Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module ANTH30H7: Human Reproductive Ecology

Department: Anthropology

ANTH30H7: Human Reproductive Ecology

Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • ANTH2061 Evolution, Variation and Adaptation OR ANTH2111 Sex, Reproduction and Love


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to the field of human reproductive ecology which situates reproductive function within an evolutionary framework
  • To give students a background in reproductive physiology
  • To give students an appreciation of how various environmental factors influence reproductive function
  • To introduce students to various methods used by biological anthropologists to assess human reproductive function


  • The course will introduce students to various aspects of human reproductive physiology and the range of variability that might be expected in different environments. It will discuss ecological influences that affect reproductive function in males and females including aspects like nutrition, physical exercise, disease loads and psychological stress. It will discuss field and laboratory methods for the analyses of reproductive function. Finally, it will discuss how reproductive variability might be expected to impact fertility and even the experience of ageing.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should acquire a knowledge of human reproductive physiology.
  • Students should understand how evolutionary and life history theory is applied to reproductive function in humans
  • Students should understand how a cross-cultural perspective can be informative about the range of variability in human reproductive function
  • Students should appreciate the kinds of fieldwork methods that can be used by anthropologists for the study of reproductive function
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Application of evolutionary concepts to understanding human reproduction
  • Ability to link human reproductive ecology to clinical studies of human reproductive function
  • Analyse the sources and kinds of problems that can affect human reproductive function
Key Skills:
  • Writing: Students should be able to present written summaries of data and theoretical perspectives and argue for a particular perspective using research-based evidence
  • Communication: Students should be able to express themselves clearly and concisely on theoretical and practical topics and explain why particular issues are important and / or controversial

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • A short introductory lecture at the start of each Seminar period will introduce students to key issues for discussion and analyses
  • Seminars will give students the opportunity for discussion of relevant academic topics in human reproductive ecology as well as guide them to further areas for reading
  • Tutorials will be used to expand on specific themes relevant to human reproductive ecology and to discuss methodological issues in the analyses of human reproductive function.
  • Formative and summative exercises will be used to consolidate students’ ability to explain and articulate various problems in the field of reproductive ecology
  • A Summative report will allow students to explore a particular topic in further detail, to demonstrate their acquired knowledge in reproductive ecology and to argue for a particular theoretical position
  • Quizzes will test students’ knowledge of key aspects of reproductive physiology

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 10 Weekly 1 10
Tutorials 5 Specified in module handbook 1 5
Preparation and Reading 85
Total 100

Summative Assessment

A 2000 word report will constitute a combination of data analyses and a summary/evaluation of theories and/or methods used in tackling a particular issue relevant to human reproductive ecology. Students will be required to take 8 short-answer quizzes during lectures/seminars which will last no longer than ten minutes designed to test whether they have absorbed presented material about human reproductive physiology and ecology. The best marks from 5 quizzes will contribute towards 20% of the student mark.
Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Report 2000 words 80%
Class quizzes 10 minutes duration 20%

Formative Assessment:

Outline draft of the Report. Written comments on report and outline draft that will help to improve the summative version. Practise quiz in class.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University