Marine Biology

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Course overview
(MMarBiol) Integrated Masters in Marine Biology
Marine Biology
University of Essex
University of Essex
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
MMB C160

Professional accreditation


Admission criteria

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) code

Course qualifiers


Rules of assessment

Rules of assessment are the rules, principles and frameworks which the University uses to calculate your course progression and final results.

Additional notes


External examiners

Dr Nicholas Kamenos


University of Glasgow

External Examiners provide an independent overview of our courses, offering their expertise and help towards our continual improvement of course content, teaching, learning, and assessment. External Examiners are normally academics from other higher education institutions, but may be from the industry, business or the profession as appropriate for the course. They comment on how well courses align with national standards, and on how well the teaching, learning and assessment methods allow students to develop and demonstrate the relevant knowledge and skills needed to achieve their awards. External Examiners who are responsible for awards are key members of Boards of Examiners. These boards make decisions about student progression within their course and about whether students can receive their final award.


Core You must take this module.
You must pass this module. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options You can choose which module to study.
You must pass this module. No failure can be permitted.
Compulsory You must take this module.
There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.
Compulsory with Options You can choose which module to study.
There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.
Optional You can choose which module to study.
There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.

Year 2 - 2020/21

Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits
01 BS251-5-AU Marine Biodiversity Compulsory 15
02 BS257-5-FY Professional Skills for Ecological and Marine Scientists Compulsory 15
03 BS254-5-AU Marine Vertebrates Compulsory 15
04 Option from list Optional 15
05 Option(s) from list Optional 30
06 Option(s) from list Optional 30
07 BS417-6-SU BS417-5-SU Compulsory 0

Year 3 - 2021/22

Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits
01 BS832-6-FY Research Project in Ecological and Marine Sciences Compulsory 45
02 BS303-6-SU Estuarine and Coastal Ecology Field Module Compulsory 15
03 BS354-6-AU Fisheries Ecology Compulsory 15
04 Option from list Optional 15
05 Option from list Optional 15
06 Option from list Optional 15

Year 4 - 2022/23

Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits
01 BS705-7-FY Tropical Marine Resources Compulsory 30
02 BS706-7-FY Tropical Marine Systems Compulsory 30
03 BS707-7-FY Methods in Tropical Marine Biology Compulsory 30
04 BS708-7-FY Professional Skills in Tropical Marine Biology Compulsory 30

Exit awards

A module is given one of the following statuses: 'core' – meaning it must be taken and passed; 'compulsory' – meaning it must be taken; or 'optional' – meaning that students can choose the module from a designated list. The rules of assessment may allow for limited condonement of fails in 'compulsory' or 'optional' modules, but 'core' modules cannot be failed. The status of the module may be different in any exit awards which are available for the course. Exam Boards will consider students' eligibility for an exit award if they fail the main award or do not complete their studies.

Programme aims

MMarBiol (C161) is a 4 year programme of study which has the aims of developing in our students:

- An understanding of marine systems, and the varied levels of complexity from molecules to populations and ecosystems, with special emphasis on key aspects (zoology, primary productivity, mariculture and fisheries, practical and research skills) of marine biology and ecology.

- Enhance students' knowledge of applied marine biology (management, mariculture fisheries and biotechnology).

- An understanding of marine biological methods/approaches and of the main body of underlying biological and ecological knowledge.

- An ability to apply this understanding to critically analyse current marine biological questions and to suggest solutions.

- Aquire and develop range of transferable skills including information retrieval, evaluation and synthesis, numeracy, ITC skills, presentation skills, effective working with others, complex problem solving, self-evaluation and reflection, and independent learning ability using marine biology as a context and focus.

- A general scientific education including training in handling and interpretation of quantitative information and the ability to plan and carry out desk, laboratory or field based research under supervision.

- The key laboratory, field and workplace skills required for careers in marine biology, environmental science and management, or other careers that require an integrated understanding of biological processes, and the chemical and physical natural environment.

- An awareness of the need for compliance with health, safety and ethical policies in biological work.

- An appreciation of the need for, and importance of, lifelong learning and personal development planning.

