Methods in Tropical Marine Biology

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

The UK Natural Environment Research Council recently listed the most wanted Postgraduate and Professional Skills Needs in the Environment Sector. Multi-disciplinarity, Data Management, Numeracy, and Translating Research into Practice were among the top most wanted and cross-disciplinary skills identified. This module aims to widen the skill base in practical research by introducing a range of methodologies to aid in the investigation of tropical marine processes.

The seminars (6hours each) and practicals (7 hours each) address the most wanted skills and support the material delivered in theory modules by focusing on the components biogeochemistry and physiology. Students will acquire many of the fundamental and some specialised practical skills to effectively operate as professional tropical marine biologists.

Biogeochemistry component: Trace gas production
Tropical coastal environments are important sources and sinks for climate-active trace gases including dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and isoprene. Corals and anemones, and their symbiotic dinoflagellate (Symbiodinium sp.) are among the highest producers of the DMS-precursor dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP). This osmolyte can be enzymatically converted to DMS and forms part of a stress-induced anti-oxidant cascade that protects cells from harmful reactive oxygens. You will use gas chromatography to quantify DMS production and consumption patterns in Symbiodinium sp. and its symbiotic host, the anemone Aiptasia pallida. Taken together, this will enable you to construct a budget on the flow of sulfur in symbiotic cnidarians.

Physiology Component: Photophysiology and Impacts of Environment
Macroalgae play a fundamental role in coastal environments around the globe. They sustain high levels of productivity, providing nourishment directly for grazers and indirectly, as particulate and dissolved organic material, for filter feeders, detrital feeders and engulfers. Measurements of algal productivity provide important information as to the rate at which algal biomass (carbon or energy) can accumulate to be available to higher trophic levels as well as the ability of aquatic systems to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere. This practical will introduce you to (1) conventional (O2) and modern (active fluorescence) techniques for assaying physiology and productivity and (2) the effect of elevated CO2 on photosynthesis.

Module aims

The main aim of the module is to sharpen the skill base in practical research by introducing a range of methodologies that aid in the investigation of tropical marine processes.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

1. Demonstrate an ability to follow science-based methodologies to undertake a research task
2. Count microorganisms using a haemocytometer
3. Explain the basic components used in gas chromatography
4. Employ gas chromatography for the quantification of dimethyl sulphide (DMS) and its precursor dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP)
5. Explain how tropical coastal environments contribute to the production of DMS and discuss its effect on climate
6. Explain the basic principles of active fluorescence-derived measures of marine productivity
7. Analyse data collected by a PAM fluorometer
8. Employ oxygen electrode techniques for measuring marine productivity
9. Discuss the effects of environment and climate change on photosynthesis and primary production

Employability and Transferable Skills

Communicating scientific information
Planning and executing teamwork to set deadlines

Module information

The School has a policy which ensures all lecturers opt-in to making lectures available via Listen Again. Therefore, in teaching rooms where the facility is available, lectures will be recorded via this service.

Learning and teaching methods

12h seminars, 14h practicals


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 (Biogeochemistry)  11/02/2022  10% 
Coursework   Scientific Report (Biogeochemistry)  04/03/2022  40% 
Coursework   Moodle Quiz (Physiology)  15/03/2022  40% 
Coursework   Scientific Report (Physiology)  29/04/2022  10% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Michael Steinke, email:
Prof Tracy Lawson, Dr Michael Steinke
School Graduate Office, email: bsgradtaught (Non essex users should add to create a full email address)



External examiner

Dr Nicholas Kamenos
University of Glasgow
Available via Moodle
Of 451 hours, 12 (2.7%) hours available to students:
439 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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