Find a Degree Postgraduate Taught Programmes Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology
MSc Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology

Programme Details

Run in collaboration with staff at Marine Scotland Science, this programme will provide you with an appreciation of the key issues that are central to the management of marine resources, practical skills and field work experience that you can apply to real world situations and opportunities to expand your professional network.

Taught by renowned researchers and leading practitioners you will gain valuable insights into marine ecosystems in Scotland and internationally. You will learn to analyse and interpret marine data sets, understand relevant policy, write professional reports and apply your knowledge and skills to the challenging task of managing marine resources.

Studying at world class facilities, you will have the opportunity to undertake field research in marine ecology at several stations like Oceanlab and Cromarty Lighthouse. There are also opportunities to carry out research in partnership with professional agencies such as Marine Scotland Science (MSS), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

This MSc is aimed at individuals with a relevant undergraduate degree who wish to gain specialist knowledge and technical skills. The programme will benefit individuals looking to progress to PhD level and individuals who are already working in marine sciences and who are keen to upgrade their knowledge and skills.

MSc 12 months full-time | On-campus learning | September start

Why study this programme?

  • You will develop quantitative skills such as statistical and mathematical modelling making you more attractive to prospective employers.
  • Aberdeen is the centre of a diverse range of marine activities and the programme offers interaction with a range of industries from aquaculture to offshore oil and gas.
  • Courses are delivered by internationally renowned academics, government scientists, teaching fellows and marine resource managers.
  • You will gain essential research skills including project planning, literature reviewing, data analysis and interpretation which will be beneficial to your future career.
  • Study at world class research facilities such as Oceanlab located on the Ythan Estuary, the Lighthouse field station in Moray Firth, Bettyhill and Eynhallow.
  • Guest lectures from NGOs, the fishing industry, government agencies and staff from Marine Scotland Science.
  • You have the opportunity to engage with Marine Scotland staff, go on tours of their fleet of research vessels and collaborate with them for research projects. A number of our graduates have gone on to work for Marine Scotland after completing their degree.

Contact Information


[Jump to: Programme Team | Assessment | Teaching]

The taught part of our MSc Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology programme requires students to take seven compulsory courses over two terms. Students will also choose from a diverse range of elective courses according to their individual learning objectives. For example, you can choose to enhance your skills in marine data analysis and Geographic Information Systems, or deepen your knowledge of the key components of marine ecology and ecosystems.

In addition to lectures, the MSc taught programme includes practicals, field trips, debates, oral presentations by students and informal discussions with external speakers.

In the final four months of the programme, you will undertake a research project, supervised by a member of staff at either the University of Aberdeen or Marine Scotland. As part of this project, you will prepare a comprehensive literature review on your chosen research topic and develop a detailed project proposal.

The research project enables you to apply the knowledge and skills you will obtain throughout the taught programme to a specific problem relevant to marine and fisheries ecology. The project is written up in the form of a scientific thesis and your results are presented at a mini-symposium held at the conclusion of the programme at the Marine Scotland laboratory.

Compulsory Courses

Marine Ecology & Ecosystem Management (7.5 Credits)

This course aims at introducing students to core concepts in marine biology and ecology and marine management. The course will introduce students to key principles guiding the diversity of life in the oceans and driving marine ecosystem functioning. It will also introduce them to fisheries and marine management concepts that will be expanded upon in subsequent courses. The overarching goal of this course is to bring students coming from varied backgrounds to a similar level of understanding of life in the oceans and current management issues. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Experimental Design & Analysis (15 Credits)

This course provides rigorous training for biologists in statistical modelling concepts and techniques as well as the design of field experiments. The course uses a combination of lectures, computer-based and field-based practical to introduce students to the flexible linear modelling framework to analyse biological data. In addition to linear and generalized linear modelling, the course also introduces generalized additive modelling and multivariate statistics. You will gain a robust understanding of concept, theory and practice in biostatistics thanks to a unique example-led teaching approach. You will be trained to implement biostatistical analyses in the programming environment. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Fish Biology (7.5 Credits)

This course will survey fundamental aspects of the biology of different components of the marine fish community through lectures and practical’s. At the individual-level, the life cycles and life history strategies of fish will be summarised. Key aspects of population-level biology, including fish migration and population structure, will be covered. Case studies for a range of key Scottish species will also be covered. The relevance of fisheries biology to fisheries management will be highlighted throughout the course. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Population Ecology (15 Credits)

The course is structured as a series of weekly themes, which with each reflecting areas of current research in animal ecology. The content of the course is research-based, drawing on case studies from research-active staff within the School of Biological Sciences. The topics cover a range of ecological and spatial scales: from single species’ population dynamics to community dynamics, and from local to macro-scale processes, with a focus on the application of current ecological knowledge and theory. The course employs a mixed teaching style, incorporating traditional lectures with guided modelling sessions, discussion and debate sessions, and critical analysis and presentation of published topics. The principal themes are: animal populations in time, structured population dynamics, animal populations in space, the dynamics of animal communities, and zoobiogeography. The course also teaches oral presentation skills, particularly focussing on the ability to present a short conference-style talk. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Fishery Analysis & Stock Assessment (7.5 Credits)

This course, offered by the Marine Scotland Science, Marine Laboratory, aims to introduce students to the principles and methods of modern fisheries stock assessment and forecasting. It will cover assessment principles as well as data collection and simulation techniques. It will then go into detailed descriptions of stock assessment models (single species and multi-species), forecasting techniques and the processes through which management advice are developed.

Fisheries Technologies & Surveys (7.5 Credits)

The course, offered in part by professional scientists from Marine Scotland Science’s Marine Laboratory, introduces students to fishing gear and fish behaviour in relation to gear, and to fishery independent (survey) methods to assess abundance and distribution. It covers technical measures in fisheries management and the various types of fishing gear, as well as measurement and observation in gear experiments. Various behavioural concepts are covered in relation to the capture process. The concept of selectivity is described in theoretical detail and is then followed by a description of the various selectivity techniques and a review of unaccounted mortality. The other part covers a variety of fishery independent (survey) methods, with emphasis on the more complex acoustic survey technique which can also be used in broader marine ecology. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Personal Research Development (0 Credits)

The course will comprise a series of interactive tutorials. Subjects to be covered will include:

  • What are the current research issues in marine ecology?
  • The use and abuse of hypotheses.
  • How are new ecological ideas developed?
  • How is research funded?
  • What ethical issues do different types of ecological research raise?
  • Making the best of bad data.
  • How to read, write and publish a scientific paper.
  • Planning a research project.

Other content will, however, be dictated to some extent by the students’ needs, which will vary from year to year. Feedback from students early in the course will guide the exact composition of later elements. This flexibility will also offer the opportunity for students to request and receive dedicated training on topics or techniques they identify in response to their experience in concurrent courses. Examples of these could include: data collection methods; taxonomy; environmental legislation, career development. In all tutorials, students will be encouraged to participate in class discussions, to assemble relevant background information and to use it to present structured arguments. This course also allows essential skills to be developed for the project review which is an essential element of your research project. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Elective Courses

Links take you to our course catalogue in a new tab/window.

Research Thesis (60 credits)

The School has a strong research culture and this environment is important in engaging your enthusiasm for your research project. This is an excellent opportunity to carry out pioneering research, often as an active member of an existing research group. A member of staff in the School usually supervises the 15 week research project, although it is possible to carry out research projects under the supervision of staff out with the School, e.g. at the Marine Scotland Science, Marine Laboratory.

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Programme Team

The programme will be delivered by an experienced, multidisciplinary team of internationally renowned researchers in applied marine and fisheries ecology including: (Links take you to individual staff profiles)

Scientists from Marine Scotland also contribute to the Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology taught programme, enabling students to learn about marine resource management from the managers themselves.

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The degree programme is assessed using a diverse range of formats including written reports, oral presentations, practical write-ups, group reports, management plans, literature reviews, project plans and the research project report. Academics provide detailed, individual feedback.

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Our Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology taught programme combines traditional lectures and practicals with a diverse range of learning formats. Student debates and group working are an integral part of the programme, enhancing communication and teamworking skills.

The programme provides many opportunities to engage with staff from Marine Scotland, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), as well as professionals from NGOs and the private sectors representing environmental consulting firms and fishing interests. Workshops dedicated to the development of generic professional skills, for example, how to write a C.V., are held every second week as part of the Personal Research Development course.

Aberdeen is well situated for providing students with learning opportunities outside the classroom, including:

  • Outdoor field work and research at the University’s field stations and research sites
  • Tours of marine industry facilities, including aquaculture farms and fish markets
  • Access to laboratories that undertake routine monitoring of water quality, fish health and fisheries
  • Tours of Marine Scotland’s fleet of research vessels
  • Safety at sea certification (optional but encouraged)

The research project is the ultimate learning experience, drawing together the knowledge and skills you have acquired in the programme to address a specific research question under the supervision of experts in the field. The projects can be field-based, laboratory-based or desk-based according to the individual learning objectives of the student.


This programme has an established track record of graduates securing exciting jobs in marine sciences. This success is due in part to the University’s focus on applied skills and expertise that are closely aligned to employers’ needs. You will also benefit from enhanced career opportunities and develop an invaluable network of contacts that will help you to establish your career in related industries.

There are a range of career options available to you upon completion of your studies including Fisheries Manager, Marine Resources Manager, Environmental Assessor, Marine Renewables Consultant as well as further study towards a PhD.

Our graduates work for many organisations including NAFC Marine Centre, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Marine Scotland Science, Marine Conservation Society, British Antarctic Survey, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, Scottish Natural Heritage and the BBC.

A second (2:2) class Honours degree or equivalent qualification in a biological discipline. Candidates with good Honours Degrees in other subject areas (e.g. Oceanography, Mathematics, Geography, Economics) or in biology/ecology will be considered if they can show supporting qualifications or aptitude at a sufficiently advanced level in a biological subject and good evidence of mathematical or statistical training or relevant experience.

Please check the In My Country pages to find out if your degree is equivalent.

Document requirements

For this application we need at least:

  • An official full Bachelor degree transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) so far (original & official English translation)
  • Degree certificate (if you have already graduated)
  • Academic reference letter OR a reference letter from your employer (if you have 2+ years of work experience in an industry relevant to the programme)
  • Detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme
  • Ideally - current CV/resume

It is important when submitting an application that you ensure you have completed all the necessary sections and enclosed all the relevant documentation to ensure that your application can be processed as quickly as possible. Any missing document may result in delay.

English Language requirements

Even if you have been educated in the medium of English you must meet our English Language requirements (certain countries may be exempted from this requirement). Full details are available on our English language requirements webpages. This programme requires that you meet the 'Postgraduate Standard' level of English proficiency.

University of Aberdeen offers also pre-sessional English courses that when successfully completed will remove language conditions for studying at the University of Aberdeen. Further details are available on the Language Centre website.


Tuition Fee Rates 2016/17 - MSc Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology

  • UK/EU students: £4,500
  • International students: £17,200

Further information about tuition fees and cost of living for both UK/EU and International students can be found on the Finance and Funding web pages.


  • Scottish Fishermen’s Trust

£1000 bursaries, 3 awarded each year on a competitive bases. 1 page description of student research project which is due mid Nov and the award is made in 2nd semester.

  • Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre Scholar programme

New to the 2016/2017 academic year, the University of Aberdeen will be supporting SAIC Scholars Connect Plus - an initiative by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre offering funded places to students interested in a career in aquaculture.  Made possible by Scottish Funding Council support, a key element of each SAIC Scholar place is that students apply their research to an industry-placed project. There are also opportunities to attend ‘meet the expert’ style events and aquaculture-specific careers days throughout the year.

Other funding opportunities can be located in the University funding Database


Related Information

General Information

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