Typical year one modules
Global Environmental Processes
You’ll be given a general understanding of the interactions of organisms with one another and with the physical and chemical environment. You’ll learn about different levels from the biosphere to the population and learn how an understanding of ecology can help us manage our environment.
Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour
This module provides you with an introduction to the fundamentals of evolution, ecology and behaviour. Evolutionary processes are explored from the fossil record, through adaptation, speciation and the study of phylogenetics and how it shapes the tree of life, right up to the cutting edge of genomic evolution. Modern ecology has never been a more important subject than now, a result of our major environmental problems. In this module ecological topics are explored by examining ecosystem processes, competition, predation, pathogens, parasites and disease, life histories, resources, niches, demographic processes, and sustainability. Understanding animal behaviour in response to their ecosystem begins with asking rigorous questions about foraging, signalling, sexual selection, parental care, altruism and also allows us to understand human behaviour in an evolutionary context. You will have lectures, practicals and workshops.
Environmental Science and Society
This module introduces you to the role and limitations of environmental science within the context practical environmental decision making. The three themes of the module which will be illustrated through a series of environmental case studies are: 1. General scientific methods. 2. The limits and assumptions of science 3. The social context of science based decision making. You’ll have a two hour lecture each week to study for this module.
Dissertation in Environmental Science
This module will enable you to use the library and other sources to retrieve information; read, understand and synthesise primary literature; produce a 5000 word literature review within a specified word limit; develop your written presentation skills within the constraints of an editorial system and manage and organise your time.
Life on Earth
This course will introduce you to the vast range of living (and many extinct) species to be found on Earth. The various domains of life will be explored with due attention to the two prokaryote groups, the archea and eubacteria. The course will emphasise our current understanding of biodiversity and how a simple morphological-based taxonomy has been shaken up by current molecular techniques. The module concentrates on the unity and This course will introduce you to the vast range of living (and many extinct) species to be found on Earth. The various domains of life will be explored with due attention to the two prokaryote groups, the archea and eubacteria. The course will emphasise our current understanding of biodiversity and how a simple morphological-based taxonomy has been shaken up by current molecular techniques. The module concentrates on the unity and diversity of life set in an evolutionary context and how the genotype gives rise to both phenotype and behaviour.diversity of life set in an evolutionary context and how the genotype gives rise to both phenotype and behaviour. You will have lectures and practicals.
The Anthropology of Human Ecology
Following an introduction to the most basic principles of social/cultural anthropology and biological ecology, the module examines the ways in which traditional societies around the world relate to their environments. You’ll spend two hours per week in lectures to cover material for this module.
There’s more to grass than meets the eye. Grasslands are used for forage in agricultural systems but are also important as habitat for wild animals, birds and beneficial insects. In this module you’ll learn about the latest developments in grassland management, both UK and globally, and the policy issues associated with these developments. You’ll examine the morphology and physiology of forage grass species to understand the mechanisms of grass growth, production and utilisation and how these are influenced by management practices. In addition to lectures, you’ll have farm visits and computer-based tutorials so you can develop your understanding of grassland management, identify grass plants and use the latest subject-specific software to calculate a pasture budget.
Contemporary Agricultural Systems
Modern agriculture is a dynamic, fast-paced and high-tech industry. In this module, you’ll explore practical agricultural systems used by commercial UK farms. Designed for students with a farm or non-farming background, you’ll get to understand the fundamental concepts of agricultural systems within the context of contemporary markets, policy and research. Exact topics covered in the module will vary according to the issues affecting the agricultural industry in any one year, but examples include: dairy production, arable production, soils, agri-environmental interactions, labour and machinery management and farm business systems. You’ll have lectures from academics currently researching these fields and will visit the University Farm and external farms to see what you’ve learnt in practice.
Micro-organisms and Disease
You’ll be introduced to a range of important human pathogens, their interactions with the immune system, mechanisms of disease causation and the laboratory procedures involved in diagnosis and treatment of infections. Each week you’ll spend four hours in lectures to study for this module.
