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Ecosystems Field Course

Module titleEcosystems Field Course
Module codeGEO2323B
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Lina Mercado (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The ecosystems field trip is an opportunity to experience and explore in depth the biogeographic variation, diversity, and functioning of ecosystems. The field trip is designed to cover several ecosystems including temperate forests, Mediterranean vegetation, peatlands, and tropical forests and mangroves. The field course examines these systems through an approach focussing on carbon storage and dynamics, composition and structure, and plant traits to critically evaluate the diverse ecosystems. We also evaluate the interaction between humans and environment by studying land-use and land-cover change, conservation, and restoration. The fieldwork will provide you with training in field techniques and data processing and analysis for quantifying the main processes and understanding key issues for conservation of these ecosystems under human pressures. The module will be delivered through online resources and optional face-to-face teaching (if possible), including day trips within South West England.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The field course has the following main aims:

  • To provide you with an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained through lecture-based modules to field-based geographical study
  • To enable you to acquire skills in measurement techniques and research design.
  • To help you to develop and extend your awareness of the importance of taught, learnt and observational skills, in strengthening employability potential.
  • To develop transferable skills, including effective communication, time management, presentation skills.
  • To give you further preparatory training for undertaking your dissertation (GEO3321/GEO3322), especially in experimental design and execution of a research project.

In this module, we aim to enhance your employability through the encouragement and development of personal and academic skills by increasing your awareness of how the module content contributes to positive graduate attributes. Specifically, this module will enhance your teamwork and work management skills as you will be working with a core team for a week, collaborating with students on data collection, and working with other teams.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Identify, formulate and evaluate research questions or problems with limited guidance.
  • 2. Describe selected methodologies and techniques used in collecting, analysing and presenting geographical information, and apply these with limited guidance.
  • 3. Discuss specific case studies and examples relevant to specific themes relating to the module
  • 4. Describe and explain the results of practical fieldwork and relate results to existing bodies of geographical knowledge.
  • 5. Collect, interpret, evaluate and combine different types of geographical evidence and information.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Identify and apply a diverse range of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding in physical geography.
  • 7. Apply geographical concepts in different situations.
  • 8. Discuss reciprocal relationships between physical and human environments.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently by written, oral and visual means.
  • 10. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment.
  • 11. Use technologies effectively and appropriately and with limited guidance to select, analyse, present and communicate information.
  • 12. Work as a participant and leader of a group and contribute effectively to the achievement of objectives.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Topics covered by this module include key areas of active research of the module convenors. This research-led teaching includes:

  • Techniques used to monitor ecosystems
  • Forest succession and dynamics
  • Peatlands
  • Tropical forest
  • Temperate forest
  • Mediterranean Vegetation
  • Mangroves
  • Impacts of exotic species on native temperate forest
  • Land-use and land-cover change
  • Conservation and restoration

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching7Preparatory lecture sessions – reading / research groups/ lectures/ small group activity.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching40Field course – directed learning in the field and small group projects, field project discussion, analysis sessions, student-led results presentations.
Guided Independent Study103Additional reading, research and preparation for the module assessments before and after the trip.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Pre-field course group presentation 1 – ecosystems 7-12 minutes including questionsAllOral
Pre-field course presentation 2 – field project7-12 minutes including questionsAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group oral presentation of field project during trip (10 % of this assessment i.e. 4% overall, will be an individual mark on quality of presentation delivery)4015-20 minutes including questionsAllWritten
Documentary story map blog ( words1-11Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group oral presentation1500-word individual essayAllAugust Ref/Def
Documentary story map blog ( story map blog1-11August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

If you are unable to engage with the field course for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will be re-assessed for field work skills via two new assessments to be submitted for the August deferral period:

  • A 1500-word essay, related to key themes introduced on the module;
  • A 1800-word story map blog, based upon desk-based research on a theme, site, or issue related to the field course locations.

Both pieces of assessment will be devised in discussion with the module convenor.

If, having completed the field course learning activities, you are unable to complete the group oral presentation for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will be required to submit a 1500-word individual essay in the August deferral period. If you are deferred in the documentary story map blog, you will be required to submit an individual 1800-word Story map blog in the August deferral period.

The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

If you fail the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%), you will need to submit a 1500-word essay, related to key themes introduced on the module and an 1800-word story map blog, based upon desk-based research on a theme, site, or issue related to the field course locations. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Reading lists appropriate to each field course will be issued during term two.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Field course, Ecosystems

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites

GEO2331 Research Design in Physical Geography and
GEO2332 Numerical Methods for Physical Geographers

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date