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Unit information: Climates and Ecosystems in 2018/19

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Climates and Ecosystems
Unit code EASC30058
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1B (weeks 7 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Kate Hendry
Open unit status Not open

MSc Palaeobiology students must discuss their background knowledge with the unit director before selecting this unit as an option.



School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


The unit focusses on the link between climate and ecosystems both today and in the geological record. The unit will assess how life on our planet respond to - and shape - climate. It will cover oceanic, terrestrial and freshwater systems with a focus on current debates in the context of climate change impacts, adaptations and vulnerabilities.

The main aims are

  • To understand how physical and chemical climate affect organisms
  • To upscale for individual reactions to the impact of climate change on ecosystem function.
  • To apply statistical methods and appreciate the difficulty in interpreting large scale datasets and the impact of data resolution and quality in space and time.
  • To understand the contribution of palaeoecology to the current climate change debate.
  • To learn to interpret proxy data and the strength and weaknesses of these methods

Intended learning outcomes

On completion you should have:

  • gained a solid overview of the links between climate and ecosystem change
  • assessed data using a wide range of statistical techniques
  • learned about a wide range of climate proxies, their strength and limitations
  • reiterated data formatting, interpretation, and discussion.
  • debated the nature and causes of climate change impacts on ecosystems

Teaching details

15 lectures and 5 practicals

Assessment Details

Coursework (25%) comprising a presentation in the 5th practical session on a topic discussed during the course.

2 hour written exam (75%)

Reading and References

Recommended reading

There is no single recommended text for the course. Students will draw a lot of information out of:

  • Ruddiman, W. F. (2001). Earth's Climate: past and future. Macmillan
  • The 2014 IPCC report. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, IPCC Working Group II Contribution to AR5, 2014.