BIOL384-21S2 (C) Semester Two 2021

Marine Ecosystems

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 19 July 2021
End Date: Sunday, 14 November 2021
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 1 August 2021
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 1 October 2021


Advanced theories, concepts and applications of marine ecology to current issues.

This course advances the concepts of how marine species interact with each other and the environment to form functional populations and communities. The oceans cover 71% of earth’s surface and span estuaries, nearshore rocky reefs, deep-water benthic communities, and the surface and deeper waters of the open ocean. They are interconnected through ocean currents, tides and an increasingly changing physical environment. This course uses a mixed platform of lectures, tutorials, computer labs and field-based exercises to explore and understand current issues and processes affecting marine ecosystems, using New Zealand and worldwide examples. Students are taught hands-on field sampling techniques for monitoring biodiversity in nearshore marine benthic communities, and give oral presentations and written reports that analyse problems, avenues to solutions and results of experimental testing. This course is intended for those wishing to pursue a deeper understanding of how marine ecosystems function, and the natural and human-induced changes affecting them. It is particularly useful for those who wish to have a good grounding for applied research and future employment, and who intend to pursue careers involving biodiversity, environmental monitoring, report-writing and oral presentations.

Course aims
‘Marine Ecosystems’ has two main aims: to provide students with up-to-date knowledge and understanding of key concepts, processes and factual information in marine ecology, and to enhance skills of students in the laboratory and field procedures used by marine ecologists. This includes sampling and experimental design, analyses, interpretation and communication of ecological data and results..

These aims are achieved through lectures, laboratories, tutorials and a field trip. There is a variable course format discussing concepts, hypotheses and illustrative case histories of a wide range of marine ecosystems. Field-based exercises integrate concepts and techniques from lectures and laboratories, and apply them in a field setting. Skill development is in deeper knowledge, data acquisition, hypothesis testing, data analysis and presentation, and report writing.

Course Goals
The goals of this course are to discuss methods, fundamental principles, issues and case histories of ecological studies across a wide range of marine ecosystems. By including interactions of ecological processes with the many spatial and temporal scales of physical processes affecting them, this course will provide the necessary skills for understanding marine ecosystems and advancement in ecological disciplines.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students should have achieved the following:
1. Have a good working knowledge of key marine species and ecological drivers of species diversity and community processes within a range of marine ecosystems, including hard and soft shores, and the open ocean (assessment: field trip and final exam);
2. Develop advanced knowledge of the physical and ecological processes affecting marine populations (assessment: lab/tutorial exercises);
3. Understand the role of key marine species in food webs, primary production and other community processes (assessment: field trip, lab exercises and final exam);
4. An ability to apply ecological theory to the management of current issues in marine ecosystems (assessment: internal discussion and final exam);
5. Develop practical skills in experimental design, data analysis and scientific communication (assessment: field trip and estuary exercise).

Transferable Skills Register
Students in this course will develop the following skills:
1. Synthesising information from background lectures, tutorials and the primary literature. This skill underpins the advancement of science and the development of understanding. In lectures, lab- and field-based exercises, we will discuss research in a group environment to aid your ability to understand core issues across the marine domain and use as background for assessment tasks.
2. Collecting field data. Important for research and in scientific organisations. This will be developed in the field and will provide hands-on and model-based contexts for data acquisition.
3. Analysing data. Important for research, and in some non-scientific organisations. This skill will be developed as we help you work with data collected in the field and will involve modern analytical and graphical techniques for visualising, interpreting and presenting results.
4. Writing a report on findings. Communication of science is fundamental to its use and advancement. We will have discussions to provide instruction on the elements of successful reports and help you identify these elements with clear marking rubrics.

Students will develop the ability to:
1. Understand ecological drivers creating and maintaining structure and diversity within a range of marine ecosystems, including hard and soft shores, and the open ocean (assessment task: final exam)
2. Understand advanced theory and principles relating to marine ecosystems (assessment task: laboratory projects);
3. Understand NZ marine ecosystems and how they compare to other areas of the world (assessment task: final exam);
4. Apply ecological theory to the mitigation and management of current issues in marine ecosystems (assessment task: final exam);
5. Develop practical skills in field sampling techniques (assessment task: research project and field trip exercises);
6. Develop practical skills in analysing data and writing a scientific report (assessment tasks: laboratory and research project report).

Course requirements
This course has pre-requisites and suggested courses as background. It is assumed that all students in this course have a fundamental knowledge of marine biology on which we will build. Students are also expected to have taken a course in statistical analyses.


BIOL209 and either (1) BIOL270 or
(2) BIOL274 and BIOL275. RP: BIOL212



Recommended Preparation

Timetable 2021

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Tuesday 13:00 - 14:00 Jack Erskine 340
19 Jul - 1 Aug
Lecture B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 12:00 - 13:00 Jack Erskine 340
19 Jul - 25 Jul
Lecture C
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Monday 11:00 - 12:00 Jack Erskine 340
19 Jul - 25 Jul
Computer Lab A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Tuesday 14:00 - 18:00 Ernest Rutherford 464 Computer Lab
26 Jul - 8 Aug
16 Aug - 22 Aug
13 Sep - 3 Oct
Field Trip A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Monday 09:00 - 17:00 Lyttelton 6 Sep - 12 Sep
Lab A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01-P1 Thursday 15:00 - 18:00 West 433
9 Aug - 15 Aug
01-P2 Thursday 14:00 - 18:00 West 433
23 Aug - 29 Aug
Lab B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 14:00 - 15:00 West 433
9 Aug - 15 Aug

Timetable Note

Field Trip
6 September (from 0700) through 9 September (end 1400).
This field trip is mandatory and the work and write-up constitute a major part of the course assessment – it is highly inadvisable to take this course if you have time conflicts with the field trip. If you think you are unable to do the field trip, you must discuss this with Prof Schiel at the start of the course.

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

David Schiel


Mike Hickford and Mads Thomsen

Lab Coordinator

Jan McKenzie


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Field trip participation and presentation 5%
Final Exam 40%
End of Tutorial written summary 20% By 5pm on day after each tutorial.
Field trip initial analyses 20 Sep 2021 10%
Field Trip report 27 Sep 2021 25% Full written report on field trip project.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,055.00

International fee $4,583.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 10 people apply to enrol.

For further information see School of Biological Sciences .

All BIOL384 Occurrences

  • BIOL384-21S2 (C) Semester Two 2021