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The University of Southampton

SOES6008 Deep Sea Ecology

Module Overview

This module examines the patterns of life in deep-sea environments & the processes that govern those patterns.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Knowledge of the largest environment on Earth.
Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

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


This module explores the ecological processes that produce the patterns of life in deep-sea environments. The “deep sea” is defined by a water depth greater than 200 metres, which covers most of the surface of our planet. But the “deep sea” is not a single environment: it encompasses a range of habitats, such as soft-sediment abyssal plains, hard-substratum seamounts, and chemosynthetic environments such as hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. These deep-sea habitats often have distinct environmental conditions and ecological features, but their patterns of life are governed by the same key biological processes and interactions, such as reproduction, dispersal, competition, and resource partitioning. Although only recently accessible to investigation, deep-sea environments therefore offer a rich “natural laboratory” in which we can examine the consequences of fundamental ecological processes in different environmental settings. The module begins by introducing the technology and analytical tools used to perceive ecological patterns in deep-sea environments, then considers large-scale and small-scale spatial and temporal variation in the ecology of deep-sea environments, and finally examines the processes and interactions that generate those patterns. Students gain experience of analysing real data from ecological surveys of deep-sea environments, including large-scale patterns in diversity and small-scale variation in faunal distribution revealed by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive transect.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning methods The course will be delivered using lectures and occasional guest seminars Formal Lectures: Lectures are systematically placed to provide important background knowledge and will cover the main concepts and topics by the use of PowerPoint presentations. Where relevant, lecturers' own research experience in the appropriate fields is brought into the lecturing sessions. Relevant journal articles are provided as essential reading for each lecture. Seminar Series: occasional seminars, depending on speaker availability, are delivered by guest speakers to cover topics at the forefront of deep sea ecology. Paper Discussions: Tutorial support: All students are encouraged to discuss any aspect of the course with the relevant member of the lecturing staff. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Private study hours120
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

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



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 50%
Coursework 50%
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