- A foundation of knowledge, understanding and skills required for further study and research.

Learning outcomes and learning, teaching and assessment methods

On successful completion of the programme a graduate should demonstrate knowledge and skills as follows:

A: Knowledge and understanding

A1 Basic maths, physics and chemistry that are relevant to marine and freshwater biology and ecology
A2 The different levels of organisation and complexity, from molecules, through cells, organs, organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems, to biomes and the whole globe
A3 Key ecological processes: energy, mass and element fluxes between components and trophic levels; evolution and adaptation; competition and predation; population dynamics
A4 The structure and function of organisms, including key molecular, genetic and physiological processes.
A5 Knowledge and understanding of local and global biodiversity, particularly for aquatic organisms, used in its widest sense to include genetic, taxonomic, habitat, and biome, some of which is at an advanced level
A6 Appropriate practical scientific methods and approaches: observation, experimentation, modelling; and techniques used in their analysis
A7 Key environmental issues facing the world's aquatic systems, (e.g. natural resource management, conservation and sustainable development, climate change)
Learning Methods: Lectures are the principal method of delivery of A1 to A7.

Lectures direct students to textbooks and on-line material (Years 1 to 3), and research papers (Year 2 and particularly Year 3):

Laboratory and field practicals in Years 1 and 2 complement lectures and develop A1 to A6;
Coursework associated with lecture modules in Years 2 and 3 develop A1 to A7;

The research project in Year 3 teaches and develops A6 and also a range of A1 to A5 (depending on project topic) and A14;

Seminars with small groups are used in A1 (mathematics and chemistry, Year 1).

Team work for A7 is developed in the Field Course module (Year 3);

The Skills modules and field courses in different environments in Years 1-3 teach and develop A1 to A7, and particularly integrate A2.
A8-A13 are developed throughout year 4 via the Thematic Module lectures, environmental seminars and related assessed coursework (with feedback from it).

Students are expected to extend and enhance their knowledge and understanding acquired from seminars and lectures by consulting library and other materials related to the course.
Such independent research is a fundamental part of most assessments; A14 is substantially delivered in the year 3 Research Project and further developed through the Practical Skills (BS715) module.
Assessment Methods: A1 to A7 are assessed by:

Multiple Choice Questions (Year 1)

Essays (Years 2 and 3);

Oral and written practical reports (Years 1 and 2); Field course reports (Years 2-3);

Exercises in data analysis and interpretation (DAI), (Years 2 and 3);

Unseen written exams: short answer, essay (Years 1 and 2) and questions involving DAI (Years 2 and 3).

The individual Year 3 research project, covering a range of A2 to A6 (depending on project topic) tests understanding in depth and is assessed by an individual written report and an oral presentation.

In year 4, A8-A13 are assessed through a variety of coursework, comprising a range of written work for different audiences (e.g.
Essays, scientific posters, popular science articles, scientific papers) and through reflective journals, worksheets and oral presentations.

A14 is assessed in the research project module BS832 and BS707 Methods in Tropical Marine Biology module.

B: Intellectual and cognitive skills

B1 Retrieve, select and collate appropriate aquatic science, ecological, environmental and biological information
B2 Evaluate primary and secondary evidence and arguments
B3 Analyse and interpret quantitative information in graphs, figures, tables and equations and use appropriate statistical tests
B4 Integrate and link information across course components, including material met in different years, from different disciplines and covering different scales of organisation.
B5 Plan and conduct a research task (including risk assessment and ethical approval where appropriate)
B6 Present data correctly, choose and apply an appropriate statistical test and interpret the output
Learning Methods: Setting of directed learning topics (Years 1 and 2) develops skills in B1, B2 and B6;

B1 and B2 are partly covered by training in exam essay writing in Year 1, and further developed by setting coursework essays (Years 2 and 3);
B2 and B3 are taught by specific inclusion of data analysis in lectures and classes in Years 2 and 3 and through progressive development of DAI coursework in Years 2 and 3.

In year 4, B1, B2 and B4-B7 are taught and developed through seminars, lectures, coursework and its associated feedback and group sessions.

