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Study information

Marine Biology

Module titleMarine Biology
Module codeBIO1433
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Sarah Nelms ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Life originated in the sea and therefore the study of marine biology can be viewed as the original bioscience. This module will provide a comprehensive understanding of the diversity of life in the sea, details of the key marine habitats, as well as describe the adaptations and constraints of living in the world’s largest ecosystem. You will also be introduced to the myriad techniques for studying marine biology in the field, laboratory and remotely. By the end of the module, you will have developed a deep understanding of the study of life in the seas, which will form the fundamental building blocks for a degree in this subject. Moreover, you will be able to answer the question: what is marine biology?

Module aims - intentions of the module

You will be introduced to a wide range range of principles of marine biology by expert researchers in those fields. This will include training in basic oceanography and water chemistry, while also considering the role that other abiotic conditions have on life in the sea. The module will provide insight into the diversity of marine life and consider the key factors influencing their distribution. Using a range of examples you will be introduced to key marine habitats including intertidal systems, neritic waters, pelagic waters and the deep-sea. Also, a key constraint in the study of marine biology is logistics; studying life in the sea is far from straightforward.

The module will provide critical information on the range of conventional and state-of-the-art techniques used for researching marine life and you will be taught how to operate many of these in practical classes on land and from boats. This will be achieved using the marine habitats of Cornwall where we will measure abiotic and biotic components of the marine environment locally in the Fal estuary. The approaches used in the field and topics taught in lectures underpin cutting-edge marine research and will be delivered by experts in those fields and demonstrating research-inspired inquiry-led learning (RIIL).

Through lectures, practical sessions and assessments, you will work towards developing or enhancing your employability through the acquisition of the following academic and professional skills:

  • Problem solving (linking theory to practice, responding to novel and unfamiliar problems, data handling)
  • Time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group)
  • Collaboration (taking initiative and leading others, supporting others in their work)
  • Self and peer review (taking responsibility for own learning, using feedback from multiple sources)

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Illustrate the key concepts in marine biology
  • 2. Think critically about these ideas and principles
  • 3. Analyse the constraints and opportunities for life in the seas
  • 4. Learn key skills associated with measuring ocean environments

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Describe essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of the biosciences
  • 6. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples into written work
  • 7. Identify and implement, with some guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing a specific research problem in biosciences
  • 8. With guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 9. Describe and begin to evaluate approaches to our understanding of biosciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Develop, with guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound conclusions
  • 11. Communicate ideas, principles and theories using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Collect and interpret appropriate data and undertake straightforward research tasks with guidance
  • 13. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills identified by others
  • 14. Reflect on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Lectures will cover the diversity of marine life, basic oceanography, as well as adaptations and constraints of living in the seas. They will also provide information on a range of different sampling techniques and approaches. Practical sessions will reinforce concepts covered in lectures, emphasising the nature of scientific enquiry in marine systems. The module will be delivered using a hybrid approach of mainly face-to-face lectures and discussions, workshops and practicals with some pre-recorded online content.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled teaching and learning 26Lectures – covering material including topics such an introduction to oceanography, diversity of marine life, marine ecosystems, constraints of marine living and studying marine life
Scheduled teaching and learning 40Practical sessions and workshops involve demonstrations of a variety of scientific techniques used in real-world marine biology scenarios . Practical sessions include field trips, boat trips, lab practicals as well as workshops to showcase the equipment and techniques used to study the marine environment
Scheduled teaching and learning 3Pre-recorded lectures will add broader context to the marine environment
Guided independent study231Additional reading, revision and research for the course laboratory reports and examinations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short practical write-up400 words1-14Written/oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Exam 1201 hour1-12Answer provision and discussion as needed
Research Poster301 side of A31-12Written
Exam 2201 hour1-12Answer provision and discussion as needed
Workshop assessment304 exercises1-12Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Exam 1Exam (20%)1-12 August reassessment period
Research posterResearch poster (30%)1-12 August reassessment period
Exam 2Exam (20%)1-12 August reassessment period
Workshop assessmentPractical and fieldwork report (30%)1-12 August reassessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Campbell NA, Reece JB (2008) Biology, 8th Ed. Pearson. ISBN 0-321-53616-7/0-321-53616-9
  • Levinton JS (2010) Marine Biology: International Edition: Function, Biodiversity, Ecology. OUP. ISBN-10: 0199766614
  • Kaiser MJ et al. (2011) Marine Ecology: Processes, Systems, and Impacts. OUP. ISBN-10: 0199227020

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Marine Biology, Deep-Sea, Oceanography, Estuaries, Intertidal, Pelagic, Neritic, Adaptation, Selection, Physiology, Evolution.

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date