Marine Resources

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Autumn & Spring
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 21 March 2025
16 February 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MSC C16112 Tropical Marine Biology,
MSC F71012 Marine Science and Sustainable Development,
MPHDC16148 Tropical Marine Biology,
MPHDC16184 Tropical Marine Biology,
PHD C16148 Tropical Marine Biology,
PHD C16184 Tropical Marine Biology,
MSCIB097 Tropical Marine Biology,
MSCIBA97 Tropical Marine Biology (Including Placement Year),
MSCIBB97 Tropical Marine Biology (Including Year Abroad)

Module description

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.

Module aims

The aim of this module is:

  • 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

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Discuss the diversity of marine resources (from microbes to vertebrates) and how they can contribute to sustainable development goals.

  2. Discuss the environmental, social and economic impacts of marine resources and prospects for more sustainable production and harvesting.

  3. Discuss biotechnology industries based around 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 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

Marine ecosystems provide important resources locally and globally, and support the livelihoods of more than half a billion people around the world. 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 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.

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 coastal environments will also be discussed in detail. Here, and throughout the module, you will explore the human element of 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.


  •  Introduction to Marine Resources

Introduction to Microbial Resources

  • Diversity of marine microbial resources (Bacteria and Archaea).

  • Diversity of marine microbial resources (Viruses, Fungi, Algae and Protozoa).

  • Methods for capturing genetic information and cultivating marine microbes.

  • Microbes for the clean-up of pollution (focussing on crude-oil spills and introducing the practical class).

  • Marine biotechnology overview.

  • Extremophiles as a resource for marine biotechnology.

  • Marine invertebrates and microbes as sources of novel pharmaceuticals

Invertebrates: Bio-inspiration and Biofouling.

  • Diversity of marine resources (Invertebrates).

  • Marine biofouling.

  • Biofilms/biofouling.

  • Invertebrates/biofouling.

Sustainable use of Marine Resources from the deep-sea to coral reefs.

  • Introduction to resources in the deep sea.

  • Conservation of benthic biodiversity versus mineral extraction.

  • Deep-sea bioproducts and bioprospecting.

  • Tropical marine aquaculture (seaweed, invertebrates, fish).

  • Tropical marine fisheries.

  • Aquarium and curio trade, coral mining.

  • Reef-based tourism and tropical marine resource management.

Bioinformatics practical class.

  • Microbial community analysis in response to a marine oil spill (6 hours).

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • Twenty-four hours of lectures.
  • One practical class in the spring term.


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 Coursework weighting
Coursework   Popular Science Article    40% 
Coursework   Lab Report    60% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Boyd McKew, email:
Dr Boyd McKew, Dr Nick Aldred, Dr Michelle Taylor



External examiner

Dr Sebastian Hennige
Available via Moodle
Of 23 hours, 23 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Life Sciences (School of)

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