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Do you want to help find new solutions to manage our marine natural resources?
Run in collaboration with staff at Marine Scotland Science, this MSc 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 those already working in marine sciences who are keen to upgrade their knowledge and skills.
The taught part of our MSc Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology programme requires students to take eight compulsory courses over two terms. In addition, 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.
This course provides an introduction to core concepts in marine
biology, ecology and ecosystem management. It provides an understanding of
ecological drivers, both biological and physical, in the marine environment and
an introduction to fisheries biology and management. The course offers a unique
curriculum allowing you to gain both theoretical and practical experience with
hands on labs, essay writing, group presentation and debating skills. This interdisciplinary course is taught by a
range of researchers both in academia and in the front line of implementation
by people from Marine Scotland Science, Scottish Natural Heritage and Joint
Nature Conservation Committee.
This course will survey fundamental aspects of the biology of different
components of the marine fish community through lectures and practicals. 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 presented. The relevance of fisheries biology to
fisheries management will be highlighted throughout the course
The course is structured as a series of weekly themes, which each reflect
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.
This course is uniquely tailored for biologists and will
provide students with the required background and skills relevant to modern
ecology and biology. The unique format of example-led lectures and real-world
based practicals will provide you with a foundation to become confident and
proficient in dealing with real data. Throughout this course, we will introduce
you to using the programming language R (an industry standard) to implement
modern statistical modelling techniques. You will use the flexible linear and
generalised modelling framework to analyse biological data.
will provide a background to current coastal zone management issues, and an
opportunity to explore how scientific data can be used to support management at
the University’s Lighthouse Field Station at Cromarty. Key case studies
will involve an exploration of the management and research requirements for
Special Areas of Conservations; marine protected areas that have been
established under the European Habitats Directive to protect bottlenose
dolphins, harbour seals and salmon.
Aquaculture now supplies approximately 50% of all marine food
consumed by humans. Farming of fish and
shellfish is the fastest growing food production industry in the world and is
predicted to continue grow over the next few decades, within Scotland salmon is
the second largest food export. The
demand from the growing human population for high quality food and fish
paralleled by the over exploitation of wild fish stocks is driving the
expansion of aquaculture. There are many
issues with fish farming including disease control, feeding, controlling life
histories, genetics and the environmental load.
This highly regarded course will take your understanding of statistics to
the next level and provide you with the skills and confidence to analyse your
complex biological data. Through a combination of lectures, computer based
practicals and group work you will gain an understanding of how to deal with
pervasive issues in the analysis of real world biological data such as
heterogeneity of variance and spatial and temporal non-independence. Hands on
computer tutorials will allow you to apply statistical models using modern
statistical software (R) to real data, collected by researchers to answer real
The course will develop the student’s awareness of how molecular genetic
techniques, including modern ‘omics technologies, can be used to inform our
understanding of aspects of ecology, evolution, population biology and
conservation science. The course will describe the underlying central dogma of
molecular biology that explains how genetic diversity arises and can be
harnessed as molecular markers. It will then review the contribution of
molecular genetics in individual, population and species level studies.
This course is one of the few postgraduate courses in Europe to provide an
introduction to Bayesian inference for biologists, which is increasingly used
in advanced quantitative research. A combination of lectures and personal
research will provide you with the core concepts necessary to understand recent
research in your field and apply Bayesian approaches to your own research.
Hands-on computer tutorials will also allow you to implement statistical models
in a Bayesian context and provide you with the essential skills for taking it
The course, which includes a significant contribution from Marine
Scotland’s Science’s Marine Laboratory Aberdeen, introduces students to fishing
gear and fish behaviour in relation to gear, and to fishery independent survey
methods to assess abundance and distribution.
Particular emphasis is given to describing the acoustic survey method.
This course features significant input from professional scientists from Marine Scotland Science (MSS), the Scottish Government’s foremost marine science research laboratory, based in Aberdeen. Computer practical sessions, delivered by MSS scientists, introduce students to the principles and methods of modern fisheries stock analysis and assessments, which ultimately help determine how fishing quotas are set. The course develops students’ computer programming abilities, adding to their numerate and analytical skills, which are in such high demand from employers in academia and applied science.
Throughout the course students will work independently on a research topic that
will have been identified prior to the start of the course. PgDip students will
produce an assessment on an appropriate topic that will have been identified
through discussion with the course coordinator and count towards completion of their
degree. MSc students will produce a literature review on the topic of their research
project and will develop a project plan that will constitute project management.
This course will enable students to appreciate the level of understanding
of physical & biological oceanography, biodiversity, trophic interactions
and individual species level life history issues that are required to implement
spatially explicit, sustainable marine conservation. Students will
be able to problem-solve in small groups and integrate diverse data sources to
define the reasons for specific locations and the design of Marine Protected
Areas (MPAs). Labs will cover a range of skills from the use of
oceanographic models to the analysis of varied layers of spatial data on
species, habitats and communities.
This course teaches participants how to construct, implement and analyse
their own models. The course introduces simulation techniques and programming
in either R or C++. Additionally, it introduces a new software platform,
RangeShifter, developed by researchers at Aberdeen. RangeShifter allows
easier development of simulation studies in spatial ecology and conservation.
