Planet Earth has five great oceans and 113 seas, including those that are landlocked. They are the lifeblood of Earth – driving weather, climate, and supporting all living organisms.
Despite this though, to date, we have only explored less than five percent of the ocean – much still remains to be discovered from exploring the mysteries of the deep.
Coinciding with the return of BBC’s Blue Planet 2 to our screens (8pm, BBC One, Sundays), take the plunge and explore the wide variety of marine research taking place by our pioneering academics at Plymouth today.
The truth is down there.
Green turtle swimming in blue sea water
Exploring a hidden world
International Marine Litter Research Unit
Our missions is to further our understanding of the impacts of litter on the environment and society, to identify the solutions and the pathways necessary to achieve them. There are solutions, but there is an urgent need for action.
Ocean acidification is damaging coral reefs
Joy Smith has just completed her joint PhD at the Universities of Plymouth and Bremen. She has been studying coral reef zooplankton with colleagues in Australia and has shown that rising CO2 levels cause a significant reduction to demersal zooplankton that live in coral reefs.
Studies of the impact ocean acidification on zooplankton are usually carried out in the laboratory and very few species have been investigated. The current research used two volcanic CO2 seeps off Papua New Guinea as natural laboratories, thus giving us a clearer picture of the future impact of acidification on demersal zooplankton.
“With adequate protection from overfishing and habitat destruction I am confident that we can slow the decline in coral reefs and that they will surviveocean acidification since we are now becoming less reliant on burning fossil fuels.”
– Professor Jason Hall-Spencer, Joy’s PhD supervisor
Children in Papua New Guinea quickly grasp what global carbon dioxide emissions are doing to their coral reefs
The ‘sea fangle’ phenomenon
The phenomenon of sea fans washing up on the coastline of the South West will continue unless more is done to prevent commercial and domestic plastic pollution from entering into the marine environment.
A team at the University of Plymouth has warned that ‘ghost fishing’ – where plastic fishing line and other pollutants entangle marine life – is having an impact upon species such as the pink sea fan.
“Sea fans are important species as they form coral gardens that increase habitat complexity and contribute to biodiversity".
– Dr Emma Sheehan, of the School of Biological and Marine Sciences
It follows the discovery of hundreds of ‘sea fangles’ – a term given to sea fans wrapped up in a ball of debris – on beaches across the region over the last decade.
Find out more about sea fans and watch our animation about the strandings of North East Atlantic pink sea fans
Research suggests marine invasive species benefit from rising CO2 levels
Ocean acidification may well be helping invasive species of algae, jellyfish, crabs and shellfish to move to new areas of the planet with damaging consequences, according to the findings of a new report.
Slimy, jelly-like creatures are far more tolerant of rising carbon dioxide levels than those with hard parts like corals, since exposed shells and skeletons simply dissolve away as CO2 levels rise.
The study, conducted by marine scientists at the University of Plymouth has found that a number of notorious ‘nuisance’ species – such as Japanese kelp (Undaria pinnatifida) and stinging jellyfish (Pelagia noctiluca) are resilient to rising CO2 levels.
They show why global warming and changes in seawater chemistry can help the spread of hundreds of damaging marine organisms.
The University’s Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK. We provide the external portal to our extensive pool of world-leading experts and state-of-the-art facilities, enabling us to understand the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions.
We are integrating our multidisciplinary expertise in marine and maritime research, education and innovation to train new scientists, engineers, policy-makers, artists, technicians and business managers of the future.
Study the seas at Plymouth
School of Biological and Marine Sciences
As a student studying with us in the School of Biological and Marine Sciences, you will learn from academics who are world-leading experts in their respective research fields, who have a shared commitment to deliver high quality teaching and support.
During your time with us, you will be fortunate enough to benefit from our unique facilities and resources; such as our purpose built £5 million Marine Station – situated on the water’s edge; as well as the University’s LABplus – our open access laboratory.
The shores and clear coastal waters of Devon and Cornwall provide an unrivalled resource for marine biologists
We offer three marine biology undergraduate courses, which are closely integrated and have the same entry requirements. In addition, we offer a Foundation year, which (upon successful completion) allows access to all three of our programmes.
- BSc (Hons) Marine Biology
- BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology
- BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Oceanography
- BSc (Hons) Marine Biology with Foundation Year
We're proud to be one of the primary forces in marine science
Studying a marine science degree will expose you to a wide range of exciting and important subjects such as physical, chemical and biological aspects of oceanography, coastal processes, meteorology and climatology, hydrographic surveying, marine conservation and sustainable management of marine resources.
- BSc (Hons) Marine Sciences with Foundation Year
- BSc (Hons) Ocean Exploration and Surveying
- MSci (Hons) Ocean Science
- BSc (Hons) Ocean Science and Marine Conservation
- BSc (Hons) Oceanography and Coastal Processes
Postgraduate taught programmes
- MRes Applied Marine Science
- MSc Applied Marine Science
- MSc Hydrography
- MRes Marine Renewable Energy
- MSc Marine Renewable Energy
Read about Zoe Waring's, one of our recent ocean science graduates, adventures in Antarctica below and meet more of our alumni and be inspired by their experiences.
Ocean science graduate Zoe Waring dives for data in the depths of Antarctica
"It’s very hard to describe what it is like to live in Antarctica year round, as there is nothing quite like it."
Since graduating, Zoe Waring's role is now as a Marine Assistant at the Rothera research station in Antarctica, where she has had to live and work with the contrasts of this extreme environment.
Zoe's diverse job has seen her dive through sea ice to collect data to help the study of local species and the effects of global warming, as well as scale mountains, and live through the plunging temperatures and even total darkness that winter brings.