|Description of the degree programmes|
These Masters degree programmes addressed the increasing need for highly numerate biologists or biologically literate mathematicians and statisticians to work in marine resource management, the need for marine scientists and managers to be able to appreciate and integrate methods and information from other disciplines and the need for biologists to understand the relevance of processes occurring at cell, individual population and ecosystem levels.
The programmes aimed to produce graduates who can meet the research and management challenges generated by the European Union's recent adoption of the so-called ecosystem approach to fisheries management (ESATFM), against a background of other anthropogenic influences, not least climate change, and the increasing importance of aquaculture as an alternative marine protein source.
The programmes included training in data handling, statistics and other research and generic skills, and the opportunity to carry out a four-month individual research project. While centred in marine biology and ecology, the programme also covered relevant topics in animal physiology and molecular biology, socio-economics and the physical sciences. The MRes (Master of Research) is a relatively new qualification for students who wish to follow a career in scientific research. The subject-based content of this degree was based on our long-standing MSc degree programme in Marine & Fisheries Science. The two programmes were similar, although some requirements the MRes degree were more stringent. Students who lacked appropriate entry qualifications could register for a Postgraduate Diploma and upgrade to MSc or MRes depending on their performance.
The main objectives of these degree programmes were to:
The programmes were based mainly in the School of Biological Sciences. Within its RAE grade 5-rated zoology discipline, SBS has recognised research strengths in deep-ocean sciences, fish immunology and physiology, estuarine ecology and biodiversity, molecular genetics, and biology and ecology of cephalopods, fish, seabirds and marine mammals. The Oceanlab field station has pioneered the use of "landers" to monitor fish behaviour, metabolism and abundance on the ocean floor. It offers access to advanced and dedicated testing facilities that are not available in one location anywhere else in Europe: e.g. high pressure testing, computer-controlled environment, computer-aided design and stress-testing simulations, image analysis, electronics assembly, dark rooms, acoustic testing tanks and benthic sampling equipment.
The Lighthouse Field Station by the Moray Firth runs long-term field projects on the ecology of coastal marine mammals and seabirds. It runs 3 research boats and is well equipped for photographic, video and acoustic studies. It provides access to a wide variety of coastal habitats and has strong links with regional management organisations and the oil and marine renewables industries. The Zoology Building in Old Aberdeen houses the Scottish Fish Immunology Research Centre, a SHEFC initiative to pool research expertise in fish immunology between the University of Aberdeen, FRS Marine Laboratory, and the Institute of Aquaculture at Stirling. There are recently refurbished molecular and cell laboratories, clean room and FACS facility, as well as aquarium facilities dedicated to fish immunology research.
A special feature of the programmes was the major input from research scientists at the former Fisheries Research Services Marine Laboratory, then an agency of the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD), one of the two major UK government fisheries research institutes. FRS (now Marine Science Scotland) provided expert advice to Government on marine and freshwater fisheries, aquaculture and the protection of the aquatic environment. FRS supported the development of Masters training in marine sciences at the University of Aberdeen over 20 years and employed many of our graduates. FRS staff taught on several of the modules and some lectures were held at FRS. Students had the opportunity to undertake research project placements at FRS and to participate in research vessel cruises. Professionals from many sectors of marine industry, management, regulation, conservation and consultancy contributed guest lectures.
Many graduates from the Marine & Fisheries programmes now work in marine conservation (both in government agencies such as JNCC and in NGOs such as the Marine Conservation Society). Others have moved into the regulatory sector, e.g. with SEPA and SFPA, into environmental consultancy (e.g. with BMT Cordah, Hartley-Anderson and Nautilus), into the fishing and aquaculture industries and related groups such as the Moray Firth Partnership. Professionals in all these sectors increasingly need to understand quantitative data, including outputs from complex models, and to evaluate information provided from a range of disciplines.
These courses started in mid-September. Some funded places were available (see below).
During the first semester and a half, all three programmes consisted of an integrated series of lecture modules. There were associated tutorials, practical exercises, essays and visits. There were also multiple choice and data analysis tests at the end of most units, which together counted for marks equivalent to 1.5 taught modules. The programme described below is the programme for 2006-2007. Most teaching took place in the School of Biological Sciences. Some classes were based at the FRS Marine Lab and others at the University's Lighthouse and Oceanlab Field Stations.
Left to right: FRS Marine Laboratory, Oceanlab, the Lighthouse Field Station, FRV Scotia
Block 1 (7 weeks, from mid-September)
Block 2 (6 weeks, up to the Christmas vacation)
Block 3 (11 weeks, up to the Easter vacation)
Block 4 (Easter vacation onwards)
Students with John Patterson (harbour master) at Peterhead fish market, October 2004
Students registered for the MSc and MRes degrees carried out a period of practical research training, lasting approx. 4 months, culminating in the presentation of a thesis. MRes students were expected to conduct original research, leading to a thesis containing publishable scientific results. MSc students could select project topics which contain a larger element of vocational training. The thesis was expected to describe the research work undertaken, to review and evaluate the methods and results, and to set the work in the wider context of its relevance to marine or fisheries research.
Research training was offered in one of the major themes of the programme, often based in one of the research groups in the University or Marine Laboratory and involving work related to curent national or international programmes of research. Students had access to appropriate specialised equipment and facilities and the work could involve participation in the Marine Laboratory's research survey programme. Projects on marine mammals were available at the University's Lighthouse Field Station and within the School of Biological Sciences in Old Aberdeen.
Many projects involved periods of work based at other UK institutions or at research institutions and universities overseas, reflecting the wide range of national and international collaborative research undertaken by staff at the University of Aberdeen.
A full list of recent projects appears here. Copies of most recent MRes/MSc theses are available for consultaton in the University library.
Diploma students completed a dissertation on a topic of their choice over a period of approximately 2 months.
Assessment of the taught modules was by continuous assessment (set work, e.g. essays, posters, seminars, case studies and data handling exercises, associated with each module) and written examinations. The thesis or dissertation was examined and an oral examination was sometimes also required. Provisional marks and feedback on assessed work were made available to students at the end of each module. All marks were subject to ratification by the External Examiner. Our last External Examiner was Professor Chris Frid, Head of Marine Biology at the University of Liverpool. Previous external examiners included Professor Geoff Moore, Dr John Gordon and Dr John Pope.
The normal minimum entry requirement for study leading to the degree of MSc or MRes was a lower second class degree or the equivalent. Relevant experience could also be taken into account. While most students held first degrees in a science subject, we will also admitted students with degrees in other disciplines, including economics and geography.
For the MSc Marine & Fisheries Science degree programme, an annual award of £3300 (i.e. covering fees but not maintenance), was funded by Fishmongers Company. The Fishmongers Co. award was available to UK citizens. For the Diploma programme, Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) awards were available to Scottish students and (on a fees only basis) European students. Diploma students could transfer to MSc or MRes subject to satisfactory performance. College of Life Sciences and Medicine bursaries of £1000 each were also available. Previously the programmes received funding over many years from NERC and also from the European Social Fund. Selection of candidates for receipt of awards was usually based on interviews.
Information on funding currently available for taught Masters programmes can be found on the University's web pages or by contacting the Student Recruitment and Admissions Service.
The University can provide living accommodation for postgraduate students. Project work (from Easter onwards) often takes place away from Aberdeen. The taught course finishes before Easter and students with projects based outside Aberdeen may find it advantageous to move out of University accommodation at this time. Accommodation leases are legally binding and it is therefore recommended that students taking this MSc/MRes/Diploma degree programme opt for one of the shorter accommodation lease options unless they are certain that they will do their project work in Aberdeen.
This page is maintained by Graham Pierce.