Environmental Biology

The following modules are available to incoming Study Abroad students interested in Environmental Biology.

Alternatively you may return to the complete list of Study Abroad Subject Areas.

LEC.141: Evolutionary Biology

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 1-5 of Michaelmas Term Only.
  • US Credits: 2 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 4 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: High school biology and chemistry.

Course Description

This course introduces you to the development of evolutionary theory, and the evidence for the evolutionary processes of natural and sexual selection. It examines the evolutionary relationships of the major groups of organisms, and deals with speciation and human evolution. Using specific examples of animal behaviour, it shows how an understanding of natural and sexual selection can explain the diverse evolution of body structures, reproductive behaviours and life-history strategies.

Educational Aims

On completion of this module a student should be able to:- 

  • provide an account of the development of evolutionary thought, describing the kinds of evidence that indicate the general nature and course of evolution,
  • outline the main patterns of evolution in the living world,
  • describe the genetic basis of evolution, and how new species evolve and demonstrate how ecologically linked species have co-evolved,
  • outline the ways in which the course of evolution and the processes involved can be investigated, showing how selection pressures have resulted in differences in form and behaviour of the sexes,
  • account for the variety of life-history strategies displayed by living organisms,
  • discuss the evolution of breeding behaviour of animal.

Outline Syllabus

Lecture

  • Introduction. Development of evolutionary thought.
  • Evidence for evolution.
  • A brief history of life on Earth.
  • The nature of biological variation.
  • The origin of species.
  • Human Evolution
  • Coevolution: predation, parasitism and mutualism.
  • Methods for investigating evolution.
  • Sexual selection.
  • Alternative life-history strategies.

Workshops

  • Posters. Age of the earth
  • Extinction. Variation
  • Human Evolution
  • Sexual selection
  • Poster session and handing in

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 25%
  • Test: 25%

LEC.142: Zoology

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 6-10 of Michaelmas Term Only.
  • US Credits: 2 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 4 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: High school biology and chemistry.

Course Description

This course explores the enormous and fascinating diversity that exists in the natural world. It demonstrates how similarities and differences between living organisms can be explained in terms of evolutionary relationships and the demands of different environments and lifestyles. You will discover how we classify and name organisms and you will gain identification skills on vertebrates, invertebrates and plants.The course includes 16 hours of practical work in the lab.

Educational Aims

This module aims to provide students with an understanding of:

  • Why and how organisms are classified and named
  • The nature and use of identification keys
  • How classificatory and evolutionary trees are constructed and the significance of such trees
  • How anatomical and other characteristics can be used to evaluate evolutionary relationships
  • The distinctive features of selected major groups of animals and plants, and how such features reflect the organisms' modes of life and evolutionary histories
  • Selected applied aspects of animal and plant biology    

Outline Syllabus

Lectures

  • Introduction.  Classifying and naming organisms.
  • Ancient invertebrates: sponges, jellyfish and polyps.  Coral reefs.
  • Solving the problems of life as a parasite: flatworms and roundworms.
  • From limpets to giant squids: the variety of the molluscs.
  • Segmentation and exoskeletons: the success of the arthropods.
  • Starfish, sea squirts and the origins of chordates and vertebrates.
  • The conquest of the land: amphibians and reptiles.
  • Birds: lords of the air.
  • Mammals: activity guided by intelligence.
  • Mosses, ferns and allies: plants invade the land.
  • Conifers and flowering plants: form and function in the dominant terrestrial life-forms.
  • Plants for people: selected families of economic importance.

Practicals

  • Animal body plans and evolutionary relationships.
  • Skeletons and locomotion.
  • Feeding and reproduction.
  • Form and function in the plant kingdom. 

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 25%
  • Test: 25%

LEC.143: Aquatic Ecology

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 1- 5 of Lent Term Only.
  • US Credits: 2 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 4 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: High school biology and chemistry.

Course Description

This course introduces you to the structure and function of aquatic food webs in freshwater, estuarine and marine environments. Emphasis is placed on the role of nutrients (bottom-up control) and predation (top-down control) on participating organisms in the major aquatic environments, and the problems that can arise when either control mechanism is enhanced via anthropogenic influences. The course includes 16 hours of practical work in the field and lab.

Educational Aims

On completion of this module a student should be able to:

  • Describe the role of different nutrients in fuelling the food webs in freshwater, estuarine and marine environments.
  • Understand the importance of algae, whether planktonic or attached, in the primary productivity of aquatic ecosystems and how this is affected by nutrient concentration and composition.
  • Describe the interactions between micro-organisms, macroinvertebrates/zooplankton and fish in different aquatic environments.
  • Appreciate the way in which human activity can alter the balance of aquatic food-webs and discuss the problems which arise.

Outline Syllabus

Lecture

  • Chemical and physical properties of water 
  • Primary production - the role of algae. 
  • The Microbial Loop - algal, bacterial and protozoan interactions. 
  • Lake food-webs - zooplankton communities and their impact on algal populations and susceptibility to fish Riverine food-webs - macrinvertebrate communities in rivers and their interactions with attached algal populations (periphyton). 
  • Marine food-webs in estuarine, coastal and marine pelagic environments 

Practical s/Workshops    

  • The Lake District and characterising lake trophic status.  
  • Practical class on algae, zooplankton and macroinvertebrates.  
  • Practical class - identification of algae.
  • Computer workshop - analysis of experimental data using Excel.

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 25%
  • Test: 25%

LEC.144: Global Change Biology

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 6-10 of Lent Term Only.
  • US Credits: 2 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 4 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: High school biology and chemistry.

Course Description

This course examines how the biosphere reacts to environmental change. It concentrates on the responses to changes such as increasing drought, global warming, ozone depletion and air pollution. Emphasis will be placed on understanding plants as the driving force for the effects of environment change on other organisms within terrestrial ecosystems. This will range from consideration of changes in complex natural ecosystems through to effects on humans, through changes in global food production. The course will also consider the direct effects of environmental change on human populations. The course includes 16 hours of practical work in the lab.

