School of Biological and Marine Sciences

BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Oceanography

Around 70 per cent of our planet is ocean with an average depth of 3000m. To understand the biology of this vast area, we must also understand the oceans themselves. Marine biology and oceanography studies the biology and ecology of the marine realm, with a focus on offshore and deep-sea ecosystems, and the physical and chemical processes that shape them. Teaching uses both small and large research vessels, providing you with an unrivalled experience of open ocean marine biology.

You will develop a host of practical skills that will prepare you for your chosen career and make you attractive to employers. You will have the opportunity to gain the HSE PRO SCUBA qualification, for those with a suitable background in diving. You’ll also gain invaluable experience on a six or 12-month international placement during your third year, or working in a local host organisation alongside your studies.

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Marine biology programmes

This is one of three marine biology undergraduate courses we offer, which are closely integrated.

Which marine biology course should I choose?

Aurelia jelly fish

It’s not too late to apply for September 2019

If you haven’t applied to the University of Plymouth for September 2019 entry, prior to the UCAS deadline, there may still be vacancies on your chosen course.

It’s not too late to apply

Key features

  • We’re very proud of our National Student Survey (NSS) 2018 return. All of the student respondents said our course is intellectually stimulating and 89% also expressed overall satisfaction with the course.*
  • Explore the marine life of the open ocean and deep-sea and how physical and chemical processes drive the biology and ecology of marine species.
  • Study marine life in the wild with access to the University’s research vessels based in the Plymouth Sound Special Area for Conservation and our Marine Station.
  • LABplus is a unique open access laboratory and resource centre designed for students studying science and engineering courses. The lab provides a flexible workspace, computing facilities, specialist software, access to microscopes, microscope cameras and bespoke resources. 
  • Benefit from our reputation as an international centre for marine research. Our expert teaching staff collaborate on many varied research projects.
  • Gain invaluable experience on a six or 12-month international placement during your third year, or working in a local host organisation alongside your studies. You’ll also have the chance to spend your second year at one of our partner universities in the US, Canada or Australia, giving you the chance to study marine animals not found in UK waters.
  • Increase your knowledge and apply your skills in an international setting, with two residential field courses abroad (France and Sweden), and experience research on a large ocean-going research vessel.
  • Develop a host of practical skills that will prepare you for your chosen career and make you attractive to employers. You will also have the opportunity to gain the HSE PRO SCUBA qualification, for those with a suitable background in diving.

Course details

  • Year 1
  • In your first year, you’ll get to grips with key biological and oceanographic themes, with topics ranging from biodiversity and ecosystems to evolution and microbiology. Through a mixture of lectures, small group tutorials, laboratory and fieldwork, you’ll begin to acquire skills that will boost your employability and help your career development. You’ll also benefit from a residential field course abroad, introducing you to the processes of scientific investigation, data collection and analysis.
    Core modules
    • BIOL131 Cells: The Building Blocks of Life

      The cell is the basic building block of life. This module introduces you to the structure of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and the cell biology that allow different cells to do different things including some highly specialised cells of multicellular organisms. The module will then focus on the molecular basis that underlies cell function introducing you to the metabolic pathways and molecules that allow cells to work.

    • MBIO120 Introduction to Marine Biology

      This module will introduce students to marine biology covering aspects such as marine ecosystems, organisms and oceanography. This will also start to develop a range of core skills and confidence in effective written communication, information technology (including use of peer-reviewed literature), and data handling skills. It will also start to develop field and id skills and taxonomy skills and safe fieldwork practices.

    • MBIO123 Marine Biology Field Course

      This module develops core skills in effective oral and written communication and provides a toolbox of essential material on numeracy and statistics to address quantitative questions in Marine Biology. During an intensive field course, you will immerse yourself in practical aspects of marine biology, asking questions based on observations and then formulating appropriate hypotheses that can then be tested.

    • MBIO161 Evolution and Behaviour

      Covers the principles underpinning evolution with a special focus on animal behaviour as adaptive traits. Module covers concepts of the genetic basis of inheritance, population genetics, selection, adaptation, function, fitness and speciation. We will use key examples and practical classes to illustrate key ideas and consider the development of some of the ideas in a historical context.

    • MBIO162 Biodiversity

      This module introduces the scientific study of biodiversity. Starting with the question `what is biodiversity?¿ students go on to explore where it is, how it is distributed across the Earth, and how we value it. This leads to a discussion of how biodiversity is threatened and how we conserve it. Embedded in this `big picture¿ is an introduction to the biology of some key taxa that characterise biodiversity.

    • OS102 Physical and Chemical Processes of the Ocean

      This module provides an introduction to the main physical and chemical processes occurring in the world's oceans and a foundation in key aspects of underpinning science and mathematics.

  • Year 2
  • In your second year, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of the biology and ecology of marine organisms and chemical and biological oceanography. You will receive hands-on, practical training in marine survey, underwater sampling, and species identification, skills that will be honed during the field course in Sweden, where you will undertake field research in deep water from an ocean-going research vessel.
    Core modules
    • MBIO225 Methods in Marine Biology and Oceanography

      Provides the core skills and techniques that will equip students to perform laboratory and field studies in Marine Biology and Oceanography. Introduces appropriate methodologies for the collection, handling and analysis of data; the scientific principles underlying experimental design and the effective communication of scientific information

    • MBIO227 Biological Oceanography Field Course

      A residential field course providing knowledge of sampling offshore marine systems from research vessels. A range of ecosystems will be investigated primarily with respect to their biological component but emphasis will also be placed upon understanding the biological significance of major physico-chemical parameters in the study area.

    • MBIO228 Biology of Marine Organisms

      This module will provide an introduction to fundamental aspects of the biology of marine organisms. Particular attention is paid to the diversity of form and function within key groups of marine chloroxygenic organisms and animals and how this allows them to inhabit different marine environments.

    • OS201 Global Ocean Processes

    Optional modules
    • MBIO217 Ecology of Shallow Water Marine Habitats

      Shallow water marine habitats represent some of the most diverse and productive habitats on earth. This module provides an overview of the key factors influencing their ecology and will also consider the biology of the organisms therein, the scientific study of shallow water habitats and the analysis, evaluation and communication of marine ecological data.

    • MBIO221 Marine Molecular Biology

      The application of molecular techniques in marine biology has revolutionised our understanding of marine life, from individuals to ecosystems. This module provides a foundation in the concepts and techniques underlying these developments.

    • OS204 Waves, Tides and Coastal Dynamics

      This module provides an introduction to the characteristics of ocean waves and focuses on how waves and tides interact with the coast and drive the coastal processes that result in shoreline erosion and accretion.

    • OS207 Scientific Diving

      This module allows suitably qualified students (HSE SCUBA or equivalent) to develop industry and research-relevant skills in measurement and monitoring in the underwater environment using professional SCUBA and related techniques. These will then be applied in a multi-disciplinary context to the planning, execution, analysis and reporting of a field-based sampling activity.

    • OS209 Marine Remote Sensing

      This module introduces the theory underlying remote sensing using introductory lectures and laboratory practicals. An opportunity to apply the theory in the remote sensing context is provided by boat and computing work. Remote sensing imagery is introduced early in the module and students work on image enhancement, analysis and interpretation in the latter part of the course, supported by theory lectures and/or workshops.

  • Optional placement year
  • During your third year, you’ll have the opportunity to do a work placement, for six or 12 months. Alternatively you’ll be able to choose a work-based learning module, alongside your studies.
    Core modules
    • BPIE336 Marine Biology related Placement

      An optional six- to twelve-month placement provides a valuable complement to your programme and is an opportunity for you to widen your employment experience and to consolidate the first two stages of study. Whether you work with conservation organisations, consultancies, research institutions or a company of your choice, you can take the opportunity to gain valuable experience and learn new skills to prepare you for the final stage of your degree and employment after graduation.

  • Final year
  • Your final year of study provides the opportunity for you to focus on your chosen areas of interest. You’ll conduct an extensive personal research project, applying the skills and methods you've learnt. You’ll also choose from a range of modules driven by the research interests of our staff, again giving you the opportunity to specialise and tailor your work towards your career goals, while studying at the cutting edge of marine biology.
    Core modules
    • MBIO313 Personal Research

      This module comprises a research study element, which includes the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; researching relevant literature and report writing and a literature review of a topic addressing wider issues of relevance to their field of research study.

