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Module OSX-3011:
Extreme Marine Habitats

Module Facts

Run by School of Ocean Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Sarah Zylinski

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 deep-sea habitats thousands of meters from the surface, hydrothermal vents at temperatures of hundreds of degrees centigrade, wave swept rocky shores or challenging polar conditions where temperatures plummet. In this module, we will focus on a range of different extreme marine habitats, introducing the physiologically challenging conditions that determine the abundance and geographical distribution of marine organisms.

This module will: - Explain why no extreme habitat is extreme to the organisms that live there. - Introduce a range of extreme habitats including the deep-sea, hydrothermal vents, cold-seeps and wave-swept rocky shores. - 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 distribution and abundance of marine organisms in a range of extreme environments. The environments covered are: hydrothermal vents, deep-sea habitats, polar regions and coral reefs. How the organisms have managed to adapt physiologically within these environments will be discussed and students will be shown the similarities and differences between these ecosystems and those in less extreme environments

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. The environmental and biological factors controlling the distribution patterns of organisms in the extreme environments of the oceans.

  2. How organisms are able to cope with the extreme physiological demands of their environment.

  3. The concept of extreme environments and the fact that they are not extreme for the organisms that inhabit them.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written assignment, including essay "The Conversation" article 50
EXAM Exam 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy


22 x 1 hour lectures at 2 per week

Private study

Private study - reading time, preparing and taking assessments: 178 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