Tropical Marine Resources

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Autumn & Spring
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 07 October 2021
Friday 25 March 2022
20 April 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MSC C16112 Tropical Marine Biology,
MPHDC16148 Tropical Marine Biology,
MPHDC16184 Tropical Marine Biology,
PHD C16148 Tropical Marine Biology,
PHD C16184 Tropical Marine Biology

Module description

Tropical marine ecosystems provide important resources locally and globally, and support the livelihoods of more than half a billion people around the world. Tropical marine resources, however, are threatened by a number of different factors, including global environmental change, over-exploitation, pollution and environmental degradation caused by coastal development. Our planet's population is predicted to rise from 7.8 billion to 9.7 billion by the year 2050 with major changes expected for coastal societies, and this, combined with coastal transmigration, may lead to doubling of tropical marine resource exploitation over the next 50 years. Additionally, mining for mineral resources in the deep sea poses a threat to an ecosystem whose diversity is poorly understood.

Therefore, it has never been more important for marine biologists to understand the value of marine resources – not just coral reefs and fisheries and not just macroorganisms. In fact, using the marine environment to help meet many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (the Blue Biotechnology agenda) is underpinned by a need for more holistic understanding of diverse marine ecosystems and the interplay between all organisms within them.

This module has been designed to enable you to speak knowledgably about marine resources and provide you with the capacity to develop your expertise in this field by further reading and research. The bioinformatics practical class complements the lectures by giving you deep insight in how to understand marine diversity from DNA sequence data. There will be an initial focus on microorganisms, both cultivated and uncultivated, that provide a biotechnological 'treasure chest' by supplying novel metabolites and enzymes for pharmaceuticals and more sustainable industrial processes and products, including bioplastics. Invertebrates (and the microbes that they house) are also a major source novel pharmaceuticals, such as anti-cancer drugs and antibiotics to combat the threat of antimicrobial resistant pathogens. They are a source of other products as well as providing inspiration for novel materials. The issues of biofouling and oil pollution, together with their biologically driven resolutions, will be explored in some depth. Resources from the deep sea and tropical coastal environments will also be discussed in detail. Here, and throughout the module, you will explore the human element of tropical marine resources, including issues of ownership of marine biodiversity, trade, tourism, conservation and sustainable management. Management strategies need to consider the main factors resulting in ecosystem demise from a multidisciplinary standpoint. However, protecting food security, access to clean water and sustainable economies are key requirements, and illustrate the delicate balancing act between the need for development and conservation.

Module aims

This module aims to provide an understanding of tropical marine resources, i.e. organisms (from microbes to vertebrates) and ecosystems (from deep-sea to coral reefs), emphasising biotechnological applications, sustainable management and conservation management.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
1. Discuss the diversity of tropical marine resources (from microbes to vertebrates) and how they can contribute to sustainable development goals
2. Discuss the environmental, social and economic impacts of tropical marine resources and prospects for more sustainable production and harvesting
3. Discuss biotechnology industries based around tropical marine resources
4. Discuss biotechnological products stemming from marine resources
5. Explain how marine invertebrates can inspire new materials and technologies
6. Explain the status and trends in global marine fisheries, with emphasis on tropical marine environments
7. Demonstrate an appreciation of the differing roles and agendas of stakeholders associated with local and international marine resource development and an understanding of approaches suited to enhanced planning and management
8. Show competence in distilling complex nucleic-acid sequence data into meaningful figures and interpreting the data
9. Show competence in retrieving relevant information from diverse sources

Module information

1. Introduction to Marine Resources;

2-3 Diversity of marine microbial resources (Bacteria and Archaea)
4-5 Diversity of marine microbial resources (Viruses, Fungi, Algae and Protozoa)
6-7 Methods for capturing genetic information and cultivating marine microbes
8-9 Microbes for the clean-up of pollution (focussing on crude-oil spills and introducing the practical class)
10 Marine biotechnology overview
11-12 Extremophiles as a resource for marine biotechnology
13 Marine invertebrates and microbes as sources of novel pharmaceuticals

14 Diversity of marine resources (Invertebrates)
15 Marine biofouling
16 Biofilms/biofouling
17 Invertebrates/biofouling

18 - Introduction to resources in the deep sea
19 - Conservation of benthic biodiversity versus mineral extraction
20 - Deep-sea bioproducts and bioprospecting
21 - Tropical marine aquaculture (seaweed, invertebrates, fish)
22 - Tropical marine fisheries
23 – Aquarium and curio trade, coral mining
24 - Reef-based tourism and tropical marine resource management

Spring Term
Bioinformatics practical: Microbial community analysis in response to a marine oil spill (6 hours)

Learning and teaching methods

24 hours of lectures & practical class in the Spring Term.


  • Michael S. Rappé; Stephanie A. Connon; Kevin L. Vergin; Stephen J. Giovannoni. (2002) 'Cultivation of the ubiquitous SAR11 marine bacterioplankton clade', in Nature. vol. 418 (6898) , pp.630-633

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Moodle Quiz 1    10% 
Coursework   Popular Science Article    40% 
Coursework   Moodle Quiz 2    10% 
Coursework   Report    40% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Terence McGenity, email:
Terry McGenity, Nick Aldred, Michelle Taylor



External examiner

Dr Nicholas Kamenos
University of Glasgow
Available via Moodle
Of 1395 hours, 24 (1.7%) hours available to students:
1371 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Life Sciences (School of)

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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