    • MBIO341 Biological Oceanography

      This module provides a study of the key physical, ecological and organismal processes in the marine environment and introduces a range of biological studies in applied marine science.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL311 Ecotoxicology

      You will gain a detailed understanding of concepts and principles of environmental hazard and risk assessment with an emphasis on the evaluation of the ecotoxicological methods used in the assessment of pollutants on the aquatic environment.

    • MBIO327 Marine Ecology

      This module considers the processes and mechanisms that affect the development and structure of marine communities through a discussion of the current evidence base, recent concepts and theories relating to multiple life histories stages of marine species from around the globe and experimental testing of behavioural processes. This will be followed by an investigation of the nature and significance of key processes in structuring marine communities.

    • MBIO339 Ecology and Conservation of Marine Vertebrates

      You will understand the risks of depletion of marine vertebrates owing to fishing, industrial development, pollution and habitat degradation. You will examine the ecology of these organisms in their natural environments and will explore methods for surveying, monitoring and managing populations and species.

    • MBIO363 Fish and Fisheries

      This module examines aspects of fish biology and fisheries science in relation to real-world challenges of managing fish populations sustainably. This is an integrative module, which builds on fundamental principles in fish physiology, behaviour or ecology, and examines how these underpin frameworks for fisheries science.

    • OS303 Ocean Dynamics

      The module provides an introduction to dynamical oceanography with emphasis on the large- and meso-scale circulation in the world ocean and shelf seas. Topics include geostrophic and wind driven currents, eddies, formation of fronts, upwelling, interactions between water masses, exchanges between shelf and deep seas. Emphasis is placed on quantitative understanding of physical processes and the analysis of field data.

    • OS304 Marine Ecosystem Conservation

      From tropical mangroves to temperate pelagic waters, marine ecosystems around the world face a variety of threats due to human activities and resource pressure. This module will examine threats to a range of marine and coastal ecosystems and explore methods for management and conservation. We will explore methods for surveying and monitoring marine ecosystems and learn about the ecological consequences of human impacts.

    • OS309 Marine Pollution and Environmental Change

      This module will consider the sources, transport, sinks and impacts of a wide range of pollutant types (including nutrients, trace elements, sediments, anthropogenic pollutants and carbon dioxide). Practical field techniques will be introduced and used to assess the environmental condition of estuarine waters. Emphasis will be placed on critical evaluating the links between human activities and marine water quality.

Every undergraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the course aims, the course structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest course structure and may be subject to change:

BSc Marine Biology and Oceanography Programme Specificaiton September 2019 2055

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

Entry requirements

UCAS tariff

120 - 144

A level applicants
A levels: 120-144 points. Only A level Biology required. An example offer might be 128 points including B @ A level Biology and an A and B grade in two other A level subjects with no EPQ. Points can include a relevant Extended project (EPQ) but must include 3 A levels. Qualifying science subjects are: Applied Science, Applied Marine Science, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. General Studies is not a qualifying A level.

International Baccalaureate
30 overall to include Grade 5 at Higher Level Biology and Grade 5 at Higher Level in 1 further Science subject. Qualifying Science subjects are: Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology. English and Maths are accepted within as GCSE equivalent at Higher Level Grade 4 or Standard Level Grade 5.

BTEC RQF National Extended Diploma/ QCF Extended Diploma
A typical offer would be DDM, depending on the BTEC and units studied. Please include details of units in your UCAS application or contact Admissions for further advice.

BTEC National Diploma modules
If you hold a BTEC qualification it is vital that you provide our Admissions team with details of the exact modules you have studied as part of the BTEC. Without this information we may be unable to process your application quickly and you could experience significant delays in the progress of your application to study with us. Please explicitly state the full list of modules within your qualification at the time of application.

Access course
Pass an Access to HE Science course with 60 credits overall, to include 45 credits at Level 3, of which 30 credits must be at distinction and 15 credits at merit or higher. Must include a minimum 15 credits in biology units, plus 15 credits in other relevant subjects (includes mathematics, physics, chemistry, environmental science/studies, applied science, geography, geology, technology or psychology). An interview is usually required.

