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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Biological Sciences : Biology

Undergraduate Course: Biology, Ecology and Environment 1 (BILG08017)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Biological Sciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryBiology, Ecology and the Environment focuses on the interconnectedness of nature and how organisms shape and are themselves shaped by their environment. The course provides the foundations for understanding the complex relationships that form throughout our planet and provides a backdrop for appreciating our current global crises. We will also explore how, by understanding biology, ecology and the environment, we can begin to respond to some of these challenges.

The lectures are broken into modules that reflect the "hierarchical structure of nature" and provide a substantial core of factual material on the following topics:

- Global Environments
- The Living Planet: Organisms and Biology
- Population Ecology
- Communities and Ecosystems
- The Changing Planet

However, the scope is much beyond just the core factual and theoretical knowledge. The course aims to explore the nature of science, as an active field, using Ecological concepts as the basis of this exploration. Students will engage in activities where they are generating new knowledge and understanding.
Course description The course aims to deliver on the concepts stated in the title: biology, ecology and the environment. However, a central aim is to instil in students a basic understanding and passion for science. The hope is to move students from a perspective where science is simply a collection of facts, to an understanding that science is an active and dynamic field of endeavour - where individuals, working collaboratively, explore and understand the world using hypothesis-driven scientific methods.

Throughout the course, in hands-on practicals and a course-long project, students will be generating and testing hypotheses to develop new knowledge, in essence acting as actual scientists. The project also allows students to develop and pursue their own ideas, and take ownership of the work that they are doing. Accurate scientific writing and communication skills will also be fostered through the assessments associated with these activities.

The content of the course covers the great breadth of ecological and biological concepts required for students to begin their understanding of the natural world.

Module 1: Global Environments
Ecosystem ecology addresses the interactions between organisms and their environment as an integrated system. In this module we introduce the ecosystem concept, and explore the state factors that influence ecosystem processes - particularly climate, soils, hydrology and nutrient cycles.

Module 2: The Living Planet: Organisms and Biology
The most basic unit in the ecology hierarchy is the individual organism. There is a huge diversity of ways that organisms can make a living on Planet Earth, from generating their own energy from non-biological sources, to being a top predator of other living organisms. In this module we will explore how individual organisms are able to grow, survive and reproduce, and look at how they interact with the physical environment.

Module 3: Population Ecology
The second level of the ecology hierarchy is the population. In this module we will explore how multiple individuals of the same species aggregate and interact, and how populations can change over time. Modelling of populations and how this can be used in real-world situations will also be discussed.

Module 4: Communities and Ecosystems
In this module we expand on the concept of species interactions. We consider how communities develop and interact with their environment to form self-sustaining ecosystems that change over time. In this module we will explore the concept of niches, trophic webs, and real-world applications of these and other concepts.

Module 5: The Changing Planet
Species and ecosystems have always had to adapt to change, but with rare exceptions natural changes have been either rare events, or geologically slow, providing ample opportunity for evolutionary responses. However, the rapidly expanding human population is dramatically altering almost every environment on earth, as well as the climate and ocean chemistry. This module examines the causes and effects of changes both natural and anthropogenic, focussing on the consequences for evolution, biodiversity and humanity. It concludes by looking to the future and how best we might minimise the impact of our species on the biosphere.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 33, Dissertation/Project Supervision Hours 3, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 12, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Other Study Hours 14, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 131 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 60 %, Coursework 20 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Group Investigative Project (20% of final mark for the course)
-50% of Project Mark from group oral presentation
-50% of Project mark from individual project report

Laboratory Practicals (20% of final mark for the course)
-25% of Practical mark based on each of the 4 laboratory assessments, to be completed at the end of the laboratory

Degree Examination (60% of final mark for the course)
-Section A: Answer 6 short answer questions (60% of total examination)
-Section B: Answer 2 problem questions (40% of total examination)
Feedback The large components of written, assessed work are proceeded by unassessed (formative) assignments of a similar nature. Feedback on these formative assignments comes in the form of peer-evaluation. However, the act of providing the peer-assessment is the primary learning and reflective activity. Additional feedback for these assignments come from 1-to-1 feedback from a Junior Teaching Fellow (only available to students that have engaged with the peer-feedback exercise).
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)Biology, Ecology and Environment 12:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)Biology, Ecology and Environment 12:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. know and understand how individuals, populations and communities of organisms interact with each other and the physical environment, to explain why organisms occur where they do.
  2. apply biological and ecological principles to investigate and/or solve real-world problems that we are facing.
  3. exhibit critical thinking, develop hypotheses and engage in hypothesis-driven scientific investigations, and appreciate the exploratory nature of science.
  4. accurately and competently represent and interpret data; and write and present information in a scientific manner.
  5. explore biological or ecological topics of individual interest in a self-directed, but collaborative way.
Reading List
There is no single textbook that sufficiently covers all the material in this course, below are a few that contain valuable information to supplement lecture material:
Cain, ML, Bowman, WD and Hacker, SD (2011) Ecology. 2nd Ed. Sinauer Associates Inc.
Townsend, CR, Begon, M and Harper, JL (2008) Essential of Ecology. 3rd Ed. Blackwell Publishing.
Cotgreave, P and Forseth, I (2002) Introductory Ecology. 3rd Ed. Blackwell Science.

Skills related texts:
Knisely, K. (2013) A student handbook for writing in Biology. 4th Ed. Sinauer Associates, Inc.
Colegrave,N. and Ruxton,G.D. (2010) Experimental design for the life sciences. 3rd Ed. Oxford University Press.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Personal & Intellectual Autonomy
By pursuing the Independent Project in your own time, you will learn to synthesise your own ideas and present and/or defend them in a group environment. These projects also provide a key opportunity for creativity. There are several opportunities to engage in formative assessment (Practical 1 Lab Report and Project Outline Proposal), which allow you to take responsibility for your own learning through

Research & Enquiry
The formative assessments are designed to provide opportunities to develop critical judgement and assessment skills, which are essential for, not only scientists but, any member of the general public, particularly in an era where so much information is readily available. The Projects allow you to actually develop new knowledge and to place it within the broader context of society at large - tying in social, economic, cultural as well as ecological issues. The Practical Written Reports are crucial in providing you with an insight into the standards and methods utilised by the scientific community.

Personal Effectiveness
The ability to organise and summarise your thoughts and material in a flexible and accessible way are core features that are required for personal effectiveness. Planning, time management and reflection are central to this. By providing you with a time-table where key submission dates are highlighted, we are encouraging you to develop your effectiveness throughout this course - the onus is on you to manage these effectively. The group project aspect will provide the opportunity to develop skills in working with others, while encouraging participation and engagement with all members of the group. It will also develop skills in acknowledge and benefiting from the different skills or experience that other group members can provide. Self-test quizzes, available during the course, will allow you to assess your understanding of material as you go allowing you to effectively engage with the course content.

The Oral project presentations will not only provide an opportunity to develop oral communication skills, but, through the question-and-answer session, will be important for gaining and coping with immediate feedback, which may come from a different perspective. The use of peer-feedback will also develop your ability to critical communicate the strengths and weakness of others work, while accepting and reacting positively to critical evaluation of your own work.
Course organiserDr Patrick Walsh
Tel: (0131 6)50 5474
Course secretaryDr Ann Haley
Tel: (0131 6)50 5538
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