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Last modified: 31 May 2022 13:05

Course Overview

This course introduces the biology of the open oceans, shelf seas, coastal waters, estuaries and shores. The focus is mainly on the diversity of lifeforms in different marine environments and the adaptations of these organisms to their living conditions, taking account of the physical and chemical characteristics of the environment. The course also aims to develop skills in marine biological research methods, data analysis, reading scientific articles, critical thinking, and scientific writing. The knowledge and skills developed through these activities provide a strong foundation for further study of the functioning of marine ecosystems and the impacts of humans on them.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 2
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Dr Philip Smith

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Course Description

Life evolved in the sea and the oceans cover approximately 70% of the Earth’s surface. The three-dimensional and multi-layered nature of the marine environment is alien to human beings, and until relatively recently most of it was inaccessible and largely unknown. Marine species often have strange and fascinating forms, reflecting the wide variety of evolutionary solutions to life in the sea. And of course, humans utilise a plethora of marine species for food, biochemicals, recreation and a variety of other uses. Some marine species can be harmful to humans or can interfere with human activities. Understanding the biology of the oceans is therefore important in terms of a wider understanding of life on Earth, as well as informing management of human activities that rely on or are affected by marine life.

The course aims to give you a sound understanding of the nature of life in the sea, including the open oceans, shelf seas, coastal waters, estuaries and shores. More specifically, the objectives are:

  • to explain fundamental aspects of physical and chemical aspects of the marine environment
  • to develop knowledge about major types of marine habitats
  • to introduce key adaptations of marine organisms to different environments
  • to develop skills in studying morphometric and behavioural adaptations of marine organisms
  • to develop capacity for critically assessing marine biological literature and for scientific writing

Running over 12 weeks, the course comprises three lectures per week, five fortnightly practical classes and associated coursework, covering a broad range of topics in marine biology. Lectures are given by marine biological staff in the School of Biological Sciences with a wide range of research expertise.

Practical work will give you hands-on experience with investigating diversity and adaptations of marine organisms (including preserved, fresh and living specimens). There is a strong emphasis on developing your ability to collect quantitative biological data, to subject the data to statistical analysis, and to present and interpret the findings in a standard scientific format.

An essay, prepared over 5 weeks, gives you the opportunity to explore in depth a specific marine biological topic of your own choosing from a list, and will develop your capacity for searching and critically reviewing marine biological literature, and for scientific writing. There is a briefing to introduce the essay assignment and to give guidance on reviewing the marine biological literature and essay writing. In addition, there is a post-essay feedback session in the final week of the course. That week also includes a course revision session to help you prepare for the examination.

Details for second half-session courses, including assessments, may be subject to change until 23 December 2022.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

  • 1 Science Laboratory during University weeks 26, 28, 30, 32, 34
  • 1 Seminar during University weeks 26 - 35, 39
  • 1 Tutorial during University weeks 26, 27, 28 - 35, 39

More Information about Week Numbers

Details for second half-session courses, including assessments, may be subject to change until 23 December 2022.

Summative Assessments

Alternative Assessment

(i) Lab reports (3 x 7.5%)

(ii) Practical online test (1 x 7.5%)

(iii) 1800–2000 word essay (20%)

(iv) Exam: MCQ (25%)

(v) Online, open-book exam over 48 hours: short answers (25%)

Alternative Resit Arrangements

Students will repeat whichever elements of the assessment were failed or not completed at first sitting; the marks for elements already passed will be carried forwards.

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.

Course Learning Outcomes

Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
FactualRememberILO’s for this course are available in the course guide.

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