Educational Aims

On completion of this module a student should be able to:- 

  • Describe the effects of global warming and pollution on plants and terrestrial ecosystems
  • Describe the links between basic plant physiology and understanding the consequences of environment change.
  • Summarise the direct and indirect effects of environmental change on human populations.

Outline Syllabus

Lecture

  • Introduction. The elements of environmental change and their potential effects.   
  • Effects of drought on physiology, growth and development. Plant adaptations to life with a limited water supply. 
  • Life in a changing atmosphere I: plant responses to elevated CO2 
  • Life in a changing atmosphere II: plant responses to air pollutants 
  • Life in a changing atmosphere: III the impacts of ozone depletion and increased UV-B radiation. 
  • Plants as the driving force for ecosystem responses to environment change: effects on animals and microbes 
  • Agriculture in a changing environment: strategies for protecting future food production. 
  • Environment change and human health. 
  • Overview: unifying themes in understanding responses to a changing environment. 

Practicals/Workshops

  • Workshop: Effects of the environment on carbon fixation and water use 
  • Practical: Effects of the environment on carbon fixation and water use 
  • Workshop: human health and environment change 

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 25%
  • Test: 25%

LEC.145: Biodiversity and Conservation

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 1-5 of Summer Term Only.
  • US Credits: 2 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 4 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: High school biology and chemistry.

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to the nature of biological diversity and patterns of distribution of terrestrial and aquatic organisms on global, regional and ecosystem scales. The underlying causes of the observed patterns are explored. We critically consider how and why species become extinct, why species should be preserved and how conservation priorities can be determined. Selected case histories demonstrate conservation in action. The course includes 16 hours of fieldwork and excursions.

Educational Aims

On completion of this module a student should be able to: 

  • Describe temporal and spatial patterns of terrestrial diversity.
  • Discuss the underlying causes of such patterns.
  • Describe the patterns and determinants of biological diversity in freshwater and marine systems.
  • Critically discuss the rational for preservation of species and ecosystems.
  • Outline the criteria that can be used to identify species and areas of high conservation importance.
  • Give examples of species and habitat conservation. 

Outline Syllabus

Lectures

  • The order of nature: the nature of communities. 
  • Global and regional patterns of biodiversity. 
  • Temporal patterns of diversity: succession. 
  • Conservation biology: aims and origins, Why should we preserve biodiversity?      
  • Pattern and process in extinction. 
  • Current threats to biodiversity. 
  • Which species and habitats should we save? 
  • Species conservation in practice.
  • Ex-situ conservation of species: the role of zoos.
  • Conservation of selected habitat types. 

Practicals 

  • Campus excursion: sampling techniques & biodiviversity 
  • Labratory class: soil biodiversity. 
  • Excursion to sites of conservation importance 

Practical  4  Excursion to Blackpool Zoo or videos. 

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 25%
  • Test: 25%

LEC.146: Spanish-Donana Field Course

  • Terms Taught: Easter Break Only.
  • US Credits: 2 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 4 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: No pre-requisite.

Course Description

This course, based in Spain, aims to introduce you to ecological investigations in the field and covers terrestrial habitats and coastal. The course includes methods of sampling populations, taxonomy, statistical analysis, and the execution and reporting of a small research project. The course involves seven days of fieldwork away from Lancaster. Please note: the course takes place in the Easter vacation, has limited places and there is a fee. You must register early in Michaelmas term to reserve a place.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Describe the physical nature of a variety of habitats and the characteristic species associated with them;
  • Identify, classify and comment on specimens of plants and animals from those habitats;
  • Devise and carry out appropriate sampling procedures for organisms in terrestrial habitats;
  • Describe how the distribution and abundance of different plants and animals is determined by the physical conditions and biotic factors in their environments;
  • Indicate how the anatomical, physiological and behavioural features of selected organisms are adapted to different habitats and modes of life;
  • Discuss how human activities affect biological communities, and what can be done to conserve those communities;
  • Describe and carry out the actions necessary to ensure safe working in the field and laboratory.

Outline Syllabus

Lectures (at Lancaster)

  • Introduction to the course: Ecology and conservation of coastal habitats. Doñana Natural and National Park.

Lectures and Practicals (at Doñana, Spain)

  • General information and safety in the field.
  • Zonation patterns of plant communities of dunelands: vegetation sampling along a gradient from the strand lines through the foredunes to the fixed dunes.
  • Conservation in practice: visit to Doñana National Park guided by National Park staff.
  • Invertebrate communities of coastal habitats: sampling and identification of main groups in three types of habitats (dune, scrubland and forest).
  • Bird communities of wetlands: species identification, counting and behavioural observations.
  • Analysis and interpretation of data collected in practicals 2, 4 and 5.
  • Habitat Restoration in practice: visit to the Guadiamar Green Corridor, restoration project for the Guadimar River after a mine spill in 1998.

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 60%
  • Test: 40%

LEC.165: Marine and Estuarine Biology

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 1-5 of Summer term only.
  • US Credits: 2 US credits
  • ECTS Credits: 4 ECTS credits
  • Pre-requisites: No pre-requisite

Course Description

Aquatic ecosystems host biodiversity which helps to underpin some of the most important ecosystem services on the planet such as carbon storage and sustainable fisheries. Understanding what is there and what it does is vital if we are to maintain and manage aquatic resources and combat the multiple stressors that they face. Through a series of lectures and practicals, students will be introduced to the concept of water as a medium for life and the challenges that poses for organisms spanning from microbes to whales and including those organisms that are subsidised by marine / estuarine production. A focus will be upon ecophysiology and how organisms respond and adapt to environmental gradients such as oxygen availability, salinity, pressure or exposure. The relationship between structure and function, and the importance of considering scales of both space and time will be stressed throughout. The module will finish with an exploration of the ecosystem services provided.

Theory from the lectures will be supported by a site visit to Morecambe Bay to make some field observations and collect samples for a subsequent lab session. Two further lab-based practicals will use fish to investigate aquatic adaptations.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Describe the heterogeneity of marine and estuarine environments
  • Identify the specific challenges faced by organisms living in water, especially with regard to salinity
  • Explain how ecophysiological structure relates to function and promotes efficiency
  • Summarize the fundamental concept of ecological zonation
  • Describe the processes of aquatic primary production and energy transfer
  • Define and provide examples of autochthony, allochthony, and ecosystem subsidies
  • State the contemporary tools ecologists use to assess food webs
  • Summarize the concept of ecosystem service provision
  • Describe the multiple stressors impacting upon marine and estuarine habitats
  • Study organisms in the field using basic survey techniques
  • Perform basic analyses and dissection in the laboratory

Outline Syllabus

The module will be delivered through 12 Lectures and 4 practicals/workshops.

Lectures

  • Lectures 1 - 2. Water as a medium for life
  • Lectures 3 - 4. Habitats connectivity and zonation
  • Lectures 5 - 6. Crossing the divide (ecophysiology for salinity/pressure etc)
  • Lectures 7 - 8. Living on the edge (ecophysiology for tidal exposure etc)
  • Lectures 9 - 10. Moving around (structure and function)
  • Lectures 11 - 12. Production and energy flow

Practicals/workshops:

  1. Field visit. Mudflat invertebrates and wading birds observations
  2. Follow up lab on benthic chlorophyll and invertebrates, with isotope data
  3. Fish dissection for demonstration of swim bladder, gills, fins, etc.
  4. Fish form and function follow-on from dissection. Morphometrics.

Learning hours:

  • Lectures 12 h
  • Practicals and workshops 12 h
  • Tests/exam 6 h
  • Coursework 10 h
  • Reading 20 h
  • Revision 20 h

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 25%
  • Exam: 50%
  • Test: 25%

LEC.241: Populations to Ecosystems

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term only
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: LEC.145 or LEC.146 or equivalent.

Course Description

Recent emphasis on global change and biodiversity has raised awareness of the importance of species and their interactions in determining how sustainable our lifestyle is. This course explores the factors that drive population and community dynamics, with a strong focus on multi-trophic interactions and terrestrial ecosystems. The course aims to give you a fundamental understanding of ecology – such knowledge is essential for informing conservation and sustainable land-use practices, and efforts to mitigate climate change. The course includes nine hours of lab work.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to... 

  • Detail the primary factors that drive population dynamics and critically discuss examples;
  • Discuss the implications of species interactions for community dynamics and discuss examples;
  • Discuss how time and space affect species interactions and community dynamics;
  • Discuss how diversity affects ecosystem functioning;
  • Discuss how biotic responses are likely to contribute to climate change.

Outline Syllabus

  • Weeks 1-3: Introduction to population ecology: Lectures and a workshop will provide an introduction to population ecology and the key processes that regulate population growth, focusing on abiotic factors and species interactions. They will cover fundamental topics such as density dependence, competition, dispersal and metapopulation dynamics.
  • Weeks 4-5: Species interactions: These lectures will introduce how species interact both within and across trophic levels. They will look at the fundamental theories and patterns behind parasitism, predation and mutualisms and how these influence population dynamics.
  • Weeks 6-10: Ecosystem Ecology: These lectures will look at how the species interactions and belowground system impact on community structure and dynamics. The lectures will introduce the role of disturbance and succession in structuring communities, by examining current theory on how communities change over both long and short time-scales. They will also look at how spatial variation and spatial scale impact on community dynamics.  Lectures will also examine the impacts of global chance on communities and ecosystem function.

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 50%

LEC.242: Principles of Biodiversity Conservation

  • Terms Taught: Lent Term Only
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: LEC.145 or LEC.146 or equivalent

Course Description

This course deals with the theoretical basis of conservation biology and you will gain knowledge in, a) the principal threats to global biodiversity and the rationale for biodiversity conservation, b) the use of a range of metrics to quantify biodiversity, c) approaches to conserving genetic, species and ecosystem diversity, d) techniques for the quantification of population size, e) approaches to prioritisation of conservation goals and f) how nature reserves can be designed to improve conservation potential. The course includes nine hours of lab work.

Educational Aims

The module aims to provide students with an understanding of:

  • The definition of biodiversity and its measurement
  • The value of biodiversity to humanity and justifications for conservation
  • Threats to biodiversity worldwide
  • How species and their genetic diversity can be maintained
  • The assessment of population size and problems associated with small populations
  • The roles of zoos, botanical gardens and seed/embryo/gene banks in conservation
  • The benefits of community and ecosystem conservation
  • The prioritisation of conservation goals and optimal design of biodiversity reserves

Students will also gain practical skills in population estimation, measurement of biodiversity, nature reserve management and conservation prioritisation.

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 50%

LEC.244: Research Design and Delivery

  • Terms Taught: Lent Term Only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: No pre-requisite

Course Description

Building on the skills developed in LEC.243, the aim of this course is to provide you with the opportunity to design and undertake a short project from start to finish, including: designing a group project, team work, collecting individual and group data in an unbiased scientific manner, analysing group data using robust statistical methods and presenting your findings to the class in a clear and concise form, and in a way that is appropriate to a relevant audience. By the end of the course, you should have gained the skills required to compete successfully in a competitive job market.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Design and undertake experiments and observations to distinguish effectively between variation due to robust effects and underlying uncontrolled variation.
  • Statistically analyse and present data in a suitable format.
  • Report the findings of their scientific endeavours to different audiences using a variety of methods, including scientific reports and Powerpoint presentations.
  • Undertake a skills audit and reflect on the generic and specialist skills gained that will be useful in a competitive job market.

Outline Syllabus

The proposed module will be arranged around 10 half-day sessions (approximately 3 hours per session), comprising a field excursion, laboratory sessions, computer practicals and workshops. The exact format will vary from week to week to reflect changing learning outcomes.

A provisional module outline follows

  • Introduction - Overview of the aims of the module and to group research projects; workshop on designing group projects.
  • Group projects critique - Groups present their project ideas to the class for discussion.
  • Collecting data for group projects I - Groups visit field site, glass houses or laboratory to collect data for group projects (3-4 students per group).
  • Collecting data for group projects II - Groups visit field site, glass houses or laboratory to collect data for group projects (3-4 students per group).
  • Analysing group data - SPSSx refresher and workshop with group data
  • Scientific literature - Using databases to search for scientific information (including presentation by Library) + SPSSx stats clinic
  • Writing up group data - Workshop on how to write up group projects (based on critique of model papers).
  • Group presentations II - Class presentations of group projects (written up individually as papers for assessment).
  • Future careers - Skills audits, CVs, identifying employment opportunities (CEEC).
  • Interviews – Job interviews and assessment centres (CEEC)

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 100%

LEC.245: Evolution

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term Only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: Normally biology or biochemistry majors only.

Course Description

Evolution is the fundamental concept in biology and an understanding of its processes and effects are important for biologists in all disciplines. The course aims to show how the morphology and behaviour of animals and plants is adapted to their environment through interactions with their own and other species, including competitors, parasites, predators and prey, and relatives. We will explore the concept of adaptation to natural and sexual selection pressures at the level of the individual and the effects on the wider population. The course will contain a balance of theory and illustrative examples from recent research.

Educational Aims

After completing this course students should be able to:  

  • Describe the roles that variation, heritability and selection play in the evolutionary process.
  • Show how numerical changes in populations occur and analyse them to make predictions about future changes.
  • Demonstrate how theoretical models help to produce testable hypotheses.
  • Show how costs and benefits of behaviours may change with circumstances and say how conflicts of interest might influence the reproductive success of individuals.

Outline Syllabus

Lectures

  • Introduction: aims and scope of module. 
  • The basis of evolution.  
  • Adaptation I 
  • Adaptation II  
  • Individuals and populations.  
  • Beyond populations: organisms evolving together.  
  • Coevolution I  
  • Coevolution II  
  • Introduction to life histories. 
  • Life history trade-off, I.  
  • The comparative approach.  
  • Ungulate mating systems  
  • The major life history trade-offs  
  • Evolution of clutch size.  
  • Population dynamics.  
  • The food problem. 
  • Animal dispersion and competition.  
  • Costs and benefits of group living.  
  • Communication Signalling and receiving signals.  
  • Conflicts of interest - battle of the sexes, sibling rivalry & parent conflict.  

Practicals

  • Video. 
  • Coevolution and symbiosis. 
  • Ungulate Ecology I. 
  • Ungulate Ecology II.  
  • Foraging 1. 
  • Foraging 2. 
  • Sexual selection. 
  • Revision session. 

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 50%

LEC.246: Environmental Physiology

  • Terms Taught: Lent Term Only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: Normally biology or biochemistry majors only.

Course Description

Macroscopic plants and animals interact with their environments in what appear to be fundamentally different ways. Animals, especially humans, possess sophisticated control and co-ordination systems, which regulate their physiology as well as complex patterns of behaviour. Plants, apparently, lack such sophisticated responses, yet both groups are clearly highly successful. Environmental Physiology ‘crosses the great divide’ between animal and plant biology, examining the whole-organism responses of animals and plants to light, pollution and disease-causing micro-organisms. We consider how such responses are controlled and co-ordinated, and how information is communicated between individuals in both animals and plants. The scope of LEC.246 is broad, extending from the consequences of environmental change on human health to communication between plants. The theme 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. The course includes nine hours of lab work.

Educational Aims

After completing this course students should be able to:  

  • Describe how animals and plants perceive light.  
  • Describe the effects of ultraviolet light on animals and plants and the mechanisms for protection from its damaging effects.  
  • Show how various pollutants affect the health of plants and humans.  
  • Describe the various forms of innate immunity in animals and discuss the conservation of anti-microbial defence mechanisms during evolution.  
  • Show how plants resist infection by microorganisms.
  • Describe mechanisms by which plants perceive environmental signals and co-ordinate their responses to them

Outline Syllabus

Lectures

  • Introductory lecture on comparative physiology.
  • The nature of "light"
  • The environmental physiology of light perception in animals and plants: clock watching and light sensing without eyes.
  • The photoecology of UV radiation.
  • The effects of pollution on plant health: mechanisms and consequences.
  • The effects of pollution on human health: mechanisms and consequences. 
  • Host defences against parasites and disease. Innate and adaptive immunity in vertebrate and invertebrate animals.
  • Plant responses to infection: dealing with infection without an immune system.
  • Synthesis and conclusions.

Practicals / Workshops

  • Experimental determination of an action spectrum.
  • Pollution workshop - Parliamentary Question Time.
  •  Plant inducible defence practical.
  • Plant defence workshop.

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 50%

LEC.247: Field Biology

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in Weeks 23-24 of Summer Term only.
  • US Credits: 4 US credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: LEC.142 and LEC.243

Course Description

Employers expect graduate biologists, especially those aiming for careers as field biologists or ecologists, to have gained experience of basic field biology skills and common survey techniques. This module aims to provide students with these essential field skills in order to increase their competitiveness and potential for accessing the job market at the end of their degrees. The module will focus primarily on identification skills of several groups of organisms including plants and animals. This knowledge provides the basis for characterising and identifying habitat types in order to carry out environmental assessments. Students will be introduced to the Phase I habitat survey method and other sampling techniques appropriate for assessing populations of indicator species of each habitat. This module will be delivered in the field at Lancaster University field station and will include excursions to natural habitats in the surrounding areas, such as the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Educational Aims

On completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Use field guides and keys for taxonomic identification.
  • Demonstrate identification skills of the key taxa used in the module, such as (a) common plants in order to map habitats and identify standard habitat types and (b) common and indicator species of target habitats from one or more insect groups.
  • Use the Phase 1 habitat survey manual to classify target habitats within broad categories.
  • Use field equipment for recording a set of environmental variables and ecosystem processes.
  • Identify appropriate sampling methods and apply them in the field.

Outline Syllabus

The module will be an intensive 5-day course in the middle of summer term, likely Week 24 (mid May). The module will have five sections, almost entirely delivered in the field by several lecturers. The main field site will be Hazelrigg Lancaster University field station. The students will be taken through a habitat and biodiversity (indicator taxa) survey at the Hazelrigg field site. There will be also short sessions at the site on: monitoring bird breeding parameters (including demonstration of handling and ringing birds); moth trapping (including species level identification of macro-moths) and small mammal trapping (including species level identification and demonstration of tagging). In addition there will be two days when excursions will be made to off-campus sites (e.g. to a species-rich meadow in the Yorkshire Dales and to sites of highly diverse insect communities such as the Morecambe bay region to see Fritillary butterflies).

