Special Topics in Ecology

Module summary

Module code: OBIO1099
Level: 7
Credits: 15
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Module Coordinator(s): Sarah Arnold



This course will focus on cutting-edge current issues in ecology. It aims to introduce students to ecology in its wider role in society through interactions with researchers and ecology practitioners from UoG and the wider biology sector. Students will meet people active in applied ecology research, industrial R&D, government policy and regulation, agribusiness and charities/NGOs. The course will also include visits to external sites (agribusiness, conservation) to experience a range of activities and employments that involve ecology in the workplace. Through case studies of selected major international research projects students will understand how ecologists operate in practice to generate knowledge and develop products to meet society’s needs.

The course aims to:
1. Understand how ecological research and biology as a discipline is applied in a variety of practical settings.
2. To provide a clear understanding of how applied research can address ecological questions both local and international.
3. Evaluate the role of ecological knowledge in international development and sustainable growth in higher and lower income countries.
4. Understand how ecology researchers generate information needed to underpin national and international policy and regulation.
5. Experience a range of international research projects to learn how ecological knowledge is applied to address key global problems such as food security, natural resource management, food production, food quality.
6. Expose students to the “big questions” in ecology at the moment and explore tools and ideas to address them.
7. Link all of this knowledge to concepts of ecology in the workplace, and skills valued by life sciences employers.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course a student will be able to:

1 Critically appreciate how application of ecology generates knowledge to support environmental sustainability and deliver benefits to humans.

2 Understand and appreciate the range of basic and applied research taking place in academia, industry and by NGOs.

3 Critically understand the role of ecological/environmental knowledge in shaping research collaborations and projects, and influencing policy development.

4 Understand how biological science is applied in food production, supply and marketing to meet commercial criteria and consumer needs.

Indicative content

Policy and regulation of biological products with ecological impacts using examples of biological control agents
Biodiversity exploration, exploitation and conservation
Ecology as a business – agribusiness in the agriculture and food industries.
UK & European agricultural research – knowledge generation and communication in field agriculture
International research collaborations
“Big issues” – exploring major ecological topics such as climate change, invasive species and habitat fragmentation and their impacts on people, species, habitats and the planet

Teaching and learning activity

Material will be delivered in lectures/workshops, supplemented by seminars and tutorial discussion sessions. At least two of those sessions will be taught in a PBL format on a current major ecological topic chosen collectively by the students. Students will make 2 visits to relevant applied ecology/agribusiness establishments.

Learning Time (1 credit = 10 hours)

Contact Hours
Lectures/workshops 21
Seminars 0
Practical sessions 0
Tutorials 4
Field visits 10

Private Study 65

Assignments: course work and other forms of assessment
coursework 50
laboratory work N/A
examinations N/A


Method of SUMMATIVE assessment: Written Essay
Outcomes assessed:1,2,4
Grading Mode (e.g. pass/ fail; %): %
Weighting % :60%
Passmark: 50%
Word Length:3,000
Outline Details:A critical essay on an ecological research topic.

Method of SUMMATIVE assessment: Podcast Assignment
Outcomes assessed:3
Grading Mode (e.g. pass/ fail; %): %
Weighting % :40%
Passmark: 50%
Word Length:10 mins
Outline Details: A 10-minute podcast evaluating an ecological research project.

Nature of FORMATIVE assessment supporting student learning:
Short written report (up to 1,500 words) on applied ecological topic.