BI2EC3-Ecology and Conservation Field Course

Module Provider: School of Biological Sciences
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Summer term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Dr Tara Pirie


Type of module:

Summary module description:

This abroad field course focuses on expanding knowledge of the principles and practice of ecology and conservation biology. Students will learn to survey, sample and identify different species. An important component of this module will be an independent research project carried out on site. This course takes place in Summer after the Part 1 Exams, registration takes place in the Spring Term. Numbers restricted.


To introduce students to the diversity of animal life, ecological processes and conservation challenges in natural habitats, and to provide practical field research skills (including designing, conducting and presenting a student-led research project).

Location may vary (current location is Tanzania).

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the unit it is expected that the students will be able to: 

  • Identify a range of animals from different habitats, including insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

  • Recognize and know to correctly apply diverse field sampling techniques to measure abundance, habitat use and community composition of animal populations and communities in different habitats.

  • Design, undertake, analyse and report on a small group research project that aims to address a specific ecological question using the scientific method.

  • Summarize research findings in a scientific publication format.

Additional outcomes:

Students should gain international perspective on conservation biology with insight into the human pressure on natural environments (e.g. in terms of subsistence farming, illegal mining and logging, burning, poaching) and the focus on international demand for natural resources and ecotourism.

Outline content:

This module expands student knowledge of the principles and practice of zoology, taxonomy, animal behaviour, ecology, and conservation biology. An integral part of this work is the identification of animals sampled, and students will be shown how to use field guides and keys to do this, concentrating on the species found in the area. Students will have the opportunity to visit a range of different protected areas and local sites, to see how human activities are affecting biodiversity and to use a range of field sampling techniques appropriate for the species under investigation. An important part of scientific research is to be able to design, conduct and present the results of a research project to answer a specific question. This requires students to integrate the knowledge acquired in the initial stage of the field course to develop a focused project. To this end, students undertake a research project within a small group on a subject of their own choosing that aims to answer an ecological question of local relevance.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

All contact hours for the module will be on the visited sites abroad (currently in Tanzania). Teaching will be primarily based on practical activities conducted in the field, and occasionally may occur in on-site laboratories (e.g., for processing of collected samples or specimen identification with microscope). Teaching will also be based on informal and formal talks and discussion sessions (on the field and during the evenings at camp). An important learning component will take place via student-led student projects. The assessments of the course will emphasize the development of research ideas and presentation of results and reflections.


The particular activities and specific content may vary from year to year and by location. During the practical activities students will learn diverse techniques for observation, sampling and identification of species. Throughout the module the role of human in the environment, including the conflict between people and wildlife will be emphasized. Students will experience how to gather field data and work in different environmental conditions and constraints compared to what they have been used to. Student will develop oral and written communication, observational, team working and problem-solving skills

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 5
Seminars 5
Project Supervision 5
Demonstration 5
Fieldwork 80
Guided independent study:      
    Carry-out research project 100
Total hours by term 0 0 200
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 85
Report 15

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Assessment is entirely in-course and consists of:

15% - Report - Species list – a field notebook of species observed during the trip, and any interesting facts discussed during the trip. Pass or fail mark

35% - Conservation issue reflection – a 600 - 1000 words referenced piece describing a conservation issue that we encountered or discussed during the field trip including possible similarities to other areas, possible solutions and challenges.

50% - Written report – summary of the completed research project (brief intro, methods, results with at least 1 graph and including appropriate statistical analyses, discussion and references. 1200-1500 words excluding references.

Formative assessment methods:

Feedback will be given continually throughout the course on animal identification, presentation, data collection method and design, data analysis and interpretation.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (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:
    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.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-submission of coursework (requires discussion with the module convener).

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    1. Travel, accommodation and subsistence The costs of travel are borne by the student, including flights, accommodation, food, visas, permits, and vaccinations.

    Last updated: 10 December 2019


    Things to do now