Workshop (2h) in week 23:

  • Introduction to the module and health and safety in the field.

Day 1 (8h) in week 24:

  • Introduction to the Phase I habitat survey method, focusing on several habitats present at the field station (grasslands and woodlands) and including some elements of the National Vegetation Classification.
  • To complete a Phase I survey it is necessary to have a general knowledge of plant species. Therefore most of the day will focus on plant identification using identification keys and field guides.
  • Session on bird nest monitoring.

Day 2 (8h) in week 24:

  • Excursion to a species-rich meadow in the Yorkshire Dales, practising plant identification skills.

Day 3 (8h) in week 24:

  • Pollinator species identification and sampling method (point count observations); some specimens will be collected for identification in the lab.
  • Ground beetle species identification in the lab using keys and stereomicroscopes.
  • Short session in the evening (on day 3) and early morning (on day 4) on mammal trapping.

Day 4 (8h) in week 24:

  • Butterfly species identification and sampling method (Pollard walk transect).
  • Excursion to sites of highly diverse insect communities (e.g. nature reserves in the Morecambe Bay region), practising butterfly identification skills.
  • Short session in the evening (on day 4) and early morning (on day 5) on moth trapping.

Day 5 (6h) in week 24:

  • Measuring environmental variables (e.g. light/temperature/moisture, soil chemistry and C flux) at the field station and in the lab .
  • Spot test.

Contact hours: 40

Independent study hours (including reading and coursework preparation): 110

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 100%

LEC.248: Vertebrate Biology

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term only
  • US Credits: 4 US credits  
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits
  • Pre-requisites: LEC.142 or equivalent

Course Description

Vertebrates (including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) display a staggering diversity of shapes and sizes, and are adapted to a wide array of environments from hot deserts to freezing oceans. The aim of this module is to introduce you to this broad range of forms and functions, putting molecular, cellular, physiological and behavioural processes firmly within a whole organism and evolutionary context. This module will introduce you to the major vertebrate taxonomic groups; it will explore how they have evolved to exploit different environmental niches on land, in water and in flight; and how their anatomy, reproduction, thermoregulation, feeding, breathing, moving, and communication have all become fine-tuned to cope with the challenges of their evolved lifestyle.

Educational Aims

The specific educational aims are as follows:

  • Knowledge and Understanding: On successful completion of this module students should be able to link vertebrate physiology and structure with its function and evolution. They should be able to explain how organs and systems differ across taxonomic groups and how they have evolved to match the animals lifestyle and environment. They should be able to list the major vertebrate taxonomic groups, describe their evolutionary relationships to each other and summarise key concepts in areas such as anatomy, reproduction, thermoregulation, digestive biology, communication and ageing.
  • Skills: On successful completion of this module students should be able to:(i) Distinguish between the various vertebrate taxonomic groups based on form, physiology and behaviour.(ii) Describe how form, physiology and behaviour have evolved both through evolutionary time and via adaptation to environmental challenges.(iii) Use data collected by modern tracking devices and image analysis software to infer movement behaviours at continental scales and adaptions at local scales.(iv) Describe how different traits have evolved in different taxonomic groups to tackle similar environmental challenges (e.g. flight, thermoregulation, reproduction, etc.).

Outline Syllabus

Lectures

  • Introduction to vertebrate biology
  • Evolution of vertebrates I  early chordates, fishes and amphibians
  • Evolution of vertebrates II  reptiles, birds and mammals
  • Skeleton I  origin and diversity
  • Skeleton II  form and function
  • Feeding I  digestive systems
  • Feeding II  feeding behaviours
  • Energy and respiration I  metabolism and metabolic rates
  • Energy and respiration II  circulatory systems and breathing environments
  • Temperature regulation I  physiological mechanisms
  • Temperature regulation II  behavioural mechanisms
  • Reproduction I  origin and diversity of mechanisms
  • Reproduction II  hormonal regulation
  • Communication I  physiological mechanisms
  • Communication II - behavioural mechanisms
  • Movement I  origins and diversity of mechanisms
  • Movement II  migration and navigation
  • Overview

 Practicals and Workshops

  • Ungulate diversity (Knowsley Safari Park field visit) (full-day)
  • The avian skull: form and function (image and data analysis)
  • Long-distance migration patterns (using GIS)
  • Living in water: fish functional anatomy (dissection)  diving physiology in green turtles  (video)

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 50%

LEC.330: Conservation and sustainable development in the Brazilian Amazon

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas term and Christmas Vacation only
  • US Credits: 4 semester credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: LEC.322 or equivalent

Course Description

This is a residential field course to Brazil, lasting 8 days plus travel time. Places are limited and there will be an extra fee of approximately £1580 to cover flights, travel within Brazil, accommodation, food and other activities. Portuguese language proficiency is not required.

Student learning will comprise talks and seminars (both preparatory and reflective), observation in the field and the development of mini individual research projects towards the end of the trip. If appropriate, volunteering/shadowing could also be included with Grupo Orsa technicians (rural agricultural development or forestry planning) or with the environmental agency, IBAMA. As an interdisciplinary and interactive learning experience, students will be expected to participate in activities outside of their normal area of study. 

