Postgraduate Research Course

PhD Tropical Marine Biology

PhD Tropical Marine Biology

Overview

The details
Tropical Marine Biology
October 2021
Full-time
5 years
Colchester Campus

Tropical ecosystems provide important resources locally and globally, and coral reefs are the most diverse of marine ecosystems threatened by human activities.

An Integrated PhD provides a route into research study if you do not have a Masters degree, or have very little research training. It enables you to spend your first year completing a full-time Masters-level qualification, followed by a full-time PhD studied over 3-4 years or a part-time PhD studied over 6-7 years. We also offer a ‘standard’ PhD in this subject which can be studied either full-time (3-4 years) or part-time (6-7 years).

The first year on our Integrated PhD Tropical Marine Biology, is designed to deliver advanced tropical marine biology theory and to facilitate the development of a comprehensive range of practical and professional skills required by today’s employers. As a student of our School of Life Sciences you will benefit from the breadth of research carried out by our internationally recognised academics, and will engage with current research activities both in the UK and abroad. You also have the opportunity to put theory into practice and study coral reef conservation first hand during the School’s annual field trip to the Wakatobi Marine National Park, Indonesia. Please note that students who join this optional expedition are subject to additional travel costs – the fee for field trips vary from year to year.

In your second year you move into the PhD element of the course. Research in our School covers a wide spectrum of biology from genes to ecosystems, and this broad-based structure provides opportunities for developing novel ideas and inter-disciplinary projects. We offer supervision in all areas of staff expertise in marine biology including community ecology of coral reef systems, tropical seagrass beds, mangroves and fisheries, deep sea/marine connectivity, ocean acidification and macronutrient cycling.

Two-thirds of our research is rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014), and you learn from and work alongside our expert staff.

Why we're great.
  • Our Coral Reef Research Unit is the most extensive of its kind in the UK.
  • You will be part of our collaborative Research Groups that work on important international and national problems using cutting-edge techniques.
  • We have strong links with a range of organisations, such as the Environment Agency, Cefas, Defra, Operation Wallacea, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Association of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities.
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

Our expert staff

As one of the largest schools at our University, we offer a lively, friendly and supportive environment with research-led study and high-quality teaching. You benefit from our academics’ wide range of expertise on important national and international problems using cutting-edge techniques.

Key academic staff for this course are members of our Ecology and Environmental Microbiology Research Group. We have experts in community ecology of coral reefs, tropical marine biology and conservation, coral stress physiology, aquatic community ecology, and ecological and evolutionary responses to global change.

The University of Essex has a Women's Network to support female staff and students and was awarded the Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Award in November 2013 in recognition of its continuing work to support women in STEM.

After your first year, when you start your PhD, you will be allocated a supervisor whose role it is to guide you through the different stages of your research degree. In some cases, you may be jointly supervised. The support provided by your supervisor is a key feature of your research student experience and you will have regular one-to-one meetings to discuss progress on your research. Initially, your supervisor will help you develop your research topic and plan. Twice a year, you will have a supervisory board meeting, which provides a more formal opportunity to discuss your progress and agree your plans for the next six months.

Your technical and intellectual development will be enhanced by becoming part of a Research Group, and participating in School Seminars.

Specialist facilities

We have excellent facilities for studying tropical marine biology both in the laboratory and in the field. In house facilities include:

  • a range of aquatic and terrestrial mesocosms, including large temperature-controlled aquaria for simulating tropical marine systems
  • replicated environmental outdoor mesocosms simulating tidal and terrestrial systems
  • a state-of-the-art tropical coral-reef research facility devoted to fully climate-controllable experiments
  • multiple pH-stating systems to control CO2 concentration for ocean acidification experiments
  • a suite of field equipment and boats
  • microbial culturing facilities
  • advanced bioimaging suite to visualise and analyse images of biological processes in real time

You have access to a wealth of local and overseas field sites through ongoing funded projects and collaborations. Extensive marine and estuarine habitats of national and international ecological importance are located within a short distance of our Colchester Campus.

A dedicated study room allows all our postgraduate research students to have access to a desk and a computer outside of the research laboratories. This provides a focal point for our postgraduates, facilitating reading and writing as well as good communication and a sense of community.

Your future

As the world's environmental problems increase, the demand for qualified marine biologists continues to grow, and postgraduate study is often a requirement for becoming a researcher, scientist, academic journal editor and to work in some public bodies or private companies.

Our graduates go on to a range of careers. Some choose to continue into a research career by taking up doctoral positions in the UK or overseas. Others work with governmental and non-governmental organisations and environmental agencies, consultancies and voluntary organisations. We support your career development by a mentoring scheme and employability events.

We work with the University’s Careers Services to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A 2.2 honours degree in a relevant subject such as : Marine Biology, Marine Chemistry, Oceanography, Environmental Sciences and tropical Biology.

Applications from students with a degree below a 2:2 will be considered dependent on any relevant professional or voluntary experience, previous modules studied and/or personal statement.

Your Degree should contain some Ecology components including aquatic/marine Ecology, Biodiversity or Conservation.

