This module aims to aims to introduce students to the central principles of biology, namely the basic structure, function and variety of living organisms and how they reproduce. It also aims to give students the basic transferable skills needed to understand scientific reasoning and to undertake scientific investigations.
The aim of this module is to build on material learned in the module ‘Biological concepts’. Elements of genetics and molecular biology are extended and you will be introduced to various facets of the environmental sciences, including ecology and conservation, agricultural science, and pollution science. The module also aims to extend your practical skills within the life sciences.
Principles of chemistry
This is an introductory module that aims to develop your familiarity with fundamental chemical concepts such as atomic structure, chemical nomenclature, bonding, stoichiometry and a range of chemical reactions. The module also aims to develop your basic chemistry laboratory skills.
This module aims to build on the knowledge acquired in Principles of Chemistry and to explore different fields within the subject of chemistry (physical chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry and environmental chemistry). The module will also further develop your laboratory skills.
Physical laws of the natural world
The aim of this module is to introduce you to the physical concepts that underpin all of science and how physics are studied in the natural sciences. You will develop an understanding of how physical laws are used to describe natural phenomena and how they may be applied to gain a deeper knowledge of particular systems and processes.
The course aims to give you the basic transferable skills needed to understand and practice scientific reasoning, to undertake scientific investigations and to communicate effectively scientific ideas and outcomes.
This double module gives you the background skills in science necessary for the rest of the course. These include sufficient laboratory skills to perform experiments safely and successfully; the necessary mathematical and statistical skills for quantitative analysis of data. It also introduces the broad body of knowledge of chemical, biological and physical sciences necessary for the study of the biological and environmental sciences.
Variety of Life
Life on earth is amazingly diverse, colourful and multifaceted. The Variety of Life module introduces you to this diversity, tracing the tree of life from its roots to its branches. Beginning with simple, single-celled organisms like bacteria and Protists, you discover the various forms of complex life that have evolved and how to classify them in a taxonomic system using characteristic features of each group. The module features a large number of practical sessions in which you engage with plants, animals and other organisms.
The Organism and its Environment
You will learn about the physiological, genetic and behavioural mechanisms that organisms employ to cope with the dynamic nature of Earth’s environment. This course has a significant practical component, so in addition to the theory you will hone your lab and field skills. The first half of the course focuses on behaviour and physiology, the second half is devoted to applied population genetics.
Introduction to Environmental Systems
You will investigate animals and plants living in selected habitats and review factors which control populations and methods of determining distribution and abundance. It will also introduce you to the concept of energy in physical and biological systems. In this way the theme of energy will be seen as unifying all the various aspects of the relationships between organisms and their environments.
Likely optional modules
Microbiology and Cell Culture
This will introduce you to principal taxonomic groups of micro-organisms; examines their growth, physiology and culture, and their importance to humans and the biosphere. The module equips you with the necessary skills to carry out safe, aseptic practices with such organisms in a laboratory environment. It is an intensive module in which you spend an entire week in the laboratory. Currently the lab week takes place in the Easter vacation.
Plant Control Systems
This module investigates the physiology of a range of plant groups, integrating biology with the underlying physics. By studying communication and homeostatic processes as unifying themes, you will develop a holistic approach to the investigation of biological control systems and the means by which they respond to the environment.
Communication and Analysis in Science
Scientists must be able to effectively analyse, present and communicate scientific data, whether it originated from their own research or whether they are engaging with literature produced by other researchers. In addition, successful research depends on the careful and considerate planning and design of experiments and studies in the laboratory and field. This module helps you to develop your critical thinking skills as scientists, introduces you to various mathematical and statistical methods for analysing and presenting scientific data and explores important concepts relating to experimental design, measurement and sampling.
Chemistry for the Environmental Sciences
Chemical processes shape the world we live in; the soil we use to produce food, the air we breathe and the water we drink. This module aims to provide you with an understanding of the fundamental concepts and practical applications of chemistry in an environmental context. You will be introduced to the chemistry of soil, water and the atmosphere and you also will learn how these three environments interact. The impact of human activity on the chemistry of the environment will be discussed in topics like the ozone layer, greenhouse gases, freshwater quality and hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This module has weekly lectures, supported by practical lab sessions, workshops and two local field trips.