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate literature from conservation science and development studies.
  • Analyze evidence based on ecological indicators
  • Analyze evidence based on economic indicators of well-being
  • Develop research ideas for monitoring social and ecological systems in tropical forest regions
  • Develop informed viewpoints from the point of view of diverse actors
  • Evaluate the challenges and performance of protected areas
  • Show awareness of the influence of globalization on Amazonian ecosystems and societies
  • Identify potential solutions to conservation and development challenges

Outline Syllabus

Students will rotate between ecological and development-oriented activities, covering the following topics:

Conservation and ecology

  • Challenges of managing a strictly protected area in the Amazon
  • Sustainable forest management and certification
  • Biodiversity monitoring in primary forest and plantation landscapes (insects, vertebrates)
  • Measuring above-ground carbon stocks and forest condition

Development

  • Family agriculture and rural development: the role of migration and emerging land-uses
  • Forest livelihoods and the collection of non-timber forest products
  • Urban development in shantytown of Laranjal do Jari versus "westernized" Monte Dourado

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 100%

LEC.331: Food and Agriculture in the 21st Century

  • Terms Taught: Lent term only
  • US Credits: 4 semester credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: No pre-requisite, but college level Geography preferred

Course Description

This module will explore the social, political and environmental challenges facing food systems in the world today. We will look at the history, culture and development of contemporary food systems through a focus on our interactions with plants, animals and the landscape before bringing the discussion up to the present with an analysis of key debates surrounding food security and food sovereignty. Through an exploration of case studies from across the globe, we will consider the connections between changing diets, landscapes and agrarian reform and challenge you to develop innovative and alternative solutions for the future.

The knowledge and understanding on the history, contemporary debates, and future of food and agriculture that you develop in this module will be transferable to contemporaneous or further study across the spectrum of human-environmental relations. This is because food and agriculture have always been fundamental to society while at the same time being principal drivers of environmental change at multiple scales. Learning would hence be applicable elsewhere in examining the nature and evolution of 'global assemblages' and landscape-society inter-relationships. This module will develop your skills of debate and analysis drawing on environmental history, human geography, anthropology, sociology, historical and political ecology and cultural studies.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Debate current issues around the origins of food and agriculture and their relationships to human evolution and history
  • Describe how the post Columbian world system (e.g. post 1491) and colonialism profoundly transformed food and agriculture worldwide
  • Describe how conventional agriculture and the world food system emerged and how it functions today
  • Describe with the nature of and debates around alternative agricultures such as organic and agroecology
  • Describe the social, ethical, economic and environmental challenging facing food systems today
  • Understand the key differences between approaches based on food security and those based on food sovereignty, fair trade and food justice
  • Understand the connections between production and consumption and how these shape the food systems that we see in place today
  • Describe and evaluate some of the potential 'alternative' solutions to food security and how these sit in relation to more 'conventional' perspectives

Outline Syllabus

This 10 week course consists of 1 lecture and 1 hour of workshop per week for 9 weeks, with a local fieldtrip in week 8. Weekly topics are as follows:

  • The Origins of Food and Agriculture: Evolutionary, Archaeological and Historical Perspectives
  • Food and Agriculture in the Post-1491 World
  • Conventional Agriculture: Industrial Agriculture in Europe; the Asian Green Revolution; Biotechnology in Africa
  • The Global Food Economy 1: Hunger and Obesity
  • The Global Food Economy 2: Animals and Meat
  • Alternative Agricultures
  • Food Sovereignty, Fair Trade and Food Justice
  • FIELDTRIP: Food System Transformations in Practice
  • The Future of Food in the UK
  • The Future of Food and Agriculture Globally in the face of Climate Change

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework:  50%
  • Exam:  50%

LEC.341: Conservation in Practice

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 6-10 of Lent Term Only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: LEC.145 or equivalent

Course Description

This course shows how, through manipulation of species, communities and ecosystems, habitats can be managed in a sustainable way that preserves and enhances their aesthetic, scientific and recreational value. The course is largely taught by external lecturers who are directly involved in the application of ecological principles to practical problems. The course involves field trips to a variety of sites in North-west England.

Outline Syllabus

The exact composition of the module may vary slightly from year to year according to the availability of external lecturers.  An indicative timetable is given below:

  • Introduction to module and allocation of assessment topics
  • Ecological principles and habitat management
  • Management of farmland for conservation & Agri-environment schemes
  • Conservation management Game & Conservation Trust staff
  • Woodland and wetland management, Bittern ecology and conservation RSPB staff
  • Grazing and conservation management of grasslands

Excursions / workshops

  • Upland grassland management - Forest of Bowland
  • RSPB Reserve - Leighton Moss
  • Warton Crag NNR
  • Student-led presentations

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 67%
  • Coursework: 33%

LEC.342: Issues in Conservation Biology

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 1-5 of Lent Term only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: LEC.145 or equivalent.

Course Description

Conservation of biodiversity is a major goal of humanity, yet justifications for conservation are multifaceted and their relative importance varies among people and societies. Conservation objectives may also come into conflict with economic activity and development. While providing a grounding in the science of biological conservation this course also focuses on some of the key current challenges in conservation biology, where conservation objectives may trade-off against other human objectives. The course highlights our emerging understanding of the complex relationships between biodiversity conservation, the health of ecosystems and human well-being.

 

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a broad understanding of how humanity benefits from ecosystem services and the primary justifications from conserving biodiversity.
  • To discuss in detail several case studies where conservation comes into conflict with other economic and social objectives.
  • To discuss the challenge of conserving biodiversity while meeting the world's growing demand for food.
  • To display a deep understanding how the developing world will meet the dual challenges of economic development and biodiversity conservation.

Outline Syllabus

The proposed module will be arranged around two 2h sessions each week. There will also be two field excursions to local sites of interest, which will replace the discussion sessions on the respective weeks. The module will be taught by a broad array of staff within LEC representing ecological, sociological and economic aspects of conservation biology.  There will also be sessions run by local professionals who manage trade-offs between economic activity and conservation.

A provisional module outline follows:

  • Introduction - An overview of the current status of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Followed by a discussion of the values of biodiversity.
  • Wild meat - the impact of hunting on biodiversity and a discussion of the socio-economic drivers which result in over-harvesting and how these can be addressed
  • Managing fisheries - a local perspective on shell fish harvesting in Morecambe bay and the trade-offs between human use and bird conservation in this internationally important coastal habitat.  Lecture plus excursion led by Bob Houghton of the Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority
  • Land sparing or wildlife friendly farming? Should agriculture be done as intensively as possible over minimal land area or using wildlife-friendly methods over larger areas?  What are the relative costs and benefits of these approaches.
  • Predator Control in Conservation - an examination of arguments for and against predator control in uplands managed for sport hunting, using the Forest of Bowland as a case study. Lecture plus excursion
  • Biodiversity and human wellbeing - an examination of the varied links between biodiversity, food provision and health
  • Pollutants and biotic response in aquatic systems - Managing pollutants to conserve biodiversity in rivers.
  • Integrating Development and Conservation - this session will take a developing world perspective on the potentially conflicting goals of economic development and conservation of biodiversity.

