Biodiversity: From Genes to Ecosystems

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
14 February 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BSC C520 Ecology and Environmental Biology,
BSC C521 Ecology and Environmental Biology (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C522 Ecology and Environmental Biology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C523 Ecology and Environmental Biology (Including Placement Year)

Module description

This module aims to show how ecosystems function, how they are structured and which organisms do what.

Module aims

The aim of this module is:

  • To show how terrestrial ecosystems function, how they are structured and which organisms do what.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Describe and discuss the role of genetic diversity in ecosystem functioning.

  2. Define and discuss the processes of predation, parasitism, competition and mutualism.

  3. Describe and discuss species interactions in natural communities and ecosystems and how interactions support ecosystem functions.

  4. Describe and discuss distribution and abundance at the community level, including global patterns of biodiversity.

  5. Describe and discuss genes-to-ecosystem approaches to understanding environmental change.

  6. Show competence in (a) analysis and interpretation of quantitative data (b) in written communication (c) in using web-based resources for learning.

Module information

`Biodiversity` is the variability in life itself, covering all levels of biological organisation from genes to entire ecosystems. Ecologists now have the tools to embrace this all-encompassing philosophy and use genes-to-ecosystem approaches to understand how environmental change is impacting the world around us.

This module will discuss and explore variability at the genetic level, before scaling across levels of organisation to cover species diversity, regulators of population growth, size and interactions (competition, predation, herbivory, mutualism, disease and parasitism), and then begin investigating how these combine to form communities and how the properties of ecological networks support the functioning of ecosystems. We will explore these patterns across local, regional and global scales, and discuss applications of ecological theory to problems of environmental change and conservation solutions.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 1-hour lecture per week.
  • One revision class before the summer exam.
  • Two 3-hour practicals or equivalent


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Prac 1 Worksheet - Species Diversity    40% 
Coursework   Prac 2 Worksheet - Biodiversity     60% 
Exam  Main exam: In-Person, Open Book (Restricted), 120 minutes during Summer (Main Period) 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: In-Person, Open Book (Restricted), 120 minutes during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Alex Dumbrell, email:
Prof Alex Dumbrell
School Undergraduate Office, email: bsugoffice (Non essex users should add to create the full email address)



External examiner

Prof Edgar Turner
University of Cambridge
Professor of Insect Ecology
Available via Moodle
Of 19 hours, 10 (52.6%) hours available to students:
9 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Life Sciences (School of)

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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