Developers of the software are involved in teaching the course. A major
component of the course is a mini project, during which you will work in small
teams to develop your own models.
· Six themes that reflect current theory and practice in the interface between ecology and society; these are explored through structured in-class activities that challenge you to consider problems and evidence from different perspectives.
· Guest lecturers from anthropology, human geography and philosophy increase your capacity for self-reflection and awareness of ethical and moral issues embedded in problems that are often framed as ecological.
· Four short discussion essays are required; you will get detailed feedback for improving your writing skills.
· Weekly student-led discussions allow you to develop your capacity for attentive exchange, informed argument and reasoning, and skills in facilitating discussion.
Field visits to examine river systems and forested catchments provide
context and opportunities to discuss a diverse set of environmental
management problems with professionals working in the field.
Practical sessions provide structured activities focused on the
identification of freshwater invertebrates and applications of GIS approaches
for analysing data to support catchment management planning.
You apply theoretical and practical knowledge to a case study,
demonstrating your capacity to evaluate site specific data and to interpret
relevant legislation and regulation.
individually and with a group you will write and present a management plan for
a location of your choosing.
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.
Examples of previous projects:
Coral reef monitoring in Mauritius
Habitat modelling of Basking Sharks
Estimating human-dolphin interactions using spatially explicit models
Dialect evolution of call-types in North Pacific Killer Whale populations
This course requires planning, executing and
writing-up an independent research project on a topic relevant to the remit of
the programme. In consultation with their supervisor(s), students formulate a
testable hypothesis, design an analytical approach suitable for testing those
hypotheses, analyse the data and interpret the results. Results are presented
orally in the final week of the programme.
We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.
How You'll Study
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, SNH and JNCC, as well as professionals from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector representing environmental consulting firms and fishing interests. Workshops dedicated to developing generic professional skills, such as 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 at the University’s field stations and research sites
Tours of marine industry facilities, including aquaculture farms and fish markets
Access to laboratories that monitor water quality, fish health and fisheries
Tours of Marine Scotland’s fleet of research vessels
Safety at sea certification
The research project is the ultimate learning experience, drawing together the knowledge and skills you have acquired to address a specific research question under the supervision of experts in the field. Projects can be field-based, laboratory-based or desk-based according to individual learning objectives.
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.
Why Study Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology?
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 will 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.
The University of Aberdeen is ranked number 1 in Scotland in terms of overall research excellence in the fields of earth systems and environmental sciences (REF 2014).
Aberdeen is one of the best places in the world for dolphin spotting and is also home to the largest dolphins in the world.
One of the first things you'll do on the MSc is the field trip to the Lighthouse Field Research Station at Cromarty. The trip is a great way to get to know your new coursemates, with a boat trip out into the Firth and scavenger hunt around the town!
This course has allowed me to pursue research in marine mammals and provided me with an excellent background knowledge in marine ecology. I used to dread any statistics or GIS, but this course has been ideal for building up these technical skills!
I chose the University of Aberdeen for two reasons. Firstly because the structure of the program seemed to be a good fit for me and secondly, the people I spoke to before arriving were really helpful and quick to answer all of my questions.
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) will be considered if they can demonstrate qualifications or aptitude at a sufficiently advanced level in a biological subject and evidence of mathematical/statistical training or relevant experience.
All students entering the University must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study effectively at the University of Aberdeen.
Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages. This programme requires that you meet the College of Life Sciences and Medicine Postgraduate Standard level of English proficiency.
If you have not achieved the required scores, the University of Aberdeen offers pre-sessional English courses. Further details are available on our Language Centre website.
Nationals of some English-speaking countries or those who hold degrees from some English-speaking countries may be exempt from this requirement. Details of countries recognised as English-speaking can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages.
You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme.
an up-to-date CV/Resumé
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme
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.
Marine Renewables Consultant
Marine Resources Manager
What our Alumni Say
Godwin Amu Otogo
Assistant Research Fellow
The interdisciplinary nature of the programme was one of the main reasons for my choosing to study at Aberdeen. I feel that the MSc has enhanced my career greatly.
Project Officer for the Scottish Shark Tagging Programme
The benefit of this MSc is that academic staff are involved in a wide range of world leading marine research. This exposure to many areas is particularly good if you don’t know what you want to do beyond “marine or fisheries science".
The programme will be delivered by an experienced, multidisciplinary team of internationally renowned researchers in applied marine and fisheries ecology. Scientists from Marine Scotland also contribute to the programme, enabling students to learn about marine resource management from the Managers themselves.
Information About Staff Changes
You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.
Dr Tara Marshall describes how our MSc will give you knowledge and skills to apply to real world situations.
The Lighthouse Field Station is located in Cromarty, at the tip of the Black Isle. It has the dual aim of undertaking and supporting research and integrating this work into teaching and outreach activities.
Oceanlab is a field research station located on the banks of the Ythan estuary overlooking Forvie National Nature Reserve. Staff and students based here are heavily involved in international projects and research expeditions.
The University’s award winning Sir Duncan Rice Library is listed in the “Top 20 spellbinding University libraries in the World”. It contains over a million volumes, more than 300,000 e-books and 21,000 journals.