Environmental Physiology

Environmental Physiology "crosses the great divide" between animal and plant biology. The scope of this module is broad, extending from the consequences of environmental change on human health to communication between plants. It explores the whole-organism responses of animals and plants to light, to pollution and to disease-causing micro-organisms. It goes on to consider how such responses are controlled and co-ordinated, and how information is communicated between individuals in both animals and plants.

The unifying theme of this module is the central role of physiology in determining a wide range of biological responses, with the overall aim of providing an integrated understanding of the mechanisms by which both animals and plants cope with their environment. Students will gain an appreciation of the complex interactions between plants and animals and their natural environments, and particularly the notion of phenotypic plasticity. Practical work will develop laboratory skills, and assessment will develop skills in literature searching, data analysis, writing and argument.

Students will develop a sophisticated skillset, including the ability to describe mechanisms by which plants and animals perceive environmental signals and co-ordinate their responses to them,  as well as being able to describe the effects of ultraviolet light on animals and plants and the mechanisms for protection from its damaging effects. In addition, students will gain the necessary experience required to show how various environmental pollutants affect the health of plants and humans, and will be knowledgeable of the various forms of innate immunity in animals, whilst gaining awareness of the conservation of anti-microbial defence mechanisms during evolution. Finally, students will be able to explain how plants resist attack by herbivorous insects and pathogenic microorganisms.