macroecology, population dynamics, facilitation, zonation, keystone species theory, dispersal and metapopulations, energy flow, and behavioural ecology. Students are also introduced to the need for a modern ecological approach in an era when human impacts are so prevalent.

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 knowledge of rocky shore sampling techniques

  2. Comprehend the physical and biological drivers of marine ecosystems.

  3. Understand concepts of marine community structure and biodiversity.

  4. Gain a good grounding in ecological theory as it applies to marine ecosystems and marine communities.

  5. Gain experience in processing biological data from a coral reef ecosystem to: 1) identify and summarise biological community spatial patterns, 2) hypothesise the reasons behind such patterns, and 3) gain experience in dealing with data within a computer-based statistical package.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COURSEWORK Rocky shore field report 35
EXAM Exam 50
CLASS TEST Computer practical 15

Teaching and Learning Strategy

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.


Lectures: 21 at 1h duration

Practical classes and workshops

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


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: