ESC-30110 - Advanced Environmental Field Skills
Coordinator: Mark Ashby
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 6
Credits: 30
Study Hours: 300
School Office: 01782 733615

Programme/Approved Electives for 2023/24


Available as a Free Standing Elective





ESC-20108 Environmental Impact Assessment

Barred Combinations


Description for 2023/24

There is currently a graduate skills shortage within the ecology and conservation sector. This module aims to address that shortage by providing you with the specialist ecological identification and survey expertise that are so desperately needed. The specialist knowledge you acquire will be supported by a critical understanding of different ecological survey techniques and a deep taxonomic and evolutionary understanding of plant and animal lifeforms.
As part of the module, you will also get the opportunity to complete a FISC, giving you an additional qualification to go alongside your degree. A FISC is a botany test during which your plant identification skills are assessed and graded (grades 0-7). FISC certificates are valued highly by employers in the ecology sector, and this module aims to help you obtain a FISC level of 3, enabling you to carry out Phase 1 (UKHab) habitat surveys.

This module builds on the broad field skills developed at levels four and five across the environmental science programmes by providing students with specialist ecological identification and field survey skills. Students will learn about, implement and critically evaluate ecological field survey techniques for multiple taxa, including plants, invertebrates, mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. There will be a particular focus on animals, plants and habitats protected under UK legislation. The primary aim of this module is to provide students with the opportunity to obtain specialist plant and animal identification skills. These specialist skills will be underpinned by a general taxonomic understanding of the diagnostic differences between the major plant and animal phyla.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Deploy taxonomic knowledge to distinguish between different plant and animal phyla: 1
Develop specialist identification skills of plants from a specific habitat: Develop specialist identification skills for one animal taxon: 1,2
Implement a range of standard and cutting-edge field survey techniques used within the ecology and conservation sector: 2
Critically evaluate the pros and cons of different ecology and conservation survey techniques: 2

Study hours

24 X 3-hour, weekly workshop, lab and fieldwork sessions = 72 hours
2 x 4-hour field sessions to practice plant and invertebrate identification skills (taking place during Week 0 in Semester 1 and Week 13 in Semester 2)
220 hours of independent study and completion of assignments.
Breakdown of independent study:
60 hours preparing for animal taxon-specific identification assessment (Assignment 1)
90 hours on Ecological Survey Methods Portfolio (Assignment 2)
70 hours working on the herbarium and poster and preparing for the poster session (Assignment 3)

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Class Test weighted 25%
Animal taxon-specific identification assessment
Students will undergo an identification test for an animal taxon of their choosing. Tests will be taxon-specific. For example, a student choosing butterflies would be given a series of images and asked to identify the species and, if possible, sex. Whereas a student choosing bats would be asked to identify the species primarily based on echolocation calls.

2: Portfolio weighted 50%
Ecological Survey Methods Portfolio
Portfolio (total of 3,500 words) consisting of: a 2,500-word report describing and critically evaluating the pros and cons of the standard field survey methods used for four different taxa (of the students choosing); a 1,000-word project proposal designed to answer a taxa-specific ecological question (again, the students get to choose which taxa). The portfolio work will be submitted in its entirety towards the end of semester two.

3: Poster Presentation weighted 25%
Herbarium and Poster Session
Students must produce a herbarium of ten plants taken from a habitat of their choosing and create a poster that includes the following: 1. An ecological and botanical overview of their chosen habitat. 2. Information about the plant families each herbarium species belongs to, including the diagnostic features of that plant family 2. The diagnostic features of three species included within the herbarium (i.e. what anatomical traits distinguish them from other plant species). 3. Interesting ecological facts about three herbarium species (e.g. Cardamine pratensis is the primary larval foodplant of the orange-tip butterfly; Trifolium repens has nitrogen-fixing bacteria within its roots that help to increase soil fertility). Herbariums and posters will be presented at an informal and interactive conference-style event. At least two assessors will walk around the room and grade students on the combined quality of their herbarium and posters.