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The University of Southampton

SOES2040 Zooplankton Ecology and Processes (L5)

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Laboratory skills in zooplankton identification using dichotomous taxonomic keys
  • Methods for analysing zooplankton seasonal and annual time-series
  • How to access databases of relevance to international zooplankton research
  • Knowledge of contemporary topics in plankton research
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Safe laboratory working practices
  • Data analysis and interpretation
  • Library information retrieval
  • Working in small groups
Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Recognise the diversity of mero- and holo-plankton; be able to identify common species of zooplankton using taxonomic features.
  • Have a good working knowledge of zooplankton sampling methods and open access databases and how to choose the most appropriate methods to answer specific research questions.
  • Become proficient in analysing and interpreting plankton datasets.
  • Understand how biotic (life history strategies, behaviour, trophic interactions) and abiotic (hydrodynamics, climate) factors regulate zooplankton distribution and abundance.
  • Know how feeding ecology (diet, rates, impact) is determined in zooplankton; understand the role that zooplankton play in marine pelagic food webs and biogeochemical cycling in a variety of marine ecosystems characterised by differing levels of productivity.
  • Be aware how plankton dynamics and pelagic ecosystem function will differ in response to hydroclimatic variability, through the use of zooplankton indicator species, long-term datasets and hypothesis-testing experiments.


Marine zooplankton communities consist of permanent and temporary members, including the larvae of many fish and benthic invertebrates, thus acting as vehicles for population exchange and diversification. Zooplankton play an important role in the functioning of marine ecosystems and in biogeochemical cycles, linking pelagic primary production to higher trophic levels, including commercially important fish, mammals and seabirds. In addition to their functional role, marine zooplankton are considered to be excellent indicators of climate change because a) most species are short lived, which leads to tight coupling between environmental change and plankton dynamics, and b) they are free floating, so respond easily to changes in temperature and oceanic current systems by expanding and contracting their ranges. In this course you will learn to recognise the diversity of marine zooplankton taxa; the factors that regulate their distribution and abundance, both now and in the future; and the fundamental role they play in marine ecosystem function. There are 5 broad themes: 1) Biodiversity and taxonomy; 2) Temporal and spatial distributions; 3) Sampling methods and monitoring programmes; 4) Trophic ecology and biogeochemical cycling; and 5) Climate change.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal lectures: lectures will provide underlying structure. Practical sessions: practical classes will support aspects of the lecture programme This Blackboard site contains everything to support the course: course synopsis and timetable, lecture and practical handouts, PANOPTO recordings; additional reading material and relevant websites, practical groupings and assignment marks. All announcements relating to this course will be made via email sent via this Blackboard site.

Practical classes and workshops6
Independent Study120
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Hays GC et al ) Climate change and marine plankton Trends Ecol Evoln ,20 . , pp. 337-344 .

Young CM et al (2002). Atlas of marine invertebrate larvae. 

Beaugrand G  (2005). Monitoring pelagic ecosystems using plankton indicators. ICES J Mar Sci ,62 . , pp. 333-338 .

Turner JT  (2004). The importance of small planktonic copepods and their roles in pelagic marine food webs. Zool Stud ,43 . , pp. 255-266 .

Everson I (2001). Krill. Biology, ecology and fisheries. 

Arai M (1997). A functional biology of Scyphozoa. 

Gentsch E et al (2009). Dietary shifts in the copepod Temora longicornis during spring: evidence from stable isotope signatures, fatty acid biomarkers and feeding experiments. J Plankton Res ,31 . , pp. 45-60 .

McEdward L (1995). Ecology of marine invertebrate larvae. 

Suthers IA & Rissik D (2009). Plankton. A guide to their ecology and monitoring for water quality. 

Purcell JE et al (2001). Jellyfish blooms: ecological and societal importance. 

Pitt KA & Lucas CH (2014). Jellyfish blooms. 

Kaiser MJ et al. Marine ecology. Processes, systems, and impacts. 

Valiela I  (1995). Marine ecological processes. 

Folt CL  (1999). Biological drivers of zooplankton patchiness. Trends Ecol Evoln ,14 . , pp. 300-305 .

Prairie JC et al Biophysical interactions in the plankton: A cross-scale review. Limnol Oceanogr: Fluids & Environments ,2. , pp. 121-145.

Miller CB (2012). Biological oceanography. 

Soetaert K & van Rijswijk P  (1993). Spatial and temporal patterns of the zooplankton in the Westerschelde estuary. Mar Ecol Prog Ser ,97 . , pp. 49-57 .

Beaugrand G (2004). The North Sea regime shift: evidence, causes, mechanisms and consequences. Prog Oceanogr ,60 . , pp. 245-262 .

Sommer U  (1989). Plankton ecology: succession in plankton communities. 

Davis CS (1987). Zooplankton life cycles. Georges Bank , Backus, R. & Bourne, D.W. (eds) . , pp. 256-267 .

Lenz PH et al (1996). Zooplankton: sensory ecology and physiology. 

Omori M & Ikeda T  (1984). Methods in marine zooplankton ecology. 

Levin LA Recent progress in understanding larval dispersal: new directions and digressions. Integr Comp Biol ,46 . , pp. 282-297.

Reid PC et al The Continuous Plankton Recorder: concepts and history, from Plankton Indicator to undulating recorders. Prog Oceanogr ,58 . , pp. 117-173 .

Ringelberg J (2010). Diel vertical migration of zooplankton in lakes and oceans: causal explanations and adaptive significances. 

Mauchline J (1998). The biology of calanoid copepods. 

Harris RP et al (2000). ICES zooplankton methodology manual. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Data Analysis 50%
Journal 50%

Linked modules

SOES1007 OR SOES2006 OR BIOL1004


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:


There are no additional costs associated with this module.

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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