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Unit information: Sensory Biology in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

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 Sensory Biology
Unit code BIOL20016
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2D (weeks 19 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Holderied
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


Sensory Biology is the study of how organisms acquire, process and respond to information using their specific sensory capabilities. The unit will provide a direct link between the sensory ecology taught in year 1 (in BIOL12000 Life Processes and BIOL10002 Key Concepts for Biologists) and in year 3 (in BIOL31132 Sensory Ecology). Together they provide a logical sensory biology pathway through the biology degree.

Intended learning outcomes

The emphasis during this unit will be on understanding the breadth of Sensory Biology. By the end of this course you will:

  • have an understanding of the key concepts of sensory biology
  • have acquired knowledge of the physical stimuli underlying the sensory transduction processes
  • understand sensory transduction and processing mechanisms
  • understand sensory bias and how this links to a species' ecology
  • understand the use of psychophysical experiments
  • be able to read, understand and evaluate scientific papers on sensory ecology
  • have gained insights into the interdisciplinary nature of sensory biology

Teaching details

  • 3 x 1 hour weekly lectures
  • 2 x 3 hour lab/practicals
  • Self-directed learning. Students are expected to spend this time on directed reading.

Assessment Details

Attendance at all practical classes is mandatory. Assessment for the unit will be as follows;

  • Continuous assessment worth 40% of the total unit mark, comprising 2 practical reports (20% each)
  • End of session examination - worth 60% of the total unit mark

Reading and References


Sensory Ecology, Behaviour and Evolution (Martin Stevens) Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013, xii+247 pp. ISBN 13:978-0-19-960178-3