Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Biosciences


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Level 2 Ecology BIOL2461.


  • At least one other Level 3 Biological Sciences Module selected from the following list: Advanced Topics in Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour BIOL3561, Conservation Biology BIOL3551, Advanced Topics in Development BIOL3521, Stress and Responses to the Environment BIOL3491, Crops for the Future BIOL3611, Biochemistry and Biotechnology BIOL3601, Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering BIOL3531, Ageing BIOL3591, Advanced Cell Biology BIOL3481, Biology of Disease BIOL3621, BIOL3651 Genomics.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide a thorough background to the key natural and anthropogenic drivers of environmental change.
  • To apply an understanding of animal and plant physiological, growth and behavioural responses to environmental change to predict effects of change upon biodiversity and conservation of natural ecosystems across the globe.
  • To describe the methods and techniques of monitoring, measurement, manipulative experimentation, and modelling in both laboratory and field, in order to detect and/or predict impacts of past, present and predicted future environmental changes.


  • Natural and anthropogenic changes to the global environment over time.
  • Ecology of invasive species.
  • Species responses to global environmental change.
  • Ecosystems and environmental change (pollutants).
  • The role of the biosphere in the earth system (land surface-atmosphere interactions).
  • Hazards and risks posed to the biosphere by potential future global environmental changes.
  • Adaptation and mitigation strategies in the face of environmental change.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge of how species and ecosystems have responded to past changes, and the methods used to predict responses to future changes.
  • A critical understanding of the major arguments for and against anthropogenic environmental change, and of models used to predict impacts of future changes.
  • Knowledge and critical evaluation of potential options available to mitigate against climate change and conserve species and biodiversity.
  • Knowledge of "earth-system" science in understanding global changes to the biosphere.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • To be able to understand how plants and other organisms respond to climate change, in order to understand past and likely future impacts of environmental change.
  • To be able to utilise a modelling approach to understand key theoretical concepts associated with changes to biomes.
  • To be able to critically evaluate conflicting positions adopted over issues in global change biology.
Key Skills:
  • Literacy, in being able to consult and extract information from printed and on-line archives.
  • Data analysis, in interpretation and critical analysis of published modeling, experimental and field studies within the subject area of ecology in the anthropocene.
  • Self-motivation, in self-guided learning.

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

  • Lectures deliver subject-specific knowledge.
  • Workshop reinforces subject-specific knowledge and understanding gained from lectures and the development of key and subject-specific skills.
  • Self-guided learning contributes to subject-specific knowledge and self-motivation.
  • Analytical exercise is based on subject-specific knowledge.
  • Unseen examinations demonstrate achievement of the appropriate level of subject-specific knowledge of ecology in the anthropocene, with an emphasis on understanding and communication (essay and problem-based questions).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 24 3 lectures / week 1 hour 24
Workshop 2 1- 2 hours 3
Preparation & Reading 173
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen formal examination 2 hours 100% No

Formative Assessment:

2 formative examination exercises of 1 hr each.

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