Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Anthropogenic threats to the Biosphere
Academic Year
Semester 2

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Communication tool, group assessment  - including funding application Guidance provided for different types of tool with tool-specific marking criteria.  25%
Semester Assessment Written consultant report  25%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   50%
Supplementary Assessment 3 Hours   Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  50%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  50%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Evaluate and synthesize current and future threats to ecosystems and mankind.

2. Describe the impacts of these threats on the ecology and physiology of a range of organisms, including implications for community dynamics and ecosystem functioning.

3. Discuss interaction between natural and anthropogenic processes at local and global scales.

4. Describe and critically appraise techniques to mitigate or adapt to anthropogenic threats.

5. Demonstrate effective scientific communication.

Brief description

The aim of this module is to introduce students to current and future anthropogenic threats to natural systems and mankind. The module will cover a variety of anthropogenic impacts including pollution, climate change and over-exploitation of resources. Examples will be drawn from a range of ecosystems, including marine, freshwater and terrestrial. Where appropriate, methods of threat mitigation and adaptive management will be discussed. Finally, the module will consider ways to better communicate scientific knowledge to different end-users.


The module introduces some of the main emerging threats affecting ecosystems and mankind. Consideration will be given to complications in the detection, attribution and management of these threats. Lectures focus on persistent organic pollutants (dioxins, pesticides & plastics), endocrine disrupting compounds, heavy metal pollutants, oil pollution, climate change, acidification of aquatic environments and overexploitation of natural resources. For each threat, their physical and/or chemical context are considered where appropriate, before exploring the impacts on organismal biology and ecology, as well as consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem function. Examples use a range of natural habitats with some emphasis on aquatic systems where anthropogenic impacts have been most acute. Attention is given to the combined impact of multiple stresses and the resulting complications for accurate predictions of species and ecosystem responses.
The practicals focus on science communication for different audiences. The first element involves a pollution data handling and risk assessment exercise and is written to communicate with an industrial client in the form of a consultant’s report. The second involves group working on a science communication tool, evaluated using group assessment of the tool produced and an individual write-up of an associated grant application. Overall, these exercises consider targeting communication strategies for different target stakeholders.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Analysis of numerical data for dioxin assignment.
Communication Good scientific communication required in assignments.
Improving own Learning and Performance Detailed feedback provided via Turnitin on the reports or in practical sessions.
Information Technology Use of information technology required in assignments.
Personal Development and Career planning Module skills relevant to potential careers.
Problem solving Assignments develop skills linking scientific data to environmental problems.
Research skills Research skills associated with collation and processing of information for reports.
Subject Specific Skills Module requires students to develop skills in communication to different stakeholders.
Team work Student will engage in teams in science communication assignment.


This module is at CQFW Level 6