Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology, MSc

Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology, MSc


Do you want to help find new solutions to manage our marine natural resources?

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month
Location of Study

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 the Lighthouse Field Station, Cromarty. 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.

What You'll Study

Stage 1

The taught part of our MSc Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology programme requires students to take a number of 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.

Compulsory Courses

Population Ecology (ZO5304)

15 Credit Points

The course is structured as a series of weekly themes, which reflect areas of current research in animal ecology and serve to develop your understanding of key principles in population ecology.

Themes 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.

Computer-based workshops complement lectures to provide opportunities to apply your learning and strengthen your quantitative skills.

By orally presenting a published paper on a topic in population ecology to your peers, you will strengthen your communication skills and develop a more critical understanding of population ecology research.

Ecological Data Analysis Using R (BI5012)

15 Credit Points

This course is uniquely tailored for ecologists and will provide students with the required background theory and practical skills relevant to modern ecology. Our example-led lectures and real-world based practical sessions will provide you with a foundation to become confident and proficient in analysing real data. Throughout this course, we will introduce you to using the programming language R to implement modern statistical modelling techniques. You will use the flexible linear and generalised linear modelling frameworks to analyse ecological data with an emphasis on robust and reproducible statistical methods.

Getting Started at the University of Aberdeen (PD5006)

This course, which is prescribed for all taught postgraduate students, is studied entirely online, takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks.

Topics include orientation overview, equality and diversity, health, safety and cyber security and how to make the most of your time at university in relation to careers and employability.

Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’.

Marine Ecosystem Management: Setting the Scene (ZO5019)

15 Credit Points

This course introduces the characteristics of the marine environment that are relevant to managing human activities in relation to conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainable exploitation of marine resources. The course considers the ecosystem roles of different biological groups, with a particular focus on the key role of fishes. There is an introduction to the policies, management approaches and organisations involved in the development of marine ecosystem-based management, with a focus on the north-east Atlantic Ocean and particularly the North Sea. Guest speakers from key organisations provide up-to-date perspectives on topical issues. Being placed at the start of PGT marine programmes, this course provides a foundation of knowledge for concepts and issues that are explored in more depth in subsequent courses.

Optional Courses

Plus one of the following:

Molecular Ecological Techniques (EK5301)

15 Credit Points

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.

Marine Conservation Management (ZO5309)

15 Credit Points

Effective engagement with conservation of marine biodiversity requires an open mind, creativity, patience and an appreciation of shared learning. This course is structured to help you develop those essential skills while building your understanding of current marine conservation issues and how conservation professionals across different sectors engage with them.

Stage 2

Compulsory Courses

Applications of GIS (EV5517)

15 Credit Points

Lectures and structured workshops develop your knowledge of the principles and practice of geographic information systems, and familiarise you with ArcGIS software, enhancing your employability.

An individual investigation allows you to explore a specific application that you are interested in and demonstrate your proficiency with the software and your command of the conceptual underpinnings.

A flexible teaching and learning environment allows for individualised learning and enrichment for students with existing skills in GIS.

Fisheries Science (ZO5806)

15 Credit Points

The course introduces students to the essential elements of fisheries science. It consists of three main sections: fishing technology and behaviour, fishery independent methods, and stock assessment techniques. Ultimately it will equip students with the basic knowledge and skills required to assess the abundance and distribution of fish and to understand key elements of the provision of advice for fisheries management.

Sustainable Aquaculture (ZO5807)

15 Credit Points

Lectures by research staff working in aquaculture provide you with specialised knowledge in a range of current issues, including growth, nutrition, health and disease resistance, genetics and environmental interactions.

Preparation for seminars and the essay allow you to direct your own learning and explore methods and current advances in your chosen topic.

Participation in the seminars helps you to develop your communication skills and provides you with feedback on your understanding of the issues.

Optional Courses

Plus one of the following:

Ecology, Conservation and Society (EK5510)

15 Credit Points

This course looks at current theory and practice in the interface between ecology, conservation and society. We will explore diverse topics, including how ecology is changing, impacts through climate change, ecosystem services, evidence-based conservation, interdisciplinary approaches, citizen science, policy workshop, communicating science, decolonising ecology and conservation, stakeholder conflicts and data visualisation.Sessions are composed of lectures and workshops from staff and guest speakers, and structured in-class activities, which will challenge you to consider problems and evidence from different perspectives. These will increase your capacity for self-reflection and awareness of ethical and moral issues embedded in problems often framed as ecological.

Marine Spatial Management (ZO5518)

15 Credit Points

You develop an appreciation of the level of understanding of the physical and biological oceanography, biodiversity, trophic interactions, species survival and reproduction issues required to implement spatially explicit, sustainable ecosystem-base management, conservation and effective marine spatial planning. There will be an emphasis on Offshore Marine Renewables, Marine Protected Areas and Climate Change aspects.