In this module you’ll be introduced to plant evolution and the cellular structure of plants, in particular seeds, leaves, flowers and roots, and how these multicellular tissues are constructed. You’ll become familiar with the techniques used to study plant science, including genetics and the use of mutants. Using model plants, such as Arabidopsis, you’ll look at the development of modern plant biology and genetics and then explore the applications of biotechnology in plant science. You’ll also examine the importance of plant nutrition and how the interaction with pathogens is crucial to plant growth and production. You’ll have a mix of lectures and practical laboratory sessions to apply your learning.
Typical year two modules
This is an introductory module which provides a basic understanding of the nature and properties of soil and the application of soil chemistry, biology and physics to land management and environmental science. Broadly, the topics covered include: soil formation; clay mineralogy; soil organic matter (microbiology and chemistry); soil texture and structure; characteristic soil reactions (acidity, redox); the major and minor plant nutrients (chemistry and microbiology); soil fauna and flora; water relations (irrigation and drainage). You’ll spend around five hours in lectures each week to study for this module.
Environmental Science Field Course
This residential field course module involves studies of various communities and ecosystems using a range of field techniques to investigate factors which determine the distribution and function of living organisms. The residential component takes place in June at the end of the first year in Devon.
Research Skills and Professional Skills Part 1&2
This module (autumn semester) will prepare you to choose your final year research project by familiarising you with the research carried out within the environmental sciences group. The module will focus on developing your understanding of how you identify research gaps, design experiments, collect, analyse, interpret and present data.
In the second part of this module (spring semester) you will choose your topic and by the end of the module you will have identified a project supervisor, undertaken a literature review in your chosen area and produced a project proposal outlining your project. The module will focus on developing your ability to research the literature, plan a piece of research and communicate your work effectively.
Introduces the study of populations and communities from an evolutionary point of view, and considers critically the extent of our understanding of ecological ideas. Study for this module consists of a 4 hour lecture once per week.
Tropical Environmental Science Field Course
This residential tropical field course module is based on Tioman Island of the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and involves studies of various tropical communities and ecosystems using a range of field techniques to investigate factors which determine the distribution and function of living organisms in tropical ecosystems.
This module provides a comprehensive introduction to the study of animal behaviour, from the physiological and genetic bases of behaviour to its development and adaptive significance in the natural environment. Using examples from across the animal kingdom, it emphasizes how predictive modelling, experimental and observational approaches integrate to explain how and why animals behave as they do. You’ll have a weekly three hour lecture to cover material for this module.
Climate Change Science
This module presents a broad overview of the science behind climate change and its effects. These topics are: historical climate change; the principles of climate forcing; the role of modelling; responses of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, including impacts on humans; the political environment; and options for climate stabilization. You’ll have a two hour lecture each week to study for this module.
Biological Photography and Imaging 1
Through practical sessions, you will learn the techniques of biological image production and manipulation, including the ability to generate biological images of the highest technical quality and scientific value. You'll spend around 6 hours per week in lectures studying this module.
We will consider the principles underlying the structure and higher organisation of natural systems. This encompasses diversity theory, community ecology, ecosystem functioning and biogeography. As this is a rapidly developing area, much of the material is recent and often controversial, so the content is updated every year to keep track of new findings. You’ll have a weekly three hour lecture to cover material for this module.
Patterns of Life
This module focuses on patterns in the distribution of organisms in space and time, and the theories proposed to explain these patterns. You’ll spend two hours per week in lectures studying for this module.
The course will focus on the processes that govern terrestrial ecosystem function. We will identify key ecosystem drivers and processes and explore how these have shaped the biosphere. You will gain an understanding of the mechanisms that control changes in the physiochemical environment and their impact upon communities. Particular topics include primary productivity, decomposition, herbivory, biodiversity and human impact on ecosystems. Classes comprise a mix of lectures, laboratory practicals, a computer practical, a seminar and fieldwork.
Applied Plant Physiology: from Cell to Crop
Crops use solar energy, water and nutrients to grow, but how do scientists and managers overcome the limits to this growth? In this module you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of plant physiology with an applied context – right the way from the molecular level to the field. You’ll cover major crop species in the UK and worldwide and examine the physiological basis of resource capture and utilisation in crop growth and development. You’ll explore limitations to resource capture by crops and how growers overcome these, in relation to integrated crop management. You’ll also learn about the physical aspects of the plant environment incorporating the key processes of photosynthesis, respiration, uptake and transpiration of water, and the uptake of mineral nutrients. You’ll have a mix of lectures and practical laboratory sessions to apply your learning.
