Undergraduate Course

BSc Marine Biology

BSc Marine Biology

Overview

The details
Marine Biology
C164
October 2022
Full-time
3 years
Colchester Campus

On our BSc Marine Biology course you dive into a fascinatingly complex world of whales, coral reefs, fish, deep sea trenches, coastal lagoons, sea ice, and tropical seagrass beds. The vast majority of life on earth is found under the sea; but exactly how much remains unknown, since there is so much still to be explored.

At Essex, we take you on a journey of discovery from the poles to the tropical reef systems of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. We work on ecosystems from estuaries and coastal environments to oceanic systems, and on conservation and resource management.

You gain an expert knowledge of marine biology through study of essential core modules and the flexibility to specialise in the areas that interest you most, including:

  • The major types of marine communities, including aquatic mammