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Ecological Methodology - ENV00036I

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  • Department: Environment and Geography
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Dean Waters
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This module takes an applied approach to studying the methods used in performing ecological surveys in the UK. It will explore the legislation, licensing processes and the ecological methods used in assessing the ecological status of a site and its plant and animal communities.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The module will provide students with key skills in identifying key UK species and demonstrate the rationale behind industry standard survey methodologies. This will be explained within the context of how surveys fit within the local and national planning systems with regard to impact and mitigation and the current legislative framework. Each survey method will cover the mechanics of the methodology, how the methodology was derived, how it can be interpreted, and the pros and cons of  each method for different species or groups. 

At the end of the module, students will be capable of designing, conducting and writing up a field survey of site to the standard expected by an ecological consultancy.


Module learning outcomes

Subject content

Describe how and why ecological surveys are conducted in the UK with regard to the legislative and planning processes. Learn how to identify and survey for a range of UK species and how to write up these reports in a style appropriate for an ecological consultancy.

Academic and graduate skills

Describe both how and why ecological surveys are conducted and the scientific basis for the survey methods used. Develop an ability to identify key taxonomic groups such as plants, birds, mammals and herptiles and undertake surveys for them.

Compile succinct and accurate reports on ecological survey results suitable for interpretation by NGOs and planning authorities

Module content


Indicative content:





Lecture 1

Why survey? Introduction to legislation, the role of ecological surveying in compliance and it’s path through the panning and consent processes.


Lecture 2

Identification skills, introduction to important groups, taxonomic keys and industry standard guides.


Practical 1

Taxonomic guides and identification skills


Lecture 3

Basic habitat surveys and phase 1 habitat surveys including the NBN gateway.


Field trip

Field trip to Askham Bog to undertake an initial site visit to plan an appropriate survey.


Lecture 4

Additional material will include a guest lecture from a consultancy, CIEEM or and NGO such as Natural England to describe how ecological surveys and mitigation fits within their regulatory processes.



Lecture 5

Plant surveys and the National Vegetation Survey (NVC) classification.


Practical 2

GIS practical and on-line biodiversity and mapping resources such as the National Biodiversity Network


Lecture 6

Surveying for reptiles and amphibians, using habitat suitability indices.


Lecture 7

Surveying for bats 1:  Roost surveys, transects, point counts and remote monitoring protocols


Lecture 8

Surveying for bats 2: Echolocation call identification and limitations


Practical 3

Echolocation call analysis using industry standard software


Lecture 9

Surveying for birds


Lecture 10

Surveying for water voles and badgers


Field trip

Water vole survey (provisional)


Task Length % of module mark
Ecological Survey Site Report
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

While there is no written formative assessment for this module prior to the submission of the final assessment, sample field reports from a range of sites will be provided as guided examples.


Task Length % of module mark
Reassessment: Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Within the University standard four weeks of submission, electronically via feedback sheets and on the marked report.

Indicative reading

Sutherland, William J., and Sutherland, W. Ecological Census Techniques : A Handbook. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006.

Manley, Will, Katharine Foot, and Andrew Davis. "National Vegetation Classification." A Dictionary of Agriculture and Land Management (2019).

British Wildlife (monthly journal) - In the library.

Strachan, Rob, Moorhouse, Tom, English Nature, Great Britain. Environment Agency, University of Oxford. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, WildCRU, Nature Conservancy Council for England, and Natural England. Water Vole Conservation Handbook. 2nd ed. Oxford: Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, 2006. Print.

Sutherland, William J., Hill, David A., and Sutherland, W. Managing Habitats for Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.

Ausden, Malcolm. Habitat Management for Conservation : A Handbook of Techniques. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Techniques in Ecology and Conservation Ser.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.