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The University of Southampton

SOES6008 Deep Sea Ecology

Module Overview

The course explores the physical environment of the deep sea including hydrothermal vents and considers the patterns of fauna of the deep sea in this framework.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

1. To give a detailed knowledge of the oceanography of the deep sea, the largest single ecosystem on Earth. 2. To introduce students to a variety of aspects of the physical and chemical environment. 3. To examine the distributions of fauna in different types of deep sea environments and link drivers to these patterns.

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.


The deep-sea occupies at least 50% of the surface of the globe. The original concept was that the deep sea was a tranquil environment with little variation in its dominant physico-chemical and biological variables. In the last 20 years this paradigm has been challenged and we now know that the deep sea can be a highly dynamic environment in which there are benthic storms and seasonal processes. There is also high species diversity. The original concept was that the system was heterotrophic but with the discovery of hydrothermal vents and cold seeps we have environments in which the basis of life is chemical energy rather than sunlight.

Special Features

This module may be available to students on both the final year of four-year undergraduate programmes, and to postgraduate taught master's programmes.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning methods The course will be delivered using lectures and a series of special 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: A series of ten seminars will be delivered by guest speakers covering topics at the forefront of deep sea ecology including fishing to mining impacts in deep sea systems. Paper Discussions: Tutorial support: All students are encouraged to discuss any aspect of the course with the relevant member of the lecturing staff. There will be four hours of scheduled tutorial time for additional support. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Private study hours120
Practical classes and workshops12
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 40%
Theory examination 60%
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