BSc Biology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Field Course in Mediterranean Biodiversity and Conservation

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL10622
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


The Mediterranean island of Mallorca is a biodiversity hotspot.  Although it is only a fraction of the size of the UK, it is home to more species, many of which are unique to the island.  At the same time, wild Mallorca is under constant pressure, especially from tourism.  In this eight-day residential field course we will look at the reasons why such diversity exists, the pressures that humans are placing on the region and some of the actions that the local population are taking to reduce those impacts. You will learn also learn key practical skills essential for a career in conservation or biological research, including how to identify unfamiliar organisms and how to design and execute field survey.

Take a look at our field courses webpage for more information and photographs:


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Introduction to Statistics for Field Courses BIOL10692 Co-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL10692 is a co-requisite of the Y1 field courses

There are no prerequisites for the unit, however students registered for 'Biodiversity (BIOL10511)' or 'Introduction to Ecology' (EART10602) will find that this unit complements their studies well. 


To introduce students to the Mediterranean environment and to investigate the adaptations seen in organisms living in that environment. To discuss how and why those adaptations evolved. To examine the impacts of human activities on natural ecosystems and the ways in which those impacts can be mitigated. To introduce students to essential techniques in field biology.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • recognise a range of important and characteristic adaptations of organisms and ecosystems to the Mediterranean environment
  • explain the main evolutionary factors that gave rise to those adaptations
  • use diagnostic keys to identify organisms
  • describe key impacts that humans are having on the Mallorcan environment and ways in which those impacts are being mitigated
  • design and execute a field survey, including formulating an hypothesis, selecting appropriate sampling strategies to test your hypothesis,and making use of appropriate statistical tests for the analysis of data collected
  • work in a team to achieve the collection and analysis of data under field conditions
  • present experimental data in oral and written form


The island of Mallorca, sitting between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates, is in a unique position, making it a biodiversity hotspot. Although only a fraction of the size of Britain, it has a similar number of species of plants and is an important staging post for migrating birds. Its geological history, with periods of isolation from and connection to the mainland, has driven the evolution of a fascinating range of species. The extreme environment of the Mediterranean with its characteristic hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters has driven the evolution of a particular type of landscape, with plants showing special adaptations to their habitat. Humans have impacted the flora and fauna of the island from the earliest Neolithic farmers to the emergence of package holidays in the 20th century. All these features make Mallorca a perfect natural laboratory for both biological and environmental sciences.

In this course you will be shown the Mediterranean in a new light. A series of introductory workshops in Manchester, we will train you in some of the key field science skills needed to understand natural ecosystems. These will be followed by an 8-night residential, during the Easter vacation, staying in a hotel near the medieval town of Alcudia, in the north-east of the island.

The first part of the course involves a series of visits to contrasting habitats. You will be introduced to key species in the local flora and be trained in the skills necessary to identify unfamiliar animals and plants. Through a series of group exercises you will learn how to design and execute field studies, from defining your hypotheses to analysing the data, helping you to understand the ecology of the sites we visit. A trip to a local market and to an historic farm will introduce you to plants cultivated and animals farmed in the Mediterranean, and we will discuss how that farming has changed the island over the last 20,000 years.

In the second part of the course, you will be given the chance to develop your field skills by carrying out small group projects of your own. Working in groups of 3 or 4, you will be helped to identify important research questions, formulating hypotheses and designing experiments to test these. Results will be presented to the class in group talks and written up afterwards as experimental reports. Recent projects have included studies of the distribution of hybridising plant species; studies of plant stress physiology in different situations; sexual selection in beetles; polymorphism in snails; association of parasites and hosts.

In addition to the biology component you will have the chance to learn about the history and culture of the island, including visiting a Neolithic settlement and the ancient farmstead.Please note: this course will be residential and take place during the Easter vacation.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students have to analyse data generated in projects
Group/team working
Students fulfil group exercises and carry out group projects
Students have to design project
Students have the potential to show leadership through working in groups
Project management
Students have to design and execute a project
Oral communication
Students give oral presentation as an assessed piece of work
Problem solving
Students have to troubleshoot problems encountered in projects
Student have to research background to projects.
Written communication
Students produce a field note book as an assessed piece of work
Students have to show flexibility in working in an alien environment, they have to practice diplomacy and negotiation skills in their groups and between groups.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 40%
Oral assessment/presentation 20%

Marks will be collected from the following assignments:       

  • Assessment of preparatory course (10%)           
  • Spot test of specimens- 1 hour (30%)     
  • Oral presentation of group projects 20%         
  • Individual write-up of project, handed in after return to Manchester (40%)


Feedback methods

Staff are available throughout the course to give informal feedback. Written feedback will be provided on oral presentations before you have to complete your project wrtite up.  Feedback on your final report will be provided via Blackboard after completion of the course.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 56
Lectures 8
Practical classes & workshops 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 30

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Giles Johnson Unit coordinator

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