Vertebrate Identification BIOL5137

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Biodiversity One Health Vet Med
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will provide students with in depth hands-on evidence-based training in the identification of key vertebrate groups, using field guides, identification keys, and vocalizations, as required for assessment of biodiversity


Four hours of lecture, fours of practical laboratory and 10 hours of field work, spread over the course of the Semester

Requirements of Entry

A second class Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject. Professional experience may be taken into account.

English language

If your first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level. See English Language Requirements

Excluded Courses



Key research skills (Semester 1)


Students will submit practical exercises to gauge their depth of understanding and engagement with the skills learned in each of the practical sessions. The work will be assessed not only on completion of the assigned tasks but on interpretation and self-reflection of the theories learned (20%), as well as demonstrating proficiency in identification through in-class tests (40%). Students will integrate knowledge learned in the preparation of an independent and evidence-based assignment in the form of a monograph of species description or creation of a novel key (40%)

Course Aims

The aim of the course is to provide students with core evidence-based training in techniques for identifying key vertebrate groups, including bird songs and mammalian scats.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to discuss and take a critical and evidence-based approach to:

-Identify species from key invertebrate groups, to the lowest taxonomic level possible for that group

-Use taxonomic keys and the principles behind them so that they can understand and implement the use of novel keys for groups that have not been studied directly in this course

-Understand and calculate biodiversity based on a range of indices and choose those most relevant to the taxa under study

-Consolidate the methodologies learned, in terms of an in-class laboratory test to evaluate their ability to use keys

-Devise and deploy a digital collection (i.e. photographs and/or bird songs) for which complete species descriptions are generated, such as would be found in a monograph describing a new species 

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits