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

This programme is studied on campus.

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.

Key Programme Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months
Study Mode
Full Time
Start Month

What You'll Study

Semester 1

Semester 1

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.

Compulsory Courses

Marine Ecology and Ecosystem Management (ZO5008) - 7.5 Credit Points

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, 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.

View detailed information about this course

Fish Biology and Conservation (ZO5011) - 7.5 Credit Points

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

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Population Ecology (ZO5304) - 15 Credit Points

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.

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Experimental Design and Analyses (BI5009) - 15 Credit Points

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.

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Introduction to GIS (EV5402) - 7.5 Credit Points

Introduction to GIS will provide you with the opportunities to become familiar with ArcGIS software and understand the application of GIS technologies to address ecological research questions.

  • Provide increasingly important GIS skills on your CV
  • Practical-based course so you learn how to use GIS as well as understanding the theory
  • Range of real research examples used in terrestrial and marine ecology

View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

Field Trip (Cromarty) (ZO5010)

This course 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.

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Aquaculture (ZO5303) - 7.5 Credit Points

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.

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Statistics for Complex Study Designs (BI5010) - 7.5 Credit Points

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 biological questions.

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Molecular Ecological Techniques (EK5405) - 7.5 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.

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Introduction to Bayesian Inference (BI5401) - 7.5 Credit Points

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 further.

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Semester 2

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses

Fisheries Technologies and Surveys (ZO5510) - 5.5 Credit Points

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.

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Fishery Analysis and Assessment (ZO5804) - 5.5 Credit Points

This course features significant input from professional scientists from Marine Scotland Science (MSS) at the Marine Laboratory, 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.

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Research Project Planning (ZO5511) - 7.5 Credit Points

Throughout this course students will work independently on a research topic that will have been identified prior to the start of the course, in preparation for the research project carried out in course ZO5902. MSc students will produce a project plan and a literature review on the topic of their research project. 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.

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Optional Courses

Marine Spatial Management (ZO5518) - 15 Credit Points

This course aims to enable students to appreciate the level of understanding of physical & biological oceanography, biodiversity, trophic interactions, species survival and reproduction 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. This course will also explore the driving forces underlying changes in the abundance and distribution of marine top predators and consider how potential changes in their populations can provide indicators of ecosystem change. The course will outline policy and management measures aimed at reducing human impacts upon ecosystems and top predators.

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Sustainable Management of Marine Resources (ZO5515) - 15 Credit Points

Our PGT students have well developed critical thinking and writing skills. Team working is a skill that is highly valued by employers but on that students may have variable levels of experience of. The goal of the course is to further develop all of these skills prior to your entry into the job market. A Problem-based learning (PBL) approach is used for the course with the exact problem changing from year-to-year. Students work in groups to develop problem solving strategies and undertake the research identified as key. After the second week of the course there are no lectures, allowing students to prioritise group work and independent research.

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Spatial Information Analysis (EV5511) - 7.5 Credit Points

Advanced Spatial Information Analysis will take your basic GIS skills and introduce advanced analysis techniques relevant to marine and terrestrial ecology.

· Course delivered by GIS professionals with number of relevant guest speakers from industry and NGO’s

· Mainly practical based course to give hands on experience

· Assessment based on research proposal can be linked to your research project

Provide you with the necessary GIS skills for careers in spatial analysis research and management of natural resources

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Advanced Modelling for Ecology and Conservation (EK5704) - 7.5 Credit Points

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.

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Ecology, Conservation and Society (EK5510) - 15 Credit Points

Six themes that reflect current theory and practice in the interface between ecology, conservation and society are explored through structured in-class activities challenging you to consider problems and evidence from different perspectives.

Case studies drawn from different disciplinary perspectives (e.g., anthropology, economics, human geography, philosophy) increase capacity for self-reflection and awareness of ethical and moral issues embedded in problems 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.

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Catchment Management (EK5511) - 15 Credit Points

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.

Working individually and with a group you will write and present a management plan for a location of your choosing.

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Semester 3

Semester 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 / Dissertation (ZO5902) - 60 Credit Points

This course involves 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 one or more testable hypotheses, design an investigative approach suitable for testing those hypotheses, analyse the data, and interpret the results.

View detailed information about this course

Course Availability

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.

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 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.

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.

Entry Requirements


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

A minimum of a UK 2.2 honours degree (or non-UK equivalent) in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, or other relevant subject. We also consider applicants with degrees in other disciplines who are clearly motivated by the programme and have some relevant work experience.

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

English Language Requirements

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.

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.

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

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU / RUK Students £7,800
Tuition Fees for 2018/19 Academic Year
International Students £16,900
Tuition Fees for 2018/19 Academic Year

Additional Fees

  • 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.

  • SFC Tuition Fee Scholarships - open to Scottish/Non UK and EU applicants
  • Tuition Fee and Living Cost Loans - SAAS loans up to £10,000 for eligible students
  • Aberdeen International Masters Scholarship - £2,000 tuition fee discount for eligible students
  • Alumni Discount Scheme - 20% discount for our alumni
  • Scottish Fishermen’s Trust - up to 3 bursaries of £1000 each for students undertaking their research project in an area related to SFT business (fisheries, offshore energy)
  • Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre - 2 awards are available to cover MSc fees for 1 academic year. Successful applicants must commit to a project relevant to the aquaculture industry in Scotland

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.


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

What our Alumni Say

  • Godwin Amu Otogo
    Godwin Amu Otogo, Assistant Research Fellow at

    Godwin Amu Otogo

    Job Details
    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.
  • Edward Wright
    Edward Wright, Project Officer for the Scottish Shark Tagging Programme at

    Edward Wright

    Job Details
    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".

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.

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.

Programme Overview

Dr Tara Marshall describes how our MSc will give you knowledge and skills to apply to real world situations.

Watch video


Image for Lighthouse Field Station
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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Image for Oceanlab


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.

Image for Sir Duncan Rice Library
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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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.

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Get in Touch

Contact Details

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