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HR308-12 Extreme Environmental Biology

Life Sciences
Undergraduate Level 3
Module leader
Guy Barker
Credit value
Module duration
10 weeks
100% exam
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description


Module web page

Module aims

This module aims to introduce students to a fast moving field of research. This research relies on the development of new technologies arising from the integration of multiple disciplines and are part of emerging biotechnology solutions for a changing climate. These new technologies have the potential for rapid industrial take up as well as being of public interest.

The module is taught from the perspective of providing an understanding of these new technologies and the importance of sustainability in feedstock production, process technologies and energy use. In addition the importance of government polices, which aim to ensure security of fuel supplies and reduce carbon emissions on the creation of sustainable markets will be introduced. The module is based on the discussion of primary research papers and will provide insight into cutting edge research.
This module aims to introduce the drivers behind the current intrest in biofuels and bio-based energy sources. It will also illustrate the complex arguments which are being debated in the press and elsewhwere in trying to develop a sustainable future based on biofeedstocks.

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

  1. Introduction. (Dr. G. C. Barker)

  2. Initial analysis of impact of differing land use, sustainability of different biofuels in light of carbon emissions and agricultural practices. (Dr. R. Lillywhite)

  3. Life-cycle analysis and economics justification. (Dr. R. Lillywhite)

  4. Background. (Dr. G. C. Barker)

  5. Biofuels or sustainable energy? (Dr. G. C. Barker)

  6. 1st generation biodiesiel cleanliness. (Dr. G. C. Barker)

  7. Advanced biodiesel. (Dr. G. C. Barker)

  8. First generation bio-ethanol from sugar cane, sugar beet and wheat including economics, impact of price and sustainability. Cellulosic ethanol. (Dr. G. C. Barker)

  9. Biomass crops. (Dr. G. C. Barker)

  10. Sustainability of supplies –the importance of balance. (Dr. G. D. Bending)

  11. Algae. (Dr. G. C. Barker)

  12. Cellulosics and alternative technologies for lignin breakdown. (Dr. G. C. Barker)

  13. Concept of biorefining. ((Dr. G. C. Barker)

  14. Adding value. ((Dr. G. C. Barker)
  15. Biogas and fuel cells. (Dr. G. C. Barker)
  16. Gussing example. (Dr. G. C. Barker)
  17. Industrial biotechnology. (Dr. G. C. Barker)
  18. Alternative technologies for lignin breakdown. (Dr. G. C. Barker)
  19. Natural product function isolation and purification. (Dr. G. C. Barker)

  20. Impact of public perception on demands and markets and what role should ethical consideration play? (This will be more of a tutorial than lecture). (Dr. G. C. Barker)
Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of sustainability in feedstock production
  • Demonstrate understanding of sustainability in energy production and use production
  • Demonstrate understanding of the main issues with current processes in agriculture
  • Demonstrate understanding of the different types of biofuels and sustainable energy, and current research techniques used to assess and analyse them
  • Demonstrate understanding of new biotechnologies associated with climate, economic and governmental changes
  • Demonstrate understanding of sustainability in process technologies production
Indicative reading list

Some material will be provided on the module’s website (accessible via Moodle). In addition David MacKay FRS book is recommended; it is available free of charge on his web site Mark Lynas The God Species, and the December 2011 climate change committe report.

Subject specific skills

a. Demonstrate clear understanding of the scientific topic

b. Contain evidence of extended reading and lateral integration of material not covered in the lectures

c. Demonstrate independent thought and deep understanding

d. Specifically answer the set question using information from multiple lectures and sources

e. Be structured and formatted in a way that demonstrates understanding and logical flow

f. Use multiple sources to construct complex scientific arguments and integrating these to build and develop the student's own scientific conclusions.

Transferable skills
  1. Critical appraisal of source material
  2. Self directed learning
  3. Adult learning

Study time

Type Required
Lectures 20 sessions of 1 hour (17%)
Other activity 100 hours (83%)
Total 120 hours
Private study description

No private study requirements defined for this module.

Other activity description

100 hrs of self-study and directed reading


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You must pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group B1
Weighting Study time
Written Examination 100%
Feedback on assessment

Pastoral meetings with personal tutor

Past exam papers for HR308


This module is Core for:

  • Year 3 of UBSA-3 Undergraduate Biological Sciences

This module is Optional for:

  • Year 3 of ULFA-C1A6 Undergraduate Biochemistry with Industrial Placement (MBio)
  • Year 4 of ULFA-C113 Undergraduate Biological Sciences (with Placement Year)
  • Year 3 of ULFA-C1A5 Undergraduate Biological Sciences with Industrial Placement (MBio)
  • Year 3 of ULFA-C1A7 Undergraduate Biomedical Science with Industrial Placement (MBio)

This module is Option list A for:

  • Year 3 of UBSA-C700 Undergraduate Biochemistry
  • Year 3 of ULFA-C1A2 Undergraduate Biochemistry (MBio)
  • Year 4 of UBSA-C701 Undergraduate Biochemistry (with Intercalated Year)
  • UBSA-3 Undergraduate Biological Sciences
    • Year 3 of C100 Biological Sciences
    • Year 3 of C105 Biological Sciences with Molecular Genetics
    • Year 3 of C107 Biological Sciences with Virology
  • Year 3 of ULFA-C1A1 Undergraduate Biological Sciences (MBio)
  • UBSA-4 Undergraduate Biological Sciences (with Intercalated Year)
    • Year 4 of C111 Biological Sciences with Cell Biology (with Intercalated Year)
    • Year 4 of C101 Biological Sciences with Intercalated Year
    • Year 4 of C109 Biological Sciences with Microbiology (with Intercalated Year)
    • Year 4 of C108 Biological Sciences with Molecular Genetics ( with Intercalated Year)
    • Year 4 of C110 Biological Sciences with Virology (with Intercalated Year)
    • Year 4 of C521 Microbiology and Virology with Intercalated Year
    • Year 4 of C523 Virology (with intercalated year)
  • Year 3 of UBSA-C1B9 Undergraduate Biomedical Science
  • Year 3 of ULFA-C1A3 Undergraduate Biomedical Science (MBio)
  • Year 4 of UBSA-CB19 Undergraduate Biomedical Science with Intercalated Year

This module is Option list B for:

  • UBSA-3 Undergraduate Biological Sciences
    • Year 3 of C102 Biological Sciences with Cell Biology
    • Year 3 of C104 Biological Sciences with Microbiology