MSci Microbiology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Living with Climate Change (L)

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL31541
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Global climate change presents a wide range of impacts and challenges for the organisms that live on this earth. This unit will explore the challenges and uncertainties climate change presents in terms of its potential impacts on living systems and organisms; from vector-borne diseases, to food security and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Each week the course will cover a different aspect of climate change and its impact on plants, animals and ecosystems delivered by experts in their field. It will also explore how climate science information in portrayed in the media and the issues around misinformation, complexity, uncertainty and risk.




Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Human Impacts on the Biosphere (E) BIOL31551 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Ecology & Ecosystems BIOL21211 Pre-Requisite Recommended


Anthropogenic global climate change presents a wide range of impacts and challenges for the organisms that live on this earth. This unit will explore the impact of climate change on organisms, in both terrestrial and aquatic systems. Students will develop the ability to process information from scientific papers, reports, the web & the media, in the field of climate change. This unit will encourage independent thinking and an analytical approach to these environmental issues using a series of lectures and discussion workshops.


Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit students will be able to:


  • Describe how a rapidly changing climate can affect individual organisms, populations and ecosystems and assess the possibilities and potentials of adaptation and mitigation.
  • Critically appraise and discuss research literature regarding contemporary and controversial issues related to impacts of climate change on living systems.
  • Understand the impact of climate change on crop production, food security and ways improving the climate resilience of crops.
  • Understand the impact of climate change on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems
  • Describe the impact of climate change on vector-borne diseases and their distribution
  • Critically appraise the media representation of climate change science


Unit consists of series of weekly lectures and discussion workshops. Each week there will be a 2hr workshop to accompany the lectures.

  • Climate change at a global level: We will examine scientific evidence for anthropogenic induced climate change, climate system components/indicators, greenhouse gases and changing climate patterns of temperature and rainfall. We will look at IPPC reports and how the media portrays climate change research.
  • Impact of climate change on vector-borne disease: The seasonal and spatial distributions of vector-borne disease, e.g. malaria and dengue, are largely determined by the presence of environmental conditions favourable for the vector. We will examine the extent to which climatic change, in the context of other factors such as land use change, is expected to affect the future impacts of vector-borne diseases.
  • Impact of climate change on the Arctic: We will examine the climatic, biological and economic implications of loss of sea ice. The discussions will focus on loss of arctic sea ice and its implication on climate, arctic biology and the arctic economy
  • Biomechanics and climate change: Biomechanics, the study of movement, materials and structure in biology, has only recently focussed on the effects of climate change. This part of the course will focus on how new technologies and approaches can be used in this emerging area of research interest.
  • Food security: We will examine the capability of agriculture to deal with climate change. We will discuss the challenges of climate change on food security, its impacts on the development, yield and quality of crops. We will discuss case studies on ways to increase crop resilience, including climate-proofing photosynthesis, in order to maintain crop production into the future.



Employability skills

Analysis of media stories.
Research topics in literature for essay.
Written communication
Essay on 'The science behind the media story'.
Presentation skills in seminars.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 20%
Set exercise 80%

MCQ online quizzes: 5 quizzes with 4 questions in each quiz (i.e. each quiz is 4% of final mark). One released each week during course, one hour to complete once started and no repeat attempts.


 Written coursework assignment: Written analysis of the research behind an aspect of biological impact of climate change reported in the media i.e. ‘The Science Behind the Media Story’’ (80%- max 4 pages: one title from 4 choices).

Feedback methods

Written feedback is given on Research/media story analysis, formative oral feedback in class during seminars via discussions and/or verbal feedback on presentations. Marks for quizzes released each week.


Recommended reading


  • Mostly primary research literature based with articles and links provided on Blackboard
  • J.A. Newman, M. Anand, H.A.L. Henry, S. Hunt, Z. Gedalof, (2011) Climate Change Biology CAB International, Wallingford (UK) -  Recommended

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 18
Work based learning 14
Independent study hours
Independent study 68

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Joshua Lynn Unit coordinator

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