Underpinning all of the biosciences, evolution is central to understanding the diversity of life and the behaviour of biological systems. By studying the processes and drivers that result in evolutionary change, you will consider the nature of evolution, developing an understanding of both macro- and micro-scale evolutionary change.
The Earth as a Planetary System
This module looks at environmental systems from two different but complementary ways, from the small and from the large. You will be introduced to the fundamental concepts of systems feedback control at an ecosystem and develops the skills relevant to the investigation of physicochemical factors relevant to the environmental sciences. Biological systems control in relation to inter-specific and intra-specific competition will be discussed. On a global scale, you will study the flow of energy, the structure of the atmosphere and the oceans. Finally, all of the mechanisms will be set in the context of a hypothesis of a non-sentient Gaia.
Likely optional modules
Biogeography and Landscape Ecology
This module examines the distribution of organisms and soils in space and time, and the environmental factors, including anthropogenic, that determine or limit these distributions. It introduces landscape ecology and its importance in conservation management. The module also introduces the world’s major biomes and more detailed study of habitats and micro habitats by drawing on a range of areas within the geographic and life sciences such as geology, climatology, palaeontology, plant and animal systematics, evolution and ecology. Biogeographical and landscape ecological processes are also important to other fields of geography; for example food production systems, sustainable livelihoods, etc., and the module examines human impacts on biogeographic systems the means by which these systems can be managed in a sustainable manner.
Environment and Development
Understanding the environmental problems facing the countries of the developing world and encouraging critical evaluation of various approaches to solving these problems is essential for managing environmental resources on a sustainable basis. This module examines these issues within the context of the historical legacy of colonialism and its environmental impacts, and the contemporary world economic and (geo)political system. It introduces and evaluates theories of development and how these affect the understanding of the exploitation of environmental resources of developing areas. It examines the evolution of varying forms of ‘environmentalism’ relating to developing areas. Environmentalist philosophies, as these underpin action, can be broadly divided into ‘technocentric’ and ‘ecocentric’ – a broad division which is utilised in the module to evaluate the nature and success of specific approaches to dealing with environmental problems. The module also explores a range of management approaches and techniques to evaluate their appropriateness for sustainable development.
Understanding the well-established principles of process geomorphology is a prerequisite for any environmental management. This module examines the processes that operate within a selection of geomorphological systems and shows the relationship between process and landform at a range of scales within a modern conceptual framework. This module includes a field exercise that provides data that are used for critical analysis, problem solving and interpretation an environment and to produce a reasoned scientific argument structured as a research paper.
Introduction to Mapping and GIS
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have been utilised for over quarter of a century, however, there is still a rapid growth in the applications of GIS to a wide range of business, public and academic fields. This module provides the practical and theoretical aspects of GIS and the fundamentals of cartographic design required to produce meaningful GIS results. To appreciate the potential and scope of GIS, an exploration of the core aspects (principles) of the subject is made, concluding with a variety of relevant case studies. Given the desirability of acquiring a large degree of practical software skills, in a number of complex and varied programmes, a substantial aim of the module is to provide ‘hands-on’ use of GIS, using industry-standard hardware and software.
Understanding Past Climate Change
Climate change is a critical concern these days, but many argue that to understand today’s climate change fully we have to understand how climates have changed in the past. This module examines the methods used by scientists to reconstruct past climates and environments and examines the theories proposed to explain the changes identified. It provides a geological context for understanding present day environmental problems and develops an awareness of the interaction between oceanic, atmospheric and cryospheric systems in explaining change.
Aspects of Pollution
With the growth in technology, in population and in rates of consumption of natural resources, pollution has had increasingly severe impacts on the environment in what appears to be a positive feedback process. The module aims to introduce you to the range of mechanisms which cause air, land and water pollution and to discuss and evaluate the ways in which these can be controlled. It aims to encourage you to adopt a critical approach to pollution prevention issues, and increase your awareness of the need to integrate scientific knowledge, economic interests and policy in order to achieve a more sustainable society.
