Tropical Marine Field Research Skills

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Autumn & Spring
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 21 March 2025
14 February 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module will introduce you to the key practical skills required by coral reef biologists whilst also providing you with training in scuba diving, species identification, and scuba and snorkel based assessment and monitoring techniques.

Coral reef research requires advanced in-water skills and as part of this course, students participating in diving, will be provided with the opportunity to undertake a speciality course that aims to develop key diving skills with successful participants being awarded a Coral Reef Research diver certification from the Profession Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).

Module aims

The aim of this module is:

  • To provide you with training in how to design, implement and report scientifically robust underwater research.

Module learning outcomes

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

  1. .Demonstrate proficiency in safe diving or snorkel based practices.

  2. Identify the major groups and common species of tropical marine organisms.

  3. Demonstrate practical skills in coral reef assessment and monitoring.

  4. Demonstrate skills in research design, implementation and reporting.

  5. Show competence in team work, data analysis and presentation skills.

Module information

Coral reef systems provide food and a source of income for more than half billion people worldwide and are amongst the most biodiverse systems on the planet. Despite their global significance and universal recognition of their importance in terms of both food and economic security, the majority of coral reefs around the world are overexploited, threatened by multiple anthropogenic stressors and are in need of protection through appropriate management.

This module therefore aims to develop practical skills in coral reef monitoring, assessment and research. The module operates at the end of the spring term (2nd year) on the island of Buton in the heart of The Coral Triangle, South East Sulawesi, Indonesia. The module will be mostly practical based (2 divers per day) but will also include theory lectures, workshops, feedback sessions and a mini-project using the research diver skills that you learn. There is an additional cost for this trip (currently approximately £2000), which you will be required to pay to the University. You will also incur a few additional expenses of your own (e.g. for dive medical, PADI membership, wetsuit, entry visa).

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • Three hours of preparatory seminars.


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non - essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Practical   I.D Test    50% 
Practical   Project Presentation    50% 

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
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Boyd McKew, email:
Prof Leanne Hepburn, 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 12 hours, 8 (66.7%) hours available to students:
4 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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