The seminars and group sessions encourage critical discussion, together with an emphasis on ability to reason and argue coherently, and to learn from others.

B1 to B3 and in some cases B6, are developed through analyses and presentation of results of practical work in Years 1 to 3; B6 is achieved by progressive subject development through the 3 years.

B7 is taught via team project work on the Year 2 field course and the Year 3 individual research project module; B7 is further developed in year 4 through the research skills module (BS712) and during the research project component of the optional coral reef conservation module (BS716);
B8 is taught in Year 1 LSKS module and developed throughout the degree via practical coursework (Years 1 and 2) and in the year 3 research project.
Assessment Methods: In years 1-3, B1, B2 and B6 are assessed by coursework and exam essays (Years 1 to 3);

B2 and B3 are assessed by coursework and compulsory exam DAI questions (Years 2 and 3), practical reports (Years 1 and 2), field course reports (Years 2 and 3) and the research project report (Year 3);

B6 is assessed by integrative exam questions and coursework;

B1-B3 and B6 are also assessed in the Year 3 individual research project;

B7 is assessed in the Year 3 Research Project module and B8 is assessed in Year 1 & 2 practicals and Year 1 LSKS module, and in the Year 3 research project.

In year 4, B1-B6 are assessed through coursework essays of differing length and an oral presentation;

B7 is assessed as a grant (project) proposal during the core BS712 research skills module but also the a research project component of the optional Coral Reef Conservation module.

C: Practical skills

C1 Able to carry out basic experiments and sampling programmes in the laboratory and the field, safely and effectively following a written schedule
C2 Use appropriate laboratory or field equipment safely and efficiency
C3 Able to explain the principles and limitations of a range of more advanced practical techniques
C4 Identify species using hierarchical keys and use classification schemes (e.g. biotic indices, NVC, etc.)
C5 Able to use appropriate software packages for simulations, modelling, statistical analysis, etc.
Learning Methods: In years 1-3, Skills C1 to C3 are taught in supervised practicals in Years 1 and 2, and one week long field courses in Year 2 and 3;
Lectures in Years 1 to 3 teach aspects of C1 and C3;

Independent project work in research laboratories in Year 3 also develops C1 to C3.

As part of C1 to C3, safety and ethical issues are addressed through practical documentation (Years 1 and 2) and developed by students preparing risk assessments and ethical permissions and consents where appropriate for Year 2 field course and Year 3 research projects;

C4 is taught by using keys and classification schemes in field courses and practicals (Years 1 & 2);

C5 is addressed through IT and statistics training in Year 1, and the use of more specialised software is taught or developed in practicals and field courses and the project in Years 3-4.

In year 4, C2 and C6-C7 are primarily taught through the research skills and data analysis module (BS712) and through the dedicated module in Marine Practical Skills (BS715).

The coursework components of each module will also provide experience and feedback related to literature based research skills and formulation of research questions;

C8 is primarily taught through BS712 (research skills; formulating and addressing research questions)

Considerable autonomy is encouraged in researching all assessed essays and practical work (in particular BS711, BS715)
Assessment Methods: In years 1-3, C1 is assessed through Year 1 practicals, Year 2 field courses and the Year 3 research project;

C2 is assessed in some Year 1 and 2 practicals;
C3 is assessed in many practicals in Year 2 and in theory exams in Years 2 to 3;

C4 is assessed by keying out assignments/ID tests in years 1 and 2 practicals and the years 2 and 3 field course; C5 is assessed in several Year 2 practicals.

In year 4, C2 and C5-C7 are assessed through the different components of the research skills and data analysis module and through the specific tasks of the Marine Practical Skills module;

C8 will be assessed through components within theYear 3 Research Project and Year 4BS712 (research skills, e.g.

Formulating a research grant/proposal).

The optional coral reef management module (BS716) will also provide an opportunity for students to undertake a specific research task.

All modules have associated coursework which will enable appropriate assessment of students.

