Methods in Marine Biology

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

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 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 marine biologists.

Biogeochemistry component: Trace gas production
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 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 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


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Moodle Quiz (Community Ecology) - Deadline Only - Do Not Submit On FASER    10% 
Coursework   Scientific Report (Community Ecology)    40% 
Coursework   Moodle Quiz (Physiology) - Deadline Only - Do Not Submit On FASER    10% 
Coursework   Scientific Report (Physiology)    40% 

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 Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill, email:
Prof Tracy Lawson, Dr John Stamford, Dr Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill
School Graduate Office, email: bsgradtaught (Non essex users should add to create a full email address)



External examiner

Dr Sebastian Hennige
Available via Moodle
Of 23 hours, 11 (47.8%) hours available to students:
12 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)

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

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