Our four year integrated PhD, allows you to spend your first year studying at Masters level in order to develop the necessary knowledge and skills and to start your independent research in year two.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language , we require IELTS 6.5, or equivalent with a minimum of 5.5 in all other components.

Structure

Example structure

Most of our taught courses combine compulsory and optional modules, giving you freedom to pursue your own interests. All of the modules listed below provide an example of what is on offer from the current academic year. Our Programme Specification provides further details of the course structure for the current academic year.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

The research element of your degree doesn't have a taught structure, giving you the chance to investigate your chosen topic in real depth and reach a profound understanding. In communicating that understanding, through a thesis or other means, you have a rare opportunity to generate knowledge. A research degree allows you to develop new high-level skills, enhance your professional development and build new networks. It can open doors to many careers.

Teaching and learning disclaimer

Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.

The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently planned for 2021 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.

Tropical Marine Resources

This module explores the mariculture and fisheries in tropical seas as well as the biotechnological 'treasure chest' provided by marine microbes, algae and invertebrates. Study the biology of hard corals and examine the process of coral conservation management during an approximately four-week expedition to the remote Wakatobi Marine National Park in Indonesia. Use this chance to get diving training, communicate with community representatives and get involved in research diving activities. The University will highly subsidise this fieldtrip, but funds to cover additional expenses are required.

View Tropical Marine Resources on our Module Directory

Tropical Marine Systems

This module aims to widen the understanding of tropical marine systems, the diversity of organisms that exist, the roles they play as well as the fundamental biological processes that enable these organisms to thrive. Explore four main tropical habitats: coral reefs, tropical oceans, seagrass beds, and mangrove systems, and discover the key functional roles of photosynthetic producers (corals, algae, cyanobacteria, plants) and heterotrophic consumers (planktonic, benthic and pelagic invertebrates and vertebrates). Learn how to evaluate ecological and biogeochemical processes within tropical marine systems and their productivity, connectivity and resilience.

View Tropical Marine Systems on our Module Directory

Methods in Tropical Marine Biology

The overall aim of this module is to sharpen the skill base in practical research by introducing a range of methodologies to aid in the investigation of tropical marine processes. Focus on some components of bio-geochemistry, physiology, data analysis and visualisation, and biotechnology, and develop the four of the most wanted cross-disciplinary skills (multi-disciplinary, data management, numeracy, and translating research into practice) which will help you effectively operate as a professional tropical marine biologist.

View Methods in Tropical Marine Biology on our Module Directory

Professional Skills in Tropical Marine Biology

In this career-focused module you develop skills specific to your discipline, such as critical analysis, integration and communication in a multidisciplinary research environment. Study how to utilise modern learning environments and how to apply statistical methods in handling, analysing and interpreting large datasets in R, the software environment for statistical computing and graphics. The seminars and workshops cover CV and application clinics, facilitate expedition planning, introduce health and safety aspects of practical work, and increase numeracy skills.

View Professional Skills in Tropical Marine Biology on our Module Directory

Data Analysis and Visualisation

This module provides you with the opportunity to improve your data analysis and visualisation skills. The ability to critically analyse raw data, and to communicate findings from these analyses in appropriate formats in a multidisciplinary research environment, provides the foundation for your successful career in environmental sciences.

View Data Analysis and Visualisation on our Module Directory

Research Project: MSc Tropical Marine Biology

Your dissertation is the culmination of your academic career so far. Split into two stages, you will firstly undertake detailed research of the relevant scientific literature and prepare a project proposal (10% of the project mark). You will then be provided with appropriate training relevant to your chosen area of research, enabling you to compile a detailed report in the format of a scientific paper and literature review (90% of project mark).

View Research Project: MSc Tropical Marine Biology on our Module Directory

Biological Science - Research

This module is for PhD students who are completing the research portions of their thesis.

View Biological Science - Research on our Module Directory

Teaching

  • We teach using a combination of lectures, laboratory practicals, tutorials, seminars, optional fieldwork, independent reading and research projects
  • Gain practical experience on our annual trip to Indonesia (optional)

Assessment

Our first-year taught modules are assessed by coursework only, including essays, worksheets, verbal/visual presentations and written reviews.

Dissertation

Within our School of Life Sciences, you attend two formal supervisory board meetings each year once you have started the PhD element of the course, where you submit literature reviews and research reports to the Board members. At these meetings, the documents are discussed with you and your progress is assessed.

We encourage full-time PhD students to submit within three years and certainly expect completion of PhDs within a four-year period.

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee

£5,360

International fee

£18,800

EU students commencing their course in the 2021-22 academic year will be liable for the International fee.

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

What's next

Open Days

We hold open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, graduate employability, student support and more
  • talk to our Fees and Funding team about scholarship opportunities
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Applying

You can apply for this postgraduate course online. Before you apply, please check our information about necessary documents that we’ll ask you to provide as part of your application.

We encourage you to make a preliminary enquiry directly to a potential supervisor or the Graduate Administrator within your chosen Department or School. We encourage the consideration of a brief research proposal prior to the submission of a full application.

We aim to respond to applications within four weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply’ information.

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

Home to 15,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.

The Campus is set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland, located two miles from the historic town centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded town. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

 

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.


Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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