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The University of Southampton

SOES3013 Zooplankton Ecology and Processes

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

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

Valiela I (1995). Marine ecological processes. 

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

Levin LA (2006). Recent progress in understanding larval dispersal: new directions and digressions. Integr Comp Biol. ,46 , pp. 282-297.

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

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

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

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.

Reid PC et al. (2003). The Continuous Plankton Recorder: concepts and history, from Plankton Indicator to undulating recorders. Prog Oceanogr. ,58 , pp. 117-173.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

Davis CS (1987). Zooplankton life cycles. Georges Bank. , pp. 256-267.

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

Everson I (2000). Krill. Biology, ecology and fisheries.. 

Prairie JC et al. (2012). Biophysical interactions in the plankton: A cross-scale review. Limnol Oceanogr: Fluids & Environments. ,2 , pp. 121-145.

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

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

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

Kaiser MJ et al. (2011). Marine ecology. Processes, systems, and impacts. 

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

Miller CB (2012). Biological oceanography. 

Hays GC et al. (2005). Climate change and marine plankton. Trends Ecol Evoln. ,20 , pp. 337-344.



MethodPercentage contribution
Data Analysis 50%
Research proposal 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: 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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