D: Key skills

D1 Able to write clearly in: a) logically argued essays; b) longer reports, including basic scientific papers; c) a variety of other pieces of work for different target audiences; d) e-communications, in particular email. Plan, write and give oral presentations
D2 (i) Use of current networked PC operating systems for normal file management, (ii) Use a current common word-processing, spreadsheet, web browsing and email packages, (iii) Ability to locate and use on-line catalogues and databases
D3 (i) Use appropriate precision, scales, units, scientific notation, ratios, fractions, percentages, powers of 10, logarithms and exponentials. (ii) Use simple algebra and trigonometry. (iii) Use approximations for mental arithmetic estimation and verification.
D4 Explore, analyse and find effective solutions for problems involving moderately complex information.
D5 Work effectively as part of a team to collect data and/or to produce reports and presentations
D6 Study independently, set realistic targets, plan work and time to meet targets within deadlines. Reflect on assessed work, feedback, and progress; Plan, record and document personal development
Learning Methods: In years 1-3 Essay writing skills (D1) are taught in Year 1 tutorials, the LSKS module and developed in all subsequent modules.

Additional guidance on Essay and Scientific Paper Format writing is given in the on-line "Academic Skills" WebCT course.

Required length of essays and reports grows from Year 1 to 3;

Oral presentation skills (D1) are developed in some practicals, field courses and lecture modules (Years 2 and 3) and the Research Skills module in Year 3;

IT use (D2) is taught in Year 1, particularly in the LSKS module and developed throughout all years.

Most coursework from Year 2 onwards must be word-processed, and other computer produced work is required for some practical assignments in Year 2 and in the Year 3 research project.

In year 4, D1 is developed through coursework, the dedicated module in research skills and data anlysis and throughout the marine practical skills module.

D2 is encouraged for all students for their daily management on this course (attendance, correspondance and assessment); all modules require common use of software packages.
Some taught material is provided on specific packages e.g.
BS712 (research skills for statistics) and BS713 (mariculture and fisheries); Library, on line catalogue and web skills (D2) are taught in Year 1; developed by provision of module-related material on the Web and through preparation of the research project report (Year 3).

Web-based material (D2) is used in several modules including practicals.

D3 is taught in lectures and seminars (Year 1) and developed in many subsequent modules (Year 1 to Year 3);

D4 is taught through DAI questions in Years 2 and 3, and in some practical classes, and developed in supervised project work (Year 3).

In year 4, D3 is taught and developed through (i) dedicated statistics lectures in BS712 (research skills) but also (ii) DAI excercises in several modules e.g.
BS717 (primary productivity);

D4 is developed through coursework, the dedicated module in research skills and data anlysis and throughout the marine practical skills module.

Team work (D5) is introduced in some Year 1 practicals, used in Year 2 practicals and the Year 3 field course module;

D6 is addressed in the LSKS module in Year 1, including introduction to PDP, developed through the provision of explicit directed learning tasks (Years 1 and 2), increasing amounts of student managed learning from Years 1 to 3, attendance monitoring, rigid deadlines, feedback on assignments and discussions with personal tutor.

In year 4, D5 is addressed (and expected) in the core research skills and practical skills modules and during the optional coral reef conservation module.

D6 planning component is developed in the Year 3 Research Project module.

D6 is developed in Year 4 through the initial course briefing, course assessments, rigid deadlines and feedback on assignments.
Students are also directed to Key Skills Online, an online learning package which students can undertake at their own pace.
Assessment Methods: In Years 1-3, D5 is assessed through team presentations in some Year 2 practical work and skills module and in the Year 3 field course module;

In Year 4, D5 (team work) is assesed through group practical work in BS715 (practical skills) but also for several assessed components of BS716 (Coral Reef Management).

D6 is assessed indirectly by examining directed learning material (Years 1 and 2), by awarding marks for evidence of additional reading and by imposing strict deadlines for coursework assignments.

D6 PDP is assessed in year 1 LSKS through the development of a cv and e-portfolio, and is developed in Year 2 Skills module.

The planning component of D6 is assessed in the Year 3 Research Project.

In Year 4, D6 is assessed indirectly by assessing coursework, by imposing strict deadlines for assignments and by awarding marks for evidence of extra reading/going beyond lecture material.


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