Soil and Water Science
The aim of the module is to provide a sound understanding of important physical and chemical processes that take place within soils and fresh water systems. This includes providing a basis for the understanding of more applied aspects of the behaviour of these systems (e.g. plant-soil interactions, pollution and its remediation). You will take lectures, two practicals and two computing sessions.
Computer Modelling in Science: Introduction
Modern biological and environmental science includes the study of complex systems and large data sets, including imaging data. This necessitates the use of computer models and analyses in order to understand these systems. This module contains an introduction to computer programming and modelling techniques that are used in the biological and environmental sciences.
Evolutionary Biology of Animals
In a series of lectures, this module aims to provide a general introduction to key evolutionary concepts in different fields of animal biology including human.
Plant Pests and Diseases
Sugarbeet root aphids feed on the sap in the roots, causing damage and production losses. But how does this pest work and what can be done? In this module, you’ll explore how microbes and insects cause disease in plants and the effect of interactions between plants, microbes and insects. Looking globally, you’ll be able to explain the importance and the nature of the organisms that are pests and diseases of plants, including population dynamics and epidemiology. You’ll also assess the main approaches for control and management of pests and diseases, including chemical interventions, resistance breeding in plants and biological control. You’ll have lectures complemented by practical laboratory sessions, videos and demonstrations.
Typical year three modules
You will carry out an experimental or literature based research project. This project is often linked to current research being carried out in the school. Project areas include animal ecology, plant responses to environmental stress (eg drought, salinity) and air pollution.
Examples of recent research projects include:
- a field study of beetles in Central America
- a laboratory study of the response of wheat roots to saline soils
- a desk-based study on the potential role of secondary biofuels in the UK.
Read BURN the Biosciences Undergraduate Research at Nottingham web pages to find out more about undergraduate research projects. BURN is a freely accessible e-journal which showcases final-year research projects undertaken by biosciences students.
Applied Bioethics 1: Animals, Biotechnology and Society
Animal-human interactions raise some prominent ethical issues. In this module, you’ll examine the ethical dimensions concerning animal agriculture, modern biotechnologies and research in the biosciences, in relation to both humans and non-human species. You’ll learn about the ethical frameworks used to analyse specific dilemmas raised by the human use of animals. Using specific animal and biotechnology case studies, you’ll interpret the main ethical theories and principles and apply them to the case studies to inform professional decision-making. You’ll have a mix of lectures and seminars to explore these concepts.
Environmental Pollution Field Course
Through a one week field course you’ll gain practical experience of environmental pollution and its long term effects in a heavily polluted area in central Europe. You’ll gain practical experience of foreign field work, working in teams, chain-of-custody issues concerning field samples, in situ and ex situ analysis of samples, oral presentation techniques and report writing.
Arctic Ecology Field Course
This module focuses on the function of arctic ecosystems. You’ll identify key terrestrial ecosystem drivers and processes in order to gain a broad understanding of arctic areas. During the field course, you’ll put ecological methodology into practice in projects that analyse landscape patterns and processes in different habitats.
Biological Photography and Imaging 2
This module extends and develops your skills of creative and critical biological photography. You’ll continue to develop the practice and experience gained in Biological Photography and Imaging 1. You are encouraged to demonstrate increasing expertise in selected subject areas and/or specialist photographic techniques such as digital imaging and manipulation (using Photoshop CS software), digital video photography and editing, ecological and environmental photography, landscapes, macro and long lens photography and specialist lighting. Field and studio work continue to be essential elements of the module. You will have around 6 hours of lectures per week studying this module.
Considers current knowledge of, and research into, the ecological causes and evolutionary processes that govern natural selection, adaptation and microevolution in natural populations. You’ll examine three approaches to the study of evolutionary ecology: theoretical and optimality models; the comparative method; and direct measurement of natural selection in the wild. You'll have 2 hours of practicals as well as 2 hours of seminars per week studying for this module.
