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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

BLGY1128 Living Planet

20 creditsClass Size: 200

Module manager: Professor Paul Knox

Taught: Semester 1 View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

This module is mutually exclusive with

BLGY1124The Diversity of Life

Module replaces

BLGY1117 Ecology in a Changing WorldBLGY1235 LIves of Carnivores

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Living Planet provides students with an overview of the evolution and diversity of life, from bacteria to whales. As well as an overview of the evolutionary processes that have generated the world’s biodiversity, students will also learn about the key features that define each group and the role of those taxa in ecological processes. Finally, each group of organisms will be linked to a major global challenge including food security, disease, and wildlife conservation, to demonstrate how fundamental science informs important societal issues.


The goal of the module is to introduce all School of Biology students to biological principles from whole organisms to planetary scales. Key features include
(i) an introduction to evolution as the mechanism by which biodiversity is produced,
(ii) a broad overview of key taxa,
(iii) a summary of ecological principles from population to community to ecosystem to biosphere, and
(iv) the linking of that fundamental knowledge to solutions to real world problems.

Learning outcomes
By the end of the module, students will be able to
- Understand the principles of evolution by natural selection and how they have created global biodiversity.
- Explain the defining traits of a range of biological taxa, and the mechanisms by which they evolved.
- Apply their understanding of the biology of a wide array of taxa to design solutions to global challenges.


The module will run over 11 weeks, beginning with the origins of life, then moving through the evolution of key taxa, and finishing with a summary of ecological principles. Two didactic lectures are given each week, with a less-formal (but still assessed) third seminar on the “Grand Challenge” that is informed by our study of the focal taxon/topic. The intention is that the Grand Challenge thread will be developed into a separate 10 credit Discovery Module in 2017/18 to replace Diversity of Life.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours77.00
Private study hours90.00
Total Contact hours33.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Independent learning will be structured through the provision of online mini-lectures prior to each of the didactic lecture slots (one per lecture). These mini-lectures provide the stimulus for the students’ own outside reading which they use to prepare themselves for the didactic lectures and grand challenge seminars (one hour per week of lectures, plus four hours of reading). Mini-lectures are designed to be paused so that students can read papers as they are mentioned in the lectures. In addition, weekly MCQs are open-book and encourage students to seek out the answers to the questions using wider reading and content from the course (two hours of reading per week). Private study revolves around consolidation of the material learned during the in-class sessions (5-10 hours per week).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Following each lecture, staff will use an “Exit Ticket” question, where the students are encouraged to rate their understanding of the lecture content: “How well did you understand today’s material?” Students answer (A) Very well, (B) Pretty well, (C) Not very well, or (D) Not at all.
- The second question then asks students to list any topics with which they had difficulty. The lecturer can respond to this by either following-up in the next lecture or posting supplementary materials online.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
In-course MCQFormative on-line test (week 6)0.00
In-course MCQSummative on-line test (week 11)20.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)20.00

MCQs marks are returned to students in real-time using the online tools available (articulate presentations embedded in the VLE).

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Unseen exam 2 hr 00 mins80.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)80.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 25/04/2019


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