BI3EF7-Urban Ecology

Module Provider: School of Biological Sciences
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Level:6
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Pre-requisites:
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Co-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2014/5

Module Convenor: Dr Phil Baker

Email: p.j.baker@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

Aims:
Through lectures this course will provide a detailed knowledge of the ecology of urban areas, both in the context of urban areas in the wider landscape as well as ecology within urban areas. Particular emphasis will be given to variation in the global concept of urban areas (i.e. what is an urban area?), how urban areas affect a range of taxonomic groups, how species have adapted to living within urban areas and how human-wildlife conflicts within urban areas arise and how these are managed. The course will also examine issues relating to the impact of the urban environment on human behaviour, health and well-being and how this could be managed to create significant benefits for individuals and society. Examples discussed within the module will include mammalian carnivores (including companion animals e.g. cats and dogs), commensal rodents, birds, invertebrates and plants. Students will examine one aspect in depth through the preparation of an essay on a defined topic.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the course, students will be expected to be able to:
1. Describe and discuss the history of urban areas as a form of human habitation, and how these are likely to change in the future
2. State and describe the variation in the definition of “urban areas”, and how this may impact the synthesis of urban ecology studies
3. Describe and discuss patterns of variation in the structure of urban areas, including in the context of socioeconomic divisions
4. Compare and contrast the impact of urbanization on the distribution, density and community structure of different taxonomic groups including mammals, birds and invertebrates
5. Describe the role of human migration as a mechanism for the “global homogenization” of urban flora and fauna
6. Describe and discuss traits which appear to allow certain species to persist within urban areas, with particular reference to birds
7. Describe and discuss how the urban landscape has led to modifications in selected behavioural traits within some species
8. Compare and contrast the ecology of cats and dogs both within urban areas and in the wider landscape.
9. State and discuss the potential impacts of roads on the ecology of a range of taxonomic groups
10. Describe and discuss the role of urban wildlife in the transmission of diseases to humans and companion animals, including commensal rodents and carnivores
11. Describe and discuss the range of nuisance conflicts arising between humans and urban wildlife and how these are managed at present, and how they may be managed in the future
12. Describe and discuss evidence for and against the impact of wildlife and natural landscapes within urbanized areas on human health and well-being, and how this may be managed for the benefit of society
13. Discuss how urban areas could be managed for the benefit of wildlife, including e.g. the design of urban gardens, urban nature reserves and by using “green roofs”. Emphasis will be given to possible limitations and benefits of these different approaches
14. Discuss how continuing patterns of global urbanization are likely to impact global biodiversity

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:
A series of lectures will be used to cover topics relating to the ecology of urban landscapes across the globe. Introductory lectures will address the history of urban development and differences in the structure of urban areas; particular emphasis will be given to consideration of a lack of a standardized definition of an urban area in different countries. Subsequent lectures will address the impact of urban development on selected taxonomic groups including mammalian carnivores, birds, invertebrates and plants: throughout emphasis will be given to identifying how urban development affects these groups of species, and how species have adapted to urban living. The course will also consider the impact of urban wildlife and urban landscaping on aspects of human health and well-being, including discussion of the role of urban wildlife in disease transmission and nuisance problems and how these problems are managed. Lectures will be supported by the use of within-class exercises. Individual students will write an essay on a relevant topic.

Students will be expected to read papers and other literature indicated by the lecturer. The course textbook will be: Urban Ecology by K.J. Gaston. Students will be advised of the appropriateness of web-based articles.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
There will be two 50-minute lectures each week; these will involve the use of video material where appropriate and small-group discussions. Students will acquire additional information from directed reading allied to the lecture material.

Continuous assessment will take the form of a 2,500 word essay on an appropriate topic

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Guided independent study 80
       
Total hours by term 100.00
       
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 70
Written assignment including essay 30

Other information on summative assessment:
An essay

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    A two-hour examination requiring two answers from four questions.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    By examination in August/September.

    Last updated: 8 October 2014

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