Lectures from marine ecologists, industry consultants and government scientists working in applied marine management will provide insights into current issues.

Practical work provides training in use of R, Excel, data analysis and strengthens your written communication skills.

Group and individual working strengthen your critical thinking and problem-solving skills and support the development of strong oral communication.

Stage 3

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.

Compulsory Courses

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
Research Project in Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology (ZO5906)

60 Credit Points

The three-month individual Research Project can cover any area of applied marine and fisheries ecology and is undertaken under the supervision of a staff member who is expert in your chosen field. Many projects are also done in collaboration with an external organisation. The project provides opportunities for you to develop your abilities and skills, generate hypotheses and design ways of testing them and to analyse, report and discuss your findings. You will learn to take responsibility for implementing your own plans and modifying them as necessary. The project is written up in the form of a scientific paper manuscript or a consultancy report.

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.

Fee Information

Fee information
Fee category Cost
EU / International students £27,000
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
Home / RUK £11,900
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year

Additional Fee Information

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Funding Opportunities

The following options are available to support your studies.

  • Industrial sponsorship: Each year the Scottish Fishermen’s Trust provide up to three bursaries worth £1000 for students undertaking either the MSc AMFE programme or the MSc Marine Conservation programme.
  • Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre - The scholarship covers tuition fees for one academic year. SAIC Scholars commit to conducting their research project in aquaculture, specifically on topics that lend themselves to placement in the Scottish aquaculture sector.
  • The James Henry Scott Scholarship – Funded by The Swire Charitable Trust, the scholarship covers full international postgraduate tuition fees of £27k plus a maintenance award of £5k. Application deadline: 1 June 2023.


Eligible self-funded international Masters students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Visit our Funding Database to find out more and see our full range of scholarships.

How You'll Study

Our programme combines traditional lectures and practicals with a range of learning formats. Student debates and group working are an integral part of the programme, enhancing communication and team working skills.

You will have 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. Activities are designed to develop generic professional skills such as how to write your CV, team working, time management, writing reports, participating in meetings and giving presentations.

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

  • Outdoor field work at the University’s field station 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

*please note that some of these opportunities may incur an additional cost and are subject to availability.

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.

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Field Work
  • Group Projects
  • Individual Projects
  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • Research

Assessment Methods

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 analysis and geographical information systems, 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.
  • 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.
  • Aberdeen is one of the best places in the world for dolphin spotting and is also home to the largest dolphins in the world.

What Our Students Say

Anna Harte

Anna Harte

Anna Harte

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!

Eilidh Siegal

Eilidh Siegal

Eilidh Siegal

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!

Janne Haugen

Janne Haugen

Janne Haugen

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.

Josephine Laryea Asare

Josephine Laryea Asare

Josephine Laryea Asare

I really enjoyed the guest lectures by Marine Scotland Science and fisheries industry professionals as well as the career and student learning services available to me on campus.

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

Minimum entry requirement for this programme is a degree in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, or other relevant discipline at 2:1 (upper second class) UK Honours level, or an Honours degree from a non-UK institution which is judged by the University to be of equivalent worth. Candidates with at least a 2:1 or equivalent in other disciplines may be considered if they can demonstrate relevant experience and motivation.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

an up-to-date CV/Resumé
Degree Certificate
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
Personal Statement
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.

Career Opportunities

  • Environmental Assessor
  • Fisheries Manager
  • Marine Renewables Consultant
  • Marine Resources Manager

Industry Links

Our marine scientists collaborate with colleagues in research institutions all over the world. Research projects are often hosted by partner organisations and therefore focus on issues of real-world relevance. Partners include:

  • International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
  • Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland
  • Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
  • Scottish Fishermen’s Trust
  • South Atlantic Research Institute
  • US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Research Impact

Professor Paul Thompson and his team have been instrumental in mitigating the impacts of offshore installations on marine mammals in EU protected areas.

Watch video

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REF 2021

We are ranked in the top quartile for Research Power in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences in the latest Research Excellence Framework

Nature on our Doorstep

Current and former students tell us why they choose to study biological and environmental sciences at Aberdeen

What our Alumni Say

Godwin Amu Otogo

Godwin Amu Otogo

Godwin Amu Otogo

Job Details
Assistant Research Fellow
Graduated 2013

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.

Edward Wright

Edward Wright

Edward Wright

Job Details
Project Officer for the Scottish Shark Tagging Programme
Graduated 2013

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".

Our Experts

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.

Other Experts
Dr Tara Marshall
Professor Beth Scott
Professor Sam Martin
Dr Jason Holland
Programme Coordinator
Dr Philip Smith

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.


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Lighthouse Field Station

Lighthouse Field Station

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.

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Sir Duncan Rice Library

Sir Duncan Rice Library

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.

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Zoology Museum

Zoology Museum

The museum’s displays are worldwide in scope, from protozoa to the great whales, including taxidermy, skeletal material, study skins, fluid-preserved specimens and models.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX