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SOES6020 Structure and Dynamics of Marine Communities

Module Overview

What are the processes that generate the patterns of life we find in the marine environment? Beginning with the tools used to identify ecological patterns, this module examines the structure and dynamics of marine communities (or rather "assemblages", to be philosophically correct) and the interactions that drive them.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To provide an in-depth knowledge of the principles and concepts of marine community ecology and its application in the management of living marine resources. • To provide practical experience of ecological survey and data analysis.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the key processes structuring marine communities and driving their dynamics.
  • Teamworking.
  • Be aware of the principles underpinning applied marine ecology in consultancy and management.
  • Have gained practical experience of ecological sampling of marine communities.
  • Write a technical fieldwork report and prepare a report for policymakers and stakeholders.
  • Use the PRIMER software package for multivariate analysis.
  • Critical Evaluation.
  • Technical Writing.
  • Ecological survey techniques in the marine environment.
  • Multivariate analysis.


Lectures cover the following areas: • Describing marine communities: measuring & interpreting species richness, diversity & abundance; multivariate analysis. • Dynamics of marine communities: spatial variation (gradients & zonation), temporal variation (succession, logistic growth, intraspecific competition, deterministic chaos). • Processes structuring marine communities: interspecific competition, predation, harvesting, food web dynamics, disturbance, patchiness, metapopulations and community assembly processes. Practical work includes: • Species ID practical (optional, to enable ID of common species in fieldwork). • Boatwork in Southampton Water (subtidal survey). • Computer analysis of boatwork and deep-sea datasets.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

This is an intensive 'short' course of 3 weeks duration. Lectures: systematically cover the main concepts and topics using PowerPoint presentations. All lectures are complemented by illustrated handout materials. Where relevant, the lecturer's own research experience is brought into the lecturing sessions. References to relevant journal articles are provided as essential reading for each lecture. Boatwork: a subtidal survey in Southampton Water using the SOES research vessel RV Callista. Computer practicals: cover multivariate analysis of boatwork and deep-sea data. Blackboard material: Material is summarised at Instructions for accessing this material are given during the course. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Practical classes and workshops14
Independent Study112
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Fieldwork report 50%
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