Information in the Degree Programme Tables may still be subject to change in response to Covid-19

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Ecological Science

Undergraduate Course: Principles of Ecology (ECSC08012)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryPrinciples of Ecology will take you through the fundamentals of ecological science from individuals to ecosystems, giving you examples from terrestrial and marine systems alongside a grounding in ecological experimental design and statistical analysis.
Course description The course is an introduction to the factors determining the distribution and patterns of abundance of organisms, and which relate plant and animal populations to their environment. It includes the physiological ecology of plants and animals, the life history strategies by which organisms adapt to their environments, trophic ecology and the ecological significance of the niche, biodiversity and co-existence. The course provides a comprehensive treatment of the subject from the first principles of ecology to a reflection of our understanding of ecology in the 21st century.
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 2020/21, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 25, Dissertation/Project Supervision Hours 20, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 15, Fieldwork Hours 15, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 3, Formative Assessment Hours 2, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Revision Session Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 112 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) There are three coursework assessments and one exam. Assessment weighting is 50% course work and 50% exam. Assessments 3 and 4 have a minimum pass mark of 40%. An overall aggregate mark of 40% is required.

List of Assessments:
1. Statistical thinking and analysis. This assessment covers the course contents from Module 6 and counts for 12.5% of your final mark. Assessment submission is electronic via Learn.

2. A project plan summary document. This assessment covers initial contents of Module 7. This exercise will not receive a formal mark, but the overall coursework mark will be restricted to a maximum of 50% if it is not considered adequate. Assessment submission is electronic via Learn.

3. Individual project report. This assessment covers the contents of Module 7. This assessment determines 37.5% of the final course grade. Submission via Learn.

4. Final Exam. This assessment covers the contents from Modules 1-5 and determines 50% of the final course grade.

Assessment deadlines
Statistical thinking and analysis test: Tuesday week 5, 12noon
Project plan summary document: Monday week 5, 12noon
Individual project report: Wednesday week 11, 12noon
Feedback Students will receive formative feedback from practical demonstrators and teaching staff on their hypotheses and experimental design for a six week group practical field project. This will take the form of a personalised one page sheet addressing specific issues relevant to each group's project proposals. As projects proceed students will receive weekly feedback from laboratory demonstrators and where necessary the teaching staff. Students will receive formative feedback from the course statistics lecturer, Prof Josephine Pemberton concerning the proposed statistical analysis of their project data. Formative feedback will be received following a group oral presentation of the project work. This feedback will immediately follow the presentations and will take the form of written peer assessment and oral suggestions from the project demonstrators and teaching staff. Project reports will receive a written half page sheet of summative feedback from project demonstrators. Feedback will be given on summative assessment at the end of the course and all students will be invited to an examination feedback session following release of course results.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the defining principles of ecology and understand the factors controlling the abundance and distribution of organisms globally.
  2. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the ecological theory explaining patterns of spatial and temporal variations in species numbers in both terrestrial and marine environments.
  3. Understand and use introductory statistics; hypothesis testing, basic experimental design and field sampling.
  4. Carry out a scientific research project related to an ecological question: formulate clear, precise and potentially answerable questions, collect unbiased data and test hypotheses.
  5. Communicate by a written scientific research report the basis of your research findings and through this critically analyse mainstream concepts within Ecological Science.
Reading List
Recommended reading
The following are generally useful as sources of first reference on many topics. They cost 20-35 each.

Begon, M., Townsend, C. R. & Harper, J. L. (2006). Ecology (4th edn). Blackwell Science, Oxford. (The recommended text for this course)

Townsend, C.R., Begon, M. and Harper, J.L. (2014). Essentials of Ecology (2nd Edition). Wiley. (Highly recommended).

Grime, J. P., & Pierce, S. (2012). The evolutionary strategies that shape ecosystems. John Wiley & Sons.

Prach, K., & Walker, L. R. (2020). Comparative Plant Succession Among Terrestrial Biomes of the World. Cambridge University Press.

Ingrouille M. (1995). Historical Ecology of the British Flora. Chapman and Hall.

Kaiser MJ et al. (2011) Marine Ecology. Oxford University Press. (Highly recommended for overview of marine ecology & ecosystems)

Krebs, C. J. (1994 & 2001). Ecology. (4th & 5th edns). Harper Collins, New York. (Good on animal populations)

Levinton (2010) Marine Biology. Oxford University Press (Good for more in-depth review of biological topics)

Molles, M. (2015). Ecology: concepts and applications. McGraw-Hill Education.

Ricklefs, R. E. & Miller, G. L. (1999). Ecology. (4th edn). Freeman, New York.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Claudia Colesie
Tel: (0131 6)50 5434
Course secretaryMrs Nicola Clark
Tel: (0131 6)50 4842
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information