Coral Reef Biology

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


Requisites for this module


BS256, BS258

Key module for


Module description

This module will provide you with knowledge of the biology of coral reef systems, the landscape ecology of tropical coastal marine systems, the importance of and threats to these systems and options for management.

Module aims

The aim of this module is:

  • To introduce you to the biology and ecology of tropical coral reef systems.

Module learning outcomes

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

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the biology of tropical reef forming corals.

  2. Describe the ecological and socio-economic importance of tropical coral reefs.

  3. Discuss the diversity of coral reef communities over local and regional scales.

  4. Demonstrate knowledge of coral reef assessment and monitoring techniques.

  5. Discuss major coral reef conservation and management strategies.

  6. Demonstrate an ability to physiological assessment of reef building corals and in analysing and interpreting data.

  7. Show competence in gathering scientific information, particularly from the web, in reading and analysis of simple scientific reviews and data within them, and in communication skill

Module information

Coral reefs often dominate shallow inshore waters and are the most diverse of all marine habitats. Tropical reef systems also support the livelihoods of many millions of people. Reef systems are therefore exceptionally important in terms of global biodiversity and food and economic security.

Coral reefs are increasingly over exploited and are also at risk from environmental change. Coral reefs do not exist in isolation and are connected to other tropical biomes. These biomes include sea grass beds and mangrove systems.

Knowledge concerning the nature of this connection is key to understanding the ecological functioning of coral reef systems. Coral reefs are ecologically complex systems and provide the perfect case study to discuss ecological theory and the management of ecological systems.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • Twenty hours of lectures.
  • Two 3-hour practicals.

Practicals: a) Coral Reef Monitoring and Assessment, b) Coral Ecophysiology.


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   DAI     40% 
Coursework   Prac Worksheet     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 Leanne Hepburn, email:
Prof Dave Smith, Dr Hannah Epstein
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.

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.