Ecology and Conservation
In order to conserve we must first identify underlying ecological issues that make conservation necessary. In the first two thirds of this course you will explore the underpinning ecological concepts that help us to effectively plan and carry out conservation work. In the final third of the course, which is partly student led, you will apply these concepts to modern conservation themed issues.
This module provides you with autonomy in your learning as you pursue in depth the study of a topic of your own choice. In doing so, you will gain practice at organising your thinking in a scientific context and will increase your confidence in dealing with scientific problems and issues. With a broad scope, this module allows you to work with external businesses and partners and to potentially produce work that can be either published as a peer-reviewed article or that may be of real world value to a partner organisation.
Likely optional modules
Plant Responses to the Environment
In this module we study how plants (despite being immobile) encounter various environmental threats (drought, high temperature, disease) and employ sophisticated genetic and biochemical mechanisms to thrive under stressful conditions. We need to grow 70% more food in the next forty years from an ever shrinking amount of land and with less fresh water. Understanding plant survival mechanisms, especially for crop plants, is therefore vital for our food security in the coming decades. This module covers topics explaining plants/crop interaction with their environment to maximise productivity and is complemented with latest developments published in high impact peer reviewed journals.
You will spend 8 days in the mountains and coastlines of Snowdonia, North Wales. During this intensive course you will go from being a novice at quantifying habitats and asking ecological questions of the environment to an expert at turning the natural world into a form that can be quantified and objectively measured. Due to its intense nature, this module is one of the most mentally challenging of all the science modules you will take at Christ Church, but according to our student feedback, also one of the most enjoyable, both from an academic and general life skills point of view. There is a limit on the number of students who can take this module. This module is currently taken during the summer vacation.
Through the study of the fundamental science of radiobiology, you will bring together many aspects of physics, chemistry and biology, especially in the context of the damage done by ionising radiations to biological information processing systems. You will also be introduced to some of the medical and industrial applications of radioactivity.
Biological Imaging and Photography
This module will enable you to use a range modern photographic and other image capture and processing techniques as tools for studying of biological organisms. With a focus on using these techniques to extract biological information, and on developing an awareness of the limitations of the different approaches, you will learn to critically evaluate imaging approaches in a contextual setting
Soil Science and Land Management
The module will start with the description of the fundamental concepts of soil, water and atmospheric chemistry and the chemical interactions of the three environments. There will be a special emphasis on the composition of rocks and soils and nutrient cycles and the role of biota in this context will also be examined. It will then focus on the available techniques for monitoring the chemical components of the environment. You will acquire practical skills in methods and instruments such as flame photometry. During this course, you will be encouraged to attempt critical evaluation of environmental evaluation procedures and data derived from these analyses.
Applied Biological Chemistry
(This may not be open to some combined honours students.)
The focus of this module is on analytical chemistry techniques applied to biological systems. You will gain practical experience in protein purification techniques such as ion-exchange, gel filtration and affinity chromatography using modern fast protein liquid chromatography equipment. Combined with a solid theoretical foundation you will become familiar with many analytical spectroscopic methods including infrared (IR), UV-VIS, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and crystallography, together with separation techniques like gas chromatography (GC), fast protein liquid chromatography (FPLC) and high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). By the end of this module, in addition to the practical skills, you are expected to be able to interpret and analyse experimental data independently. There is a limit on the number of students who can take this module.
Advanced GIS and Remote Sensing
This module further develops your critical understanding of the practical and theoretical aspects of GIS. It builds on the understanding and skills developed in the introductory GIS module taken in year two (a prerequisite for this module). It aims to develop an understanding of a range of theoretical perspectives including point, area and network spatial analyses, plus associated areas such as map generalisation, data error problems, data standards, digital terrain analysis, remote sensing and image generation and manipulation that will allow you to apply GIS to real geographical issues.