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The University of Southampton

SOES1006 Introduction to Marine Ecology and Evolution

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Generic and subject-specific laboratory practical skills: principally making observations and recording information, using dissecting microscopes
  • Fieldwork skills: introduction to boat work; observing and recording information.
  • Safety awareness: handling of preserved material in safe manner, safe fieldwork practice
Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Be able to recognise the principal coastal and oceanic marine ecosystems at global, regional and local scales
  • Have acquired a basic knowledge of the key biological, physical, chemical and evolutionary processes operating in these ecosystems
  • Have acquired basic knowledge of the types of plants and animals inhabiting marine environments and their ecological and evolutionary adaptations to particular physico-chemical conditions


This module provides an introduction to the important ecological processes that occur in a variety of marine ecosystems. We will begin with an introductory lecture that will define marine ecology and highlight key patterns of distribution and diversity in the marine environment. For the remainder of the module, we will examine ecological processes and interactions in more detail in ecosystem-based lectures, as well as a half lecture on evolutionary ecology. We will initially focus on benthic ecosystems, starting off in the intertidal zone, in particular rocky, muddy and sandy shores. Zonation patterns and the physiological adaptations of littoral organisms to substrate type, tidal exposure, immersion cycles and temperature regimes will be considered. We will also examine coastal meiofauna and the fossil record, biodiversification and palaeoecology of marine animals. Estuaries will start the focus on water column ecosystems. Moving into productive shelf waters and oligotrophic subtropical gyres, upper ocean processes will be considered in terms of the controls and limits to phytoplankton primary production at regional and global scales. We shall then see how photosynthetically-fixed carbon is transferred through the major food web consumers including zooplankton and fish, and bacterial decomposition of detritus via the microbial loop. The ultimate recipients of water column production in coastal waters are the bottom-dwelling benthic communities of animals, which consume particulate detritus that rains down on them. In the deep sea, benthic communities are influenced by a very different physico-chemical regime to that in marginal seas and not all such communities are dependent on upper ocean processes. For example, organisms which have colonised hydrothermal vents rely on chemical energy (sulphur) rather than the sun's energy (fixed by photosynthesis). Finally, the diversity and ecology of tropical and polar habitats will be introduced as well as a lecture on the basic principles of marine conservation biology.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lectures: (24 x 45 minutes): These will provide an introduction to the main marine ecosystems and their biological characteristics. The four main topics covered are the marine environment, margins of the sea, shelf seas and open oceans; and the deep sea. Laboratory practical: (2 x 3 hours): These will be a mixture of hands-on analytical methods, video and specimen observations, and demonstrations, covering basic laboratory practical techniques, and benthic habitats. Boatwork: A half-day boatwork practical in Southampton Water on board the SOES research vessels Callista and Bill Conway. Research seminars: Research seminar on a contemporary topic in marine ecology will be given by guest speakers or via online lectures. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Practical classes and workshops15
Independent Study108
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Kaiser, M.J., et al., (2005). Marine Ecology: Processes, systems and impacts. 

Blackboard. All of the lecture and practical material is summarised at Instructions for accessing this material will be given during the course.



MethodPercentage contribution
Written assignment 100%
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