University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Field Biology - Coastal and Marine Habitats

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION Since the study-unit is intensive and heavily fieldwork-based, it cannot be offered when the university is in session as it would interfere with other academic activities, and it is therefore offered during the summer recess (in September before Semester 1 of Year 3 of BSc (Hons) course), also because summertime is ideal for fieldwork due of weather considerations.

With a coastline of some 190km and a submerged area within the 100m-depth contour of ca. 1,940km2, the Maltese Islands present practically all the different adlittoral, littoral and shallow sublittoral habitats characteristic of the central Mediterranean. Additionally, the islands’ environment, history, culture and economy are intimately connected with the sea. It is therefore appropriate that the coastal and marine environments of the Maltese Islands should be studied as important components of the islands’ ecosystem, while they are ideal natural laboratories for field biology in general.

The study-unit will run for a period of 6 days. The first day will consist of a briefing on the whole study-unit and introductory lectures. Following that, each day will start with a short briefing on the practical session of the day followed by fieldwork and subsequent laboratory processing. Each day will end with a short discussion session to review and integrate the day’s academic work, followed by an introductory lecture to set the next day’s practical sessions in context. Fieldwork will mainly focus on exposing students to different coastal and marine habitats and the techniques used to study and sample them. Laboratory work will concern processing of samples, analysis of environmental samples, and species identification. A detailed course programme and instructions will be provided to students immediately before the commencement of the study-unit.

Students will be required to prepare practical/field reports on the various field surveys undertaken. They will be required to hand in these practical reports by the last week of October 2009.

A grade may be awarded only if the student’s attendance to lectures and practical sessions has been regular and if the practical reports are submitted in time.

Study-unit Aims:

This short, intensive course in practical field biology as applied to coastal and marine systems is designed to familiarise students with the methodologies used in the study of these environments and the practical application of these techniques, as well as the organisms and habitats of the Maltese coastal zone and seabed and waters off it. More specifically, the aims are to:

1. Give students the opportunity to supplement the theoretical component of their biology course with practical work using a variety of standard fieldwork techniques and equipment used to study, sample and monitor coastal and marine habitats and their biota.

2. Acquaint biology students with the range of habitats constituting the coastal and marine environment of the Maltese Islands, including the terrestrial maritime fringe, sandy beaches, rocky shores, sublittoral hard substrata, sedimentary bottoms and seagrass meadows, shallow costal water, and with the biota they support.

3. Instruct students in the use of such equipment as quadrats, corers, grabs, dredges, water samplers, plankton nets and underwater TV, and to give students hands-on experience using such equipment in the field.

4. Familiarise students with the taxonomic identification of various groups of coastal; and marine plants and animals, including terrestrial coastal plants and animals, benthos, nekton and plankton.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

(i) Appreciate and understand basic concepts underlying the collection of biological and physico-chemical data in the field;

(ii) Have an understanding of the importance of adopting appropriate designs in field sampling programmes;

(iii) Know how to use basic equipment and techniques to collect biological and physico-chemical data in the field and to process samples in the laboratory;

(iv) Appreciate the importance of collecting and processing field data using appropriate techniques, and interpreting and reporting on the data using proper methods and procedures;

(v) Know how to plan and implement a basic biological field survey;

(vi) Know how to produce a report of a biological field survey;

(vii) Acknowledge the particular characteristics of Mediterranean biota and habitats.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

(i) Design and conduct fieldwork aimed at collecting basic biological and physico-chemical data in the field;

(ii) Collect samples of biota, process same in the laboratory and use keys to identify flora and fauna to a given taxonomic level;

(iii) Use specific methods and techniques to collect data on biological and physico-chemical attributes in the field, and record the collected data in an appropriate format;

(iv) Undertake analysis of biological and physico-chemical data using descriptive and inferential statistical techniques;

(v) Interpret field data and identify patterns and processes that influence the occurrence and distribution of species, and adaptations to their environment;

(vi) Produce a report of biological surveys, with special reference to field techniques.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

A detailed course programme and hand book containing instructions will be provided to students immediately before the commencement of the study-unit.

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-Requisite: BIO1020, BIO1030, BIO2040, SOR1211, SOR1221 or equivalent units; pre-requisites may be waived with prior permission.

This unit is an intensive, week-long study-unit which is scheduled for the last week of September.

Students are to note that they will be allowed to sit for this study-unit examination and will be awarded a grade only if they have regularly attended lectures and practical classes, if they have submitted any assignments, including practical reports and if they satisfy all other study-unit requirements.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Practical

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Practical No 100%

LECTURER/S Joseph A. Borg
Michelle Ellul
Julian Evans (Co-ord.)
Sandro Lanfranco
Patrick J. Schembri

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
MSc (Research) and PhD application deadlines
Application Deadlines for Academic Year 2017/18 
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