77-700271 Introduction to Ecology

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77-700271 Introduction to Ecology 

Department of the Natural and Built Environment

Coursework Assignment (Sole Summative Task):
Analytical Biogeographical Site Investigation Report

Assessment Weighting (%)


Mode of Assessment


Word Count

3000 words

Type of Submission


Submission Date and Anticipated Feedback Date

Please refer to Assessment Diary

In-Module Retrieval available for this task


Module Leader


Description of Assignment
The aim of this exercise is to explore the factors that influence the distribution of plant species in a specific location. The site to be investigated will be selected on the basis of availability and access, near the start of semester 1. The site will be visited, described, examined and analysed during the course of this module. 

The factors to consider are:
Ecological processes

Knowledge of the interactions between these factors is expected to come across in the report. You are also expected to apply your knowledge of ecological principles and theories in the explanation of the site.
The first stage of the investigation is to walk the field looking for variations in the vegetation. This could be structural (e.g. sward height) or differences in the species present (do not worry about identifying the species present at this stage). At the same time you should be looking for variations in topography, land use and land management.
Once all groups have approximately mapped the area a sampling strategy will be agreed for the class.
Then, data on species distribution and abundance will be collected on site. In addition, soil samples may be collected for laboratory analysis.

Learning Outcomes
The following learning outcomes will be assessed:

  1. Explain the influence of edaphic, climatic and hydrological factors on the growth and distribution of organisms.
  2. Discuss key ecological principles and their role in the occurrence of selected species.
  3. Present a scientific investigation in a report format.

Presentation of your Assignment
This report will provide a critical discussion
of the site and the factors that affect it. You are recommended to use the headings identified below. This table also shows the approximate marks allocated to each section. Use this as a guide to the effort you should expend on element.
Department of the Natural and Built Environment in accordance with the Authors` Instructions, given alongside this brief (see Note, below). These instructions are heavily based on those required by the Journal of Applied Ecology.  Adherence to such editorial prescriptions is a professional necessity and is part of the students` employability development.


Approx Marks

Analysis of the context of the site including:

  • site location
  • site history
  • other relevant information from secondary sources


Presentation of data using tabular and other relevant graphical techniques.
Identification of significant results and trends (i.e. those to be discussed in the next section).


Discussion and Conclusion
Critical discussion of the relationships between the environmental conditions and biological data based on key results identified in the previous section.
The impact of in situ and ex situ management


Style and presentation
In assessing presentation the following features will be looked for:

  • a clear and logical flow (use sub-headings as appropriate)
  • clearly presented graphs and diagrams, using IT as appropriate
  • evidence of wide and appropriate reading of academic texts and use of discourse
  • appropriate presentation of references in the text and the bibliography
  • correct use of English spelling and grammar, using correct scientific conventions.

In addition, Authors` Instructions are provided, below.


The word limit is 3000 words (not including title page, contents page, summary / abstract, Figures and references). In accordance with university regulations, work exceeding the word limit will not be marked. 
Note: The work must be word processed and 1.5 line-spaced, precisely in accordance with the Authors` Instructions provided for this module. Failure to apply these conditions will result in the loss of 25% of your marks awarded for the other elements in the marking scheme. This partially simulates the fact that a publisher will simply reject a document submitted in the wrong format.

Assessment Criteria
Your work will be assessed according to the following criteria (to be read in conjunction with the feedback grid on page 4 of this brief). These criteria are not equally weighted.

  • Structure and layout
  • Evidence of preparatory reading and research
  • Evidence of understanding
  • Figures and tables
  • Spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Presentation
  • Referencing

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