The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre SouthamptonUndergraduate study

SOES6008 Deep sea ecology

Module Overview

The course explores the physical environment of the deep sea including hydrothermal vents and considers the patterns of fauna of the deep sea in this framework.

Aims and Objectives


  • To give a detailed knowledge of the oceanography of the deep sea, the largest single ecosystem on Earth.
  • To introduce students to a variety of aspects of the physical and chemical environment.
  • To examine the distributions of fauna in different types of deep sea environments and link drivers to these patterns.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the module you should be able to:

  1. Determine those factors that are of physico-chemical significance in the deep sea.
  2. Understand how physico-chemical factors affect process in the animal communities.
  3. Link a variety of ecological variables with their consequences in the deep sea including species diversity, biomass and zonation.
  4. Critcially evaluate the latest research in deep-sea oceanography.
  5. Identify threats to deep-sea systems in the context of global change.

Key Skills Acquired

  • Knowledge of the largest environment on Earth.


The deep-sea occupies at least 50% of the surface of the globe. The original concept was that the deep sea was a tranquil environment with little variation in its dominant physico-chemical and biological variables. In the last 20 years this paradigm has been challenged and we now know that the deep sea can be a highly dynamic environment in which there are benthic storms and seasonal processes. There is also high species diversity. The original concept was that the system was heterotrophic but with the discovery of hydrothermal vents and cold seeps we have environments in which the basis of life is chemical energy rather than sunlight.

Special Features

This module may be available to students on both the final year of four-year undergraduate programmes, and to postgraduate taught master's programmes.

Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:30
Private study hours:120
Total study time: 150 hours

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be delivered using lectures and a series of special seminars.

Formal lectures: Each lecture systematically covers the main concepts and topics by the use of PowerPoint presentations. Most lectures are complemented by extensively illustrated handout materials. Where relevant, lecturers’ own research experience in the appropriate fields is brought into the lecturing sessions. References to the applicable chapter of course text and/or other relevant journal articles are provided as essential reading for each lecture.

Seminar Series: A series of ten seminars will be delivered by guest speakers covering topics at the forefront of deep sea ecology including fishing to mining impacts in deep sea systems.

Tutorial support: All students are encouraged to discuss any aspect of the course with the relevant member of the lecturing staff. There will be four hours of scheduled tutorial time for additional support.

A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Resources and reading list

The lecture material is summarised at Instructions for accessing this material will be given during the course.


Assessment methods

Theory Examination (60%): Take-home written examination. Students will be given four questions which integrate learning across the module. Model answers will show evidence of additional reading and innovative thinking. Tests Learning Outcomes 1-5

Coursework (25%): Students will independently analyse video footage collected from the Juan de Fuca Ridge hydrothermal vents in 2016 and produce a dive log and summary. Tests Learning Outcomes 2 and 3.

Groupwork (15%): Students will be given six papers to read in small discussion groups. Each group will be tasked with answering a set of questions about paper aiming to build critical thinking skills. The final grade will be a total across the six sessions. Feedback will be provided after each session to facilitate progressive improvement. Tests Learning Outcome 4.

Linked modules

Pre-requisites and / or co-requisites

Only available to MSci (Year 4) who have previously studied a marine biology course and MSc/MRes students with a degree in biological or environmental science.


Costs associated with this course

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Printing and copyingThe University printing costs are currently: A4 - 5p per side (black and white) or 25p per side (colour) A3 - 10p per side (black and white) or 50p per side (colour) Please Note: Paper sizes not recognised by the printing devices will prompt you to select the size and then charge a minimum of 50p per black and white copy and a maximum of £1 per colour copy. You can pay for your printing by using the money loaders or by using print copy payment service by going to Please remember that we are unable to refund any credit that has not been used by the end of your course, so please consider this when topping up your printing/copy account. The University Print Centre also offer a printing and copying service as well as a dissertation/binding service. Current printing and copying costs can be found here. They also provide a large format printing service, e.g. Academic posters. £0.05-1.00

There will also be further costs for the following, not purchasable from the University:

FieldworkAccommodation: For compulsory residential field courses accommodation and travel are normally provided. You are usually expected to cover the costs of food and drink, although some courses may include meals. For optional field courses, you may be asked to make a contribution to the travel and/or accommodation costs.
FieldworkInsurances: Although travel insurance is covered by the University high risk items for example laptops and mobile phones will require separate personal insurance.
FieldworkTravel: For compulsory residential field courses accommodation and travel are normally provided. You are usually expected to cover the costs of food and drink, although some courses may include meals. For optional field courses, you may be asked to make a contribution to the travel and/or accommodation costs.
StationeryA ruler; a pair of compasses; set squares; protractor; pencils (including coloured); eraser; calculator, penknife.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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