BSc Zoology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Urban Biodiversity & Conservation RSM

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL20872
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Manchester was the first major industrial in the world.  During the 19th century, it grew from a small market town to become one of the most important cities in the country.  With the decline of industries such as cotton milling during the 1980’s large areas of the region became derelict, as factories closed, leaving what is often regarded as “waste ground”. In many cases, the factories left behind legacies of toxic waste.  Despite this, these abandoned sites are amongst the most biodiverse and loved green spaces in the urban area.  In addition, with remediation projects and legislation protecting nature, an important new “industry” has grown up, requiring trained biologists with the skills needed to carry out ecological surveys and assess the impacts of human activities on the flora and fauna. Taking place in June, just after the exam period this course will introduce you to the story of some important sites around Manchester and provide you with hands-on training in skills needed to work in the environment industry.

For more information and photos see: Field courses: Urban Biodiversity - Manchester


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Introduction to Statistics for Field Courses BIOL10692 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL10692 is a pre-requisite of the Y2 field courses Any students who have not taken this unit in Year 1 must complete it in semester 2 of Year 2.

If you select a field course RSM unit and have not previously completed the BIOL10692: Introduction to Statistics for Field Course unit (zero credits) in Year 1, this unit will be added to your record as a mandatory co-requisite, to be completed in semester 2 of Year 2.


The aims of this course are: to introduce students to the theory and practice of techniques commonly used by environmental consultants and field-based biologists; to train students in the application of those techniques to assess the conservation value of natural and semi-natural sites; to provide students with an appreciation of the flora and fauna of the UK and the impacts of human activities on nature.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module students should be able to:

  • Carry out an assessment of the nature conservation value of a site, placing this into local, regional and national contexts
  • Use appropriate biological keys and field guides to identify key species found in the local environment and assess the conservation importance of those species and prepare mounted collections of specimens suitable for archiving
  • Perform a Phase 1 survey of a site and be aware of appropriate techniques for further analysis of urban habitats
  • Present conclusions of field surveys in a range of formats, written and oral, suitable for different target audiences


Week 1 – Field skills for Biodiversity and Conservation.  During the first week of this course, students will be provided with training in key skills necessary to carry out a professional survey of a natural urban site.  This will include examination of plants and animals, both living on the land and in water systems.  Training will be carried out mainly at a local nature reserve in South Manchester.  As a preliminary analysis, you will learn how to carry out a Phase 1 survey.  This involves a low level mapping of the major habitat types using a system which is ubiquitous in environmental assessment.  Building on this, we will then look in more detail at a range of different aspects of the site.  Using floristic guides, we will identify the range of plant species present in different areas and use this to identify habitats in more detail.  Surveys will be undertaken of invertebrates, including soil organisms.  We will examine the bird and bat fauna present.  Bodies of water on the site, both standing and running will be assessed for water quality and the presence of amphibians.  At the end of this week, you will produce a map and short (2 page) report summarising the major conclusions and management recommendations for the site.

Week 2 - Habitat survey project: in the second week, students will be required to apply the skills gained in the earlier part of the unit to undertake a survey of a site in the Greater Manchester area. Students will be required to complete a risk assessment for the work to be undertaken, conduct library searches to establish site history, where possible, and then to carry out a detailed survey, assessing the conservation value of different areas of the site, placing this into local, regional and national contexts. Findings will be presented in the form of a short oral presentation in the final session and written report, due to be submitted at the end of the course.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students have to analyse and interpret data collected
Group/team working
Group based projects
Poster presentations of surveys allow students to demonstrate innovation and creativity.
Individuals within teams have the potential to show leadership
Project management
Students identify their own survey site and have to plan their survey
Oral communication
Students have to present and defend a poster presentation of their work
Problem solving
Students have to work to overcome problems encountered
Students perform background research on sites surveyed
Written communication
3 written reports written in the style of a professional report
Dealing with the public - including communicating with local interest groups and curious passers by. Interdisciplinary working - students have to learn aspects of law and social science alongside biology.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Report 40%
Portfolio 20%
Oral assessment/presentation 20%
Set exercise 20%

The assessment for this course will be based on the following: Map and 2 page report of group based surveys (20%); Group poster presentation on biodiversity of selected site (20%);Group collection of identified plants (20%);Individual written report of extended Phase 1 habitat survey of selected site (40%)

Feedback methods

Report written during the first week will be returned before completion of the final report, with formative feedback being given on this. Staff available on a daily basis during course for oral feedback

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 40
Lectures 8
Practical classes & workshops 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 32

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Robert Nudds Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Students are strongly recommended to take a first year FC

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