GCSE
All applicants must have GCSE (or equivalent) English and Mathematics at grade C / 4 or above. 

International qualifications
We welcome applicants offering a wide range of international qualifications. Applications are considered on an individual basis, depending on the subjects studied.

Other qualifications
Applicants with other qualifications should contact the Admissions Office for advice.

You can find additional information on our English language requirements page.

For a full list of all acceptable qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary

Fees, costs and funding

New Student 2018 2019
Home/EU £9,250 £9,250
International £13,000 £13,400
Part time (Home/EU) To be confirmed To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per a number of credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances.

Additional costs

This course is delivered by the Faculty of Science and Engineering and more details of any additional costs associated with the faculty's courses are listed on the following page: Additional fieldwork and equipment costs.

Undergraduate scholarships for international students

To reward outstanding achievement the University of Plymouth offers scholarship schemes to help towards funding your studies.

Find out whether you are eligible and how you can apply

How to apply

All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). 

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code. 

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.

Location

Plymouth: the place to be for marine biology.

We’re lucky to have an incredibly diverse range of rich coastal habitats around the Devon and Cornwall coastline.

Find out more about our location

Studying marine biology at Plymouth

Professor Richard Thompson OBE describes the variety of marine courses available to study at the University of Plymouth.

Find out more about the courses you can study!

Welcome to marine biology at Plymouth

See what it's like to study marine biology at the University of Plymouth.

HSE Professional SCUBA diving course

Plymouth is unique in offering our students the opportunity to gain the HSE Professional SCUBA certification alongside their degree. The course is an intensive four week full-time programme designed to prepare candidates for undertaking media, scientific and archaeological diving projects. If you are looking to do any underwater work in the UK and be paid, you will require a HSE qualification. The Professional SCUBA course is the minimum requirement if you wish to work on scientific, archaeological or media diving projects.

Learn more about the HSE Professional SCUBA diving course.

Scholarships available to students on marine biology and conservation courses

The University of Plymouth is joining forces with the Ocean Giants Trust to create a series of exciting new opportunities for its marine students.

Students will be able to complement their studies with work for charities in locations such as Mexico, Mozambique, the Philippines and Tanzania.

Find out more about the scholarships

Field courses in marine biology

Field work is central to our three marine biology courses. We are proud to offer an extensive range of field work activities, both locally, making the most of our privileged location, and internationally, with residential field courses in France, South Africa, Sweden and Portugal. 

Our field courses are designed by and for Marine Biologists, so that you achieve skills specific to your degree, and immerse yourself in Marine Biology from the first day.

Find out more about marine biology field courses

Careers in marine biology and oceanography

We can provide you with the skills to be a marine environmental biologist with a thorough understanding of how physical and chemical processes influence marine life, or an oceanographer with a strong biological background.

Whatever your career goals, we’ll work with you to give you the support you need, preparing you to make real impact in your chosen field.

Find out where marine biology and coastal ecology can take you

Graduate profile - Naomi Wise

Plymouth is well known for its excellence within the field of marine sciences and it has other advantages too!

Overseas fieldtrips influenced Naomi’s future career choice.

Read Naomi's profile

Potential High Achievers Scheme

In the School of Biological and Marine Sciences we are passionate and committed to both teaching and research and we are looking for talented and motivated students to share in this passion for biology in all its forms. We know that our applicants will thrive in the hands-on environment we can provide, and we want to ensure our best applicants become our future.

The scheme has been running since September 2018 and is now open for students who have applied to study a range of full-time undergraduate courses across the biological sciences subject areas. We will be contacting applicants who are not only on course to achieve top marks but who have an outstanding personal statement, in order to offer them a chance to receive an unconditional offer immediately.

Find out more about the scheme.

Study sessions for students by students: Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (PALS)

To complement your formal learning we offer regular sessions that provide the opportunity for you to learn with and from your peers. Share knowledge, discuss ideas, and ask questions in a relaxed and friendly environment

If you are a first or second year take the opportunity to study in a relaxed environment, along with other students on the same programme.

Find out more about how PALS can benefit your studies

People

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*These are the latest results from the National Student Survey. Please note that the data published on Unistats is updated annually in September.