Environmental Pollutants: Fate, Impact and Remediation
This module is concerned with the behaviour and effects of pollutants in terrestrial and aquatic environments and how their impacts can be ameliorated and managed. The focus is on both the scientific understanding of environmental pollutants and on the intervention strategies currently available. Topics covered include study of the common water and soil pollutants: heavy metal contamination of land; radionuclide behaviour in the environment; persistent organic contaminants and pesticides; nitrate pollution of groundwater; pollution of surface waters by agriculture; eutrophication of lakes; acidification of soils and freshwaters; biological monitoring of rivers; ecotoxicology and environmental epidemiology; quantitative risk assessment; land reclamation, including landfill sites. You will have lectures, tutorials, a field visit and laboratory work and demonstrations.
Plants and the Light Environment
In this module, you’ll study the influence of the light environment on the physiology of native and crop species, extending from the cellular to community level. You’ll learn how to differentiate between different light signalling pathways in plants and demonstrate how these pathways function in plants. You’ll be able to explain how light is absorbed by plants to initiate energy transfer systems and to stimulate developmental pathways of photomorphogenesis. You’ll then be able to apply your knowledge in understanding the causes of variations in crop yields and how these may be used to assist in the search for improved varieties and increased productivity in agricultural systems. You’ll have a mix of lectures, demonstrations and field trips to see what you’ve learnt in practice.
Applied Bioethics 2: Sustainable Food Production, Biotechnology and the Environment
Building on Applied Bioethics 1, you’ll investigate widely accepted ethical principles and apply your insights to contemporary ethical issues in agricultural, food and environmental sciences. You’ll explore the ethical dimensions of prominent issues raised by the agricultural practices (including the use of biotechnology and GM crops) designed to meet the nutritional needs of the global population. You’ll also learn about how ethical theory can inform professional choices and public policies related to food production and environmental management. You’ll have a mix of lectures, tutorials and team-based exercises to develop a sound understanding of ethical principles.
Geobiology explores the relationship between life and the Earth's physical and chemical environment over geological/ evolutionary time. The module will focus on the geological consequences of evolution and how life has influenced physical and chemical environment. Topics covered will include: origins and evolution of life; evolution of the atmosphere and biosphere; geobiology of critical intervals and palaeobiology and evolutionary ecology.
In a series of lectures, this module provides training in environmental biotechnology, with particular emphasis on the interaction between microorganisms and the environment. The main topics covered will be wastewater treatment, bioremediation of organic and inorganic pollutants, microbes as indicators of risk factors in the environment, microbes in agriculture (biocontrol and biofertilisers) and the role of microorganisms in bioenergy production.
Plants and the Soil Environment
What happens below the ground that affects the water and nutrient uptake by plants? In this module, you’ll examine the acquisition of water and nutrients by plants in both agricultural and natural systems, and how plants interact with the soil environment. You’ll learn about the evolution of root adaptations which enable plants to thrive in environments with limited or excess water and nutrients. In an agricultural setting, you’ll explore how water and nutrient uptake by plants can be used to improve crop productivity and resource management, and use the practical study component to investigate new methods and technologies for below-ground phenotyping of roots. You’ll have a mix of lectures and computer-based practicals to gain a fundamental understanding of how water and nutrients are acquired by plants from the soil environment, and their influence on plant growth and development.
Plant Disease Control
In this module, you’ll gain an understanding of the applied aspects of plant disease control, in particular transmission, epidemiology, detection and diagnosis and control strategies. You’ll analyse the problems of plant diseases and be able to describe the options available to control losses due to disease and the strengths and weaknesses of these options. You’ll examine control strategies based on a range of approaches – including application of fungicides, biological control, deployment of disease resistant varieties and biotechnological approaches. Importantly, you’ll learn about the strategies used by plant pathogens to spread between plants and cause disease epidemics. You’ll have lectures and a field visit, as well as practical laboratory sessions to develop laboratory skills associated with disease diagnosis.
Computer Modelling in Science: Applications
The aim of this module is to show the range of techniques for computer-based models applied to the biological and environmental sciences using suitable important examples. You’ll have a 2 hour weekly lecture and a 2 hour practical. The module is designed for students with relatively little mathematical or computing experience.
In a series of lectures, this module presents an advanced review of the role of genetics in the conservation of endangered species. The course aims to give you an advanced knowledge of the effects of limited population size upon genetic structure; the theory of inbreeding and inbreeding depression in captive and wild populations; the use of genetic technology to investigate population structure; ways of managing endangered species to maximise their genetic variability; and modern views of specific concepts.
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. The above list is a sample of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.