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 67%
  • Coursework: 33%

LEC.343: Scotland Field Course

  • Terms Taught: Last week of Summer Term only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: College level ecology. Please note that due to the timing of this field course, final grades will not be available until later in the summer vacation.  As such, transcripts will be delayed.

Course Description

This course, based in the Scottish Highlands, aims to demonstrate and explore ecological processes in the field, with an emphasis on systems and function rather than taxonomic groups. The course will include methods of sampling invertebrates in aquatic habitats and methods for investigating soil ecology. The course is centred around Kindrogan Field Centre, which is used as a base to run daily visits to sites of ecological importance in the Highlands and surrounding areas with the aim of seeing the key species and witnessing the effects of ecosystem processes. The course involves seven days of fieldwork away from Lancaster. Please note: the course has limited places and there is a fee. Please note that marks for this course will not be available until October at the earliest.

Educational Aims

On completion of this module a student should be able to:  

  • Appreciate the interaction between land-use, geology, habitat and animal populations;
  • Design suitable sampling regimes and/or methods for different animal or plant taxa. 

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 100%

LEC.344: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 6-10 of Michaelmas Term only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: LEC.141 and LEC.145 or equivalent

Course Description

This course focuses on the phenotypic and genetic responses of organisms to their environment and how a fundamental understanding of the principles of evolution and ecology can help us to explain many important biological phenomena. The aim of the course is to highlight a number of recent advances in our understanding of ecology and evolutionary biology, and to serve as an introduction to different methods for conducting cutting edge science. An important objective is to encourage you to gain the ability to synthesise information from a range of sources and to present it in a balanced and coherent way. The course is focused around a series of lectures and workshops by active researchers asking challenging questions in their specialist fields, such as: What will be the effects of climate change on biodiversity? How can ecological theory contribute to the carbon storage debate? And why are there so many species in the tropics?

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Understand the fundamental principles underpinning ecology and evolutionary biology.
  • Understand the detailed arguments supporting or contradicting key issues in evolution and ecology.  
  • Synthesise and critically evaluate the biological evidence underpinning key ideas in ecology and evolution.  
  • Write effective, concise, accurate summaries of complex biological topics in styles appropriate for different audiences, e.g. other natural scientists, the wider scientific community, the general public, etc.

Outline Syllabus

This module will use a combination of lectures and workshops to examine a range of topical areas in ecology and evolutionary biology. The module will start with an overview of the key principles in ecology and evolutionary biology to set in context the remainder of the module. The following key themes will then be explored and debated via lectures and wokshops:

  • Interaction webs and ecosystem engineering: are trophic interactions sufficient?
  • An introduction to macroecology: why are there so many species in the tropics?
  • Biodiversity and ecosystem processes: what is functional diversity?
  • Carbon storage: can ecological theory help?
  • Biodiversity and climate change: ecology meets evolution?

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 67%
  • Coursework: 33%

LEC.345: Animal Behaviour

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 1-5 of Michaelmas Term only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: LEC.245 or equivalent

Course Description

The course builds directly on LEC.245 and its central theme will be the adaptation of animals to their environments, which includes adaptation to seasonal and climate change and adaptation in response to competition from other individuals for food, territories and mates. The course will develop along two themes: physiological adaptation, using examples of the most abundant animal groups on earth – the insects; and behavioural adaptation, which will largely concentrate on vertebrate examples.

Educational Aims

On completion of this module a student should be able to:

  • Describe what behaviour actually is and understand the major factors that influence how animals (including humans) behave
  • Discuss a wide diversity of animal behaviours in a broad range of species
  • Describe the major approaches to understanding behaviour and apply Tinbergen's four questions to behavioural processes
  • Understand the importance of both nature and nurture in the evolution of behaviour
  • Understand the ecological pressures that shape behaviour
  • Understand the importance of the fitness consequences of behaviour at the individual level
  • Understand the concepts of kin selection and inclusive fitness

Outline Syllabus

Lectures

  • An introduction to animal behaviour
  • Behavioural development I: Cognition and learning
  • Behavioural development I: Genes and hormones
  • Reproduction
  • Sociality
  • Communication
  • Human behaviour

Practicals    

  • A combination of workshops, computer and lab practicals will complement the lecture series  

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 67%
  • Coursework: 33%

LEC.346: Global Change Biology: Challenges and Solutions

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 1-5 of Michaelmas Term Only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: All of LEC.141-145 or equivalent

Course Description

Biology is not only important in describing the effects of global change, it is also fundamental to delivering the solutions that are needed to help ameliorate those effects, and limiting the causes of global change. This course will examine how biological understanding can contribute to ‘global change solutions’ in respect to a number of key issues, including food production, biofuels and the continuing protection of the ozone layer. However, it will also place that biological understanding in its wider context, not least by considering how the same fundamental information on specific biological approaches can lead to diametrically opposed positions on the utility and desirability of actually using the biology (eg the debate around GM crops). The course will not only provide a detailed understanding of a range of ‘global change solutions’ it will also consider how biology is used (and abused?) in assessing climate change and the possible responses and solutions. 

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to...  

  • Understand the biology of a range of examples of both responses to global change, and possible biology-based solutions to ameliorate those responses.
  • Understanding the wider context of the underlying biology of global change effects and/or solutions, for example in policy or the practical deployment of new technologies.  
  • Critically evaluate the biological evidence in relation to global change effects and solutions, and assess how such evidence is used to support sometimes diametrically opposed views specific issues.  
  • Write effective, concise, accurate summaries of complex biological topics in styles appropriate for different audiences, e.g. the scientific community, policy makers or the general public.

Outline Syllabus

This module will use a combination of lectures and workshops (plus one laboratory practical) to examine a range of key topics in global change biology.

A provisional module outline follows, but note that the intention is that the module would evolve to remain focussed on key issues, of which the following are examples.

