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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Biological Sciences : Biology

Undergraduate Course: The Green Planet 2 (BILG08016)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Biological Sciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course is an introduction to modern plant biology that emphasises how plant science can be applied to improve crops and other useful plants, and how plants interact with other organisms. It contains a mix of basic plant biology, molecular biology, and whole organism biology. The course also includes an introduction to fungal biology and plant fungi interactions. Topics covered include plant hybridisation and evolution, nitrogen fixation, plant biomass exploitation, plant genetic manipulation, crop evolution and breeding, plant hormones and cell signalling, plant disease resistance. The Green Planet is not an ecology course, but does include significant whole organism content.
Course description Earth is a planet dominated by green plants, which form 99% of the biomass on earth. About half the world¿s population are directly concerned with the production of useful plants. Plant science has undergone a revolution during the last thirty years, with the advent of molecular genetics and genomics technologies, and is now at the forefront of many key research areas, including biodiversity and biofuels. The two major themes of this course are how plants interact with other organisms, and the relevance of modern plant science and technology to a sustainable future for humanity. It contains a mix of basic plant biology, molecular biology, and whole organism biology.

Note that The Green Planet is not an ecology or taxonomy course and that it contains significant molecular biology content. However, it does also include whole organism content.

Seven sets of lectures, by specialists in the following fields, make up the body of the course: 1) plant form and stem cells, (2) photosynthesis and plant physiology, (3) plant evolution and hybridisation, (4) plant disease and its resistance, (5) plant breeding and crop improvement, (6) plant genomes and their manipulation, (7) biological roles and commercial exploitation of plant cell walls, and (8) how plants perceive and respond to their environment. We also include a series of guest lectures, typically from Plant Scientists working in industry or the applied sector, to illustrate the practical relevance of plant science and possible future careers.
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 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 31, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 21, Fieldwork Hours 3, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 138 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Exam, essay and practical online test.
Feedback The course essay will receive written feedback.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)2:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Acquire (through lectures, practicals, reading and essay writing) information about selected aspects of plants and plant¿microbe symbioses
  2. Appreciate the importance of environmental cues and internal signals, such as hormones, in controlling the meristematic growth and development of plants.
  3. Appreciate the significance of a cell wall to the defence of plants, and understand key molecular mechanisms and aspects of the regulation of photosynthesis.
  4. Know in outline the life cycles of higher plants, how genes are inherited, and how transgenes are introduced into plants.
  5. Have learnt how to find specific information on a selected topic and then assimilate this into a coherent word-processed scientific essay, and how to obtain and record information from practical investigations and interpret the data.
Learning Resources
Starr C. et al. (2017)

Biology : the unity and diversity of life (15th edition) Chapters 27-30.
The four chapters used to be referred to as Plant Structure and Function in earlier editions. Biology: the Unity and Diversity of Life is available as an E-BOOK. The complete book is expensive and it is recommended that you use the E-BOOK rather than buying it.

Other recommended books which cover much of the course and which may prove useful in subsequent plant science courses (also available as E-BOOKS):
**Mauseth, J.D. (2014) Botany: an Introduction to Plant Biology, 5th Edition (Jones & Bartlett Publishers, Massachusetts).
**Smith, A.M., Coupland G, Dolan, L. et al (2009). Plant Biology, (Garland Science).
For information on selected topics:
Teaching Tools in Biology section on the website of the scientific journal The Plant Cell (
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Knowledge and Understanding: All components of the course provide this to some degree but your lectures, in particular, provide an important framework upon which you can build these attributes. This University considers itself to be a research-led Institution and you will be exposed to cutting edge information and ideas as you progress through your degree course. In this course you will develop a comprehensive appreciation of how plant growth is regulated, how plants interact with other organisms, and the relevance of modern plant science and technology to a sustainable future for humanity.

Research and Enquiry: These skills are enhanced by encouraging further reading of books, research papers and electronic materials. An essay will allow you to improve your enquiry skills and develop your own views of the subject. This will allow you to search the literature and condense your views.

Personal and Intellectual Autonomy: By reading and preparing materials for the essay, you will learn to synthesise your own views, develop reasoned arguments and further refine your scientific judgement. Such skills will enhance your capacity for life-long and independent learning.

Communication: It is important that you develop skills to interact constructively with others and convey knowledgeable and balanced scientific views. In the practical classes you will be working within small teams, requiring collaboration with your peers. The in course essay will develop skills in conveying knowledge, encouraging logical argument and concise writing.

Personal Effectiveness: The ability to organise and summarise your thoughts and material in a flexible and accessible way is a core feature required for personal effectiveness. Planning, time management and reflection are central to this. By providing you with a timetable where key submission dates are highlighted, we encourage you to develop your effectiveness throughout this course. These same skills extend to other courses and also to your overall ability to maximise your achievement while studying at this University.

Technical and Practical Skills: In order to continue in a scientific career it is important that you not only understand the conceptual basis of how experiments are designed and carried out but also have the underpinning practical skills required for employability. You will carry out ¿wet¿ experimental bench-work, make accurate and informed observations on experimental outcomes, and record the results in coherent notes. The lab skills you develop from your practical sessions, in critical observation, investigation and interpretation, careful recording, quantification and analysis should serve you well in any future employment.
Course organiserDr Alistair McCormick
Course secretaryDr Caroline Aspinwall
Tel: (0131 6)50 5521
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