Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Title Oceanography, Plankton and Climate
Code ENVS245
Coordinator Professor J Sharples
Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2023-24 Level 5 FHEQ First Semester 15


The module will provide a multi-disciplinary view of how ocean physics, microbiology, chemistry and plankton ecology operate in different ocean environments, explain how Earth's climate is affected by the plankton, and show how plankton ecosystems are responding to a changing climate.

The aim is then to use this multi-disciplinary framework to develop skills in setting sensible hypotheses, numeracy, problem-solving and written communication. Throughout the module material will connect to the research currently being carried out by staff, using research results and research tools to illustrate key concepts and formulate methods to test hypotheses.

Learning Outcomes

(LO1) Students will gain a broad understanding of how different plankton communities arise in different oceanic regimes, and how that ultimately structures food chains to larger marine animals and effects Earth's climate.

(LO2) Students will be able to compare quantitatively the scales of different processes, and critically assess their relative importance for life in the ocean.

(LO3) Students will strengthen, and acquire new, skills in quantifying physical-biological drivers of ecosystems.

(LO4) Students will learn the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to marine biology and gain experience in solving novel problems.

(LO5) Students will acquire knowledge of key concepts in physical and biological oceanography.

(LO6) Students will learn the importance of understanding the assumptions behind key theories in oceanography.

(LO7) Students will learn how to frame and test hypotheses using appropriate data and methods.

(LO8) Students will develop skills in written communication of science.

(S1) Problem solving skills

(S2) Numeracy

(S3) Numeracy (application of) manipulation of numbers, general mathematical awareness and its application in practical contexts (e.g. measuring, weighing, estimating and applying formulae)

(S4) Problem solving/ critical thinking/ creativity analysing facts and situations and applying creative thinking to develop appropriate solutions.



Topics will be drawn from:
1. Plankton requirements for growth: light, nutrients and encountering prey in a viscous ocean.
2. Plankton and climate: the importance of understanding plankton community structure.
3. Tides, seasonality, nutrient sources and plankton growth in coastal and shelf seas.
4. From physics to fish in the ocean: how does oceanography influence the locations of fishing vessels?
5. Changes in plankton communities in a warming climate.
6. The open ocean: changes in seasonality and the thickness of the ocean surface layer; factors controlling contrasts between tropical, subtropical and polar plankton ecosystems.

All lecture material and additional key reading resources will be posted online.

Timetabled workshops will be used to develop and practice problem-solving and numeracy.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Teaching Method 1 - Lecture/workshop
Description: Lectures, along with short calculations. Two lectures/workshops per week, semester 1, weeks 1-11. lectures will provide key points that need to be drawn from the week's online video material, and present case studies and relevant recent papers for discussion. The workshops will focus on quantitative problems linked to the week's material.
Attendance Recorded: Yes

Teaching Method 2 - Online material
Description: Prior to each weekly lectures/workshops students will have access to a range of online material (e.g. short videos on key concepts, key papers) to view. This material provides the basis for the case studies and discussion in the weekly lectures/workshops.
Attendance Recorded: Yes

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours 11



Timetable (if known)              
Private Study 117


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Final exam in online open-book format (Canvas Quiz) There is a resit opportunity. This is an anonymous assessment. Assessment Schedule (When) :1  90    50       
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Assessment 1: report There is a resit opportunity. Standard UoL penalty applies for late submission. This is an anonymous assessment. Assessment Schedule (When) :1    50       

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.