  • Introduction . An overview of global change and its biological impacts (revision of Year 1 and 2) leading in to an introduction in to a range of biology-based solutions.
  • Global climate change and food production.  There is clear evidence that global climate change will constrain food production yet, at first sight, some component changes, for example increased CO2 concentration and longer growing seasons, might be expected to improve production.  The biology of crop responses to CO2, temperature and water supply will be examined (including a lab-based practical) and these responses used to critically examine different assessments of how future climates will affect global food supply.
  • The ozone hole: past, present and future(s).  Biological responses to increased UV radiation that results from ozone depletion have been a key element of evidence supporting the successful implementation of the Montreal Protocol. These responses will be reviewed briefly, and used as a foundation to examine future needs to balance protection of the ozone layer with minimising climate change.  The extent to which the balance between these two policy demands is influenced by interactions between biological responses to climate change and changing UV radiation will be considered.  Lectures and workshop.
  • Genetically modified crops: solution or another problem?  There is no doubt that genetic modification of crop plants can be a powerful tool in sustainable food production. There is also no doubt that the adoption of GM crops in many areas is constrained by concerns over perceived risks associated with GM crops.  The potential use of GM in relation to specific challenges will be considered briefly (this topic will be covered in detail in later modules). The scientific basis of perceived problems associated with GM, effects on the environment and on human health, will then be critically examined.  Lectures and workshop.
  • Biological control: solution or another problem? Biological control of pests, pathogens and weeds (including invasive species) can be seen as a green technology exploiting basic ecological principles to deliver sustainable solutions to serious agricultural and ecological problems.  Some key examples of biological control will be reviewed (this will be covered in detail in later modules) and used to introduce approaches to testing the environmental safety of biocontrol agent. The risks and benefits of biological control will be compared and contrasted with those of GM crops.  Lectures and workshop.
  • Biofuels: solution or another problem?.  Plant derived fuels such as ethanol and palm oil may be genuine alternatives to fossil fuels. However, how do the carbon benefits of biofuels relate to the wider consequences of industrial scale cultivation of sugar cane or oil palm.  The biology of biofuel production will be examined, from mechanisms of fuel production, through to impacts on greenhouse gas budgets and tropospheric air pollution.

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 67%
  • Coursework: 33%

LEC.347: Environmental Plant Biology

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 6-10 of Michaelmas Term only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: College level biological or environmental science

Course Description

Plants are sessile organisms whose survival and reproductive success depends on their ability to respond and adapt to fluctuations in their environment. The aim of this course is to illustrate some of the ways in which plants achieve this and to provide an insight into the physiological mechanisms that underlie plant ecology. The course will explore how plants respond to specific environmental cues and the ways in which they are able to adapt to a variety of stressful environments. All of these processes will be viewed from both an agricultural and an ecological perspective.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to...  

  • Identify the key processes in plant growth and development that are impacted by high and low temperature.
  • Describe biochemical, physiological and life history adaptations of plants to survival at extreme high and low temperatures.
  • Describe the range of plant photomorphogenic and photoperiodic responses to light.
  • Explain the challenges posed by gradual versus sudden changes in the light environment on plant growth and development.
  • Identify the practical applications of modifying plant responses to their light environment.
  • Explain how interaction of stresses affects plant responses to the surrounding environment.
  • Discuss the problems posed by a hot dry climate for plant growth and functioning.
  • Describe functional adaptations of leaves and roots to drought-prone environments.
  • Discuss the rationale for breeding/engineering plants for increased water use efficiency.
  • Describe the rationale behind the use of deficit irrigation to increase water use efficiency.
  • Describe the response of plants and communities to salinity.
  • Explain the physiological basis of salt tolerance.
  • Discuss approaches for improving the salt tolerance of crops.
  • Describe the range of environmental pollutants to which plants are exposed.
  • Discuss the physiological impacts of pollutants on plants.
  • Explain the use of plants for bioremediation of environmental pollutants.

Outline Syllabus

Lectures

Week 1: 1-2   Life at extreme temperaturesWeek 2: 3-4   Light and multi-stress interactions Week 3: 5-6   Drought stressWeek 4: 7-8   Salt-stressWeek 5: 9-10 Pollution

Workshops/practicals

Week 1: Workshop: Introduction to research proposalsWeek 2: Practical: Investigating the effects of plant stress IWeek 3: Workshop: Research proposal developmentWeek 4: Practical: Investigating the effects of plant stress IIWeek 5: Research proposal mini-symposium

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 50%

LEC.349: Sustainable Agriculture

  • Terms Taught: This module runs in weeks 6-10 of Lent Term only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: College level biological or environmental science

Course Description

Modern resource-intensive agriculture has proved incredibly successful in delivering relatively abundant, cheap food (at least in the developed world), but sometimes at considerable environmental cost. Therefore the general public is usually keen to embrace ‘sustainable agriculture’ but is generally unaware of the economic and food production costs of proposed changes in crop management. By emphasising the concept of crop resource use efficiency, this course also focuses on the viability of less intensive agricultural systems.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to...

  • Identify and understand key issues affecting the sustainability of agriculture, and critically appraise the literature on these issues
  • Understand the economic / societal issues constraining the adoption of more environmentally sustainable agriculture
  • Discuss alternative scenarios and solutions for key environmental problems associated with agriculture
  • Write cogently and critically about key environmental problems associated with modern intensive agriculture and alternative, sustainable solutions

Outline Syllabus

The module will be arranged around two 1 hour lectures each week, that cover a wide range of contemporary management practices and technologies relevant to sustainable agriculture (eg. role of GM crops, irrigation management, crop rotation, intercropping, crop protection) that may vary from year-to year. An additional 3 hour workshop (Weeks 2, 3) or laboratory practical (Weeks 1, 4, 5) will occur later in the week where the emphasis will be on:

  • assessed student oral presentations on environmental (water or carbon) footprinting of a selected commodity
  • an experiment to test the relative benefits of chemical and biological fertilisers, where experimental design is undertaken by students working in groups

Assessment Proportions

  • Exam: 50%
  • Coursework: 30%
  • Presentation (Assessed): 20%