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The University of Southampton

BIOL6054 Techniques and theory of field biology

Module Overview

This module will provide an underpinning knowledge of the practice and theory of field techniques, focusing on sampling techniques in a variety of habitats.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To gain knowledge of a wide range of ecological survey techniques • To implement techniques in a particular habitat

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Consider the theoretical basis of surveying techniques
  • Evaluate current survey methods and apparatus, in terms of their appropriateness to the habitat being sampled
  • To analytically compare aspects of different habitats, such as biodiversity indices
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Manage own time to complete a set task by a given deadline
  • Working in a team
  • Presentation and demonstration of a habitat and relevant sampling techniques
  • Sampling techniques, analytical skills, taxonomic skills
  • Appreciate the theoretical considerations involved in implementing a field-based sampling project


This module will start with a tutorial, preparing students for their 4-day field trip with the Field Studies Council (FSC). At the preparatory tutorial the context of the module will be introduced: to consider the theoretical basis of ecological surveying techniques and their implementation, particularly the choice of appropriate methodology and a critical awareness of current problems and challenges in the area of applied ecology. During their time at the FSC, students will cover a range of ecological sampling and census techniques in various habitats including upland, ancient woodland, freshwater stream and intertidal. Survey techniques will include: point counts, line transects, capture-mark recapture as well as freshwater invertebrate species identification (to species level where possible) and estimation of biodiversity indices. Ecological census/sampling techniques for subsequent small group projects in the New Forest will vary depending on habitats being sampled. Students will need to assess their allocated habitat during the familiarisation trip, then formulate a research question and investigate appropriate strategies by searching current ecological literature. This could include investigations of BAP or non-native species. Habitats types within the New Forest include: Ancient woodland Heath Grassland Fen Through demonstrations given by each small group to the rest of the students, they will all learn more specifically about techniques appropriate to each environment. Presentation and demonstration skills will also provide valuable transferrable skills.

Special Features

For features such as field trips, information should be included as to how students with special needs will be enabled to benefit from this or an equivalent experience. This course includes a 4-day residential field course where students will learn a variety of ecological sampling techniques. They will then apply the skills learnt in one of three habitats in the New Forest. Students will work in small groups and one habitat may be more accessible than others, so students with special needs will either be able to work at a site they are able to access or advise members of their team in data collection through phone contact.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Study time allocation [Contact time includes: Lectures, seminars, tutorials, project supervision, demonstration, practicals/workshops/fieldwork/external visits/work based learning] Contact time: 2 (preparatory tutorial) + 32 (at field studies council) + 4 (preparatory tutorial and familiarisation trip) + 8 (data collection in the new forest) + 2 (student presentations) + 4 (student demonstrations trip to the new forest) = 50 Private study hours: 25 Total study time: 75 Pre-FSC trip preparatory tutorial – covering the theory of ecological sampling methods and species identification 4 day residential field course at FSC site: practical experience of a range of ecological sampling techniques and strategies in a variety of habitats; species identification skills. Introductory tutorial to New Forest covering the history of the forest, variety of habitats and information on data collection trip and associated assessment. A familiarisation trip will allow students to see the 3 areas where group data collection will take place, to inform private extra reading. Day trip to the New Forest to collect data in 3 habitat types: students will be divided into 3 groups who will each use sampling techniques appropriate to their habitat to obtain information on species present and to also measure environmental variable. Students will complete an individual written report using the data collected, encouraging a deeper understanding of the environmental variables and biodiversity of the three habitats. Group presentation about habitat and demonstration of habitat to peers and staff will allow students to share and express their knowledge of the new forest.

Independent Study100
Project supervision
Total study time146



MethodPercentage contribution
Group demonstration 15%
Group presentation 15%
Individual report 60%
Species identification tests of taxonomic skills 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Individual report 70%
Presentation 30%


Costs associated with this module

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:

Travel Costs for placements

Students will cover their own travel to the FSC Rhyd-y-creuau

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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