KE5014 - Fundamentals of Ecology

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What will I learn on this module?

You will learn the key concepts and debates within ecological science, the science underpinning our understanding of global biodiversity. You will be shown how populations of animals and plants change, how species interact and how ecological systems form and alter both in time and space. You will learn a wide range of ecological skills e.g. population modelling, quantifying mortality, measuring diversity and similarity, which underpin vital practical questions such as the conservation of rare species, spread of disease and nature reserve management. At the heart of the module is the significance of ecological systems for the well being of humanity and the need to understand how natural systems work if we are going to conserve them. Ultimately they module will challenge you be become ecological researchers, to carry out a piece of detailed research not only as an assessment and practical but also as a research contribution to the management of a local site, the Ouseburn Farm: you will move from the academy and become practicing ecologists.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through a mixture of lectures, laboratory practicals, field work and mini projects. The lectures cover fundamental conceptual ideas, paradigms and case studies. In the practicals you will mix experiments, survey, modelling, role play. The practical work will boost your confidence and skills, helping you master a wide range of quantitative methods which hare important for employability and final year study. For the practicals you will be working in our science labs, accessing a variety of equipment and facilities. However the teaching strategy for this module intentionally uses a lo-fi, playful approach so that, although you will learn complex and powerful quantitative methods you’ll be able to do so in a relaxed and empowering environment. The coursework assessment purposefully puts you in the role of a researcher tasked with a site survey in which you will combine field work, data collection and analyses and report writing.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported by interaction and formative feedback from the tutors throughout the module, notably during practical classes and fieldwork activities. Staff are also available as part of the Department’s open door policy and are contactable via e-mail. Teaching materials and information will also be available via the University eLP, including access to on-line reading materials.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• MLO 1: Describe and model patterns of intraspecific population dynamics, life histories and distributions, and how these affect local biodiversity.

• MLO 2: Explain and critically assess the role of interspecific interactions e.g. competition, predation, parasitism and mutualisms and their impact on local biodiversity.

• MLO 3: Examine patterns of ecological assembly, communities and ecosystems, and how these are driven by abiotic and bitoic processes.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• MLO 4: Critically analyse the concepts of ecological stability, complexity and function and assess the difficulties in created by scale, contingency and complexity.

• MLO 5: Use and apply a diversity of data analyses (mathematical, statistical, visual) to data for populations, communities and ecosystems, based on both theory and laboratory experience.

• MLO 6: Demonstrate skills in field survey and sampling (e.g. soil invertebrates), invertebrate identification, keying and taxonomy.

Personal Values Attributes
• MLO 7: Review and assess the ethical and political challenges raised by ecology and the necessity of sustaining your own personal outlook rather than following any party line.

How will I be assessed?

1. Coursework (50%) The coursework puts you in the position of a researcher, collecting data in the field followed by lab analysis, the data set used to write a report about a real site, the Ouseburn farm. This will allow you to practice methods report writing a critical judgement. You will be able to get feedback on progress from tutors throughout as well as with the returned, marked work. This summative work is carried out early in semester 2. Report format (2000 words max, although the piece is primarily figures, tables and text ) (MLOs 5 and 6)

2. Seen exam (50%) The two hour seen exam focuses on conceptual ideas, theory and paradigms (MLOs 1-4). You will work up answers in preparation for the exam from questions that have their foundation in topics covered in lectures. The questions are all firmly rooted in lecture material but good answers expect much wider reading and synthesis of key ideas. Therefore you will have to research much of the material you use, an “information-active” research-rich learning approach. Feedback will be written directly onto the exam papers.





Module abstract

Blue whales, rain forests, coral reefs and butterflies. Ecology is a very familiar science involving animals land plants many of which we have seen first hand or in the media. Every day phrases, “the balance of nature”, “nature red in tooth and claw” suggest some commonly agreed view of the natural world underpinned by reliable science. However this familiarity hides a challenging, fascinating science in which nature is not balanced, that gave rise to chaos theory and whose language has been taken up by disaster and development experts. In this module you will explore the patterns and processes of the natural world. You will learn and practice powerful methods for data collection and analyses. Above all you will have the confidence to be ecological researchers, able to go out into the world and save those whales sand forests.

Course info

UCAS Code F751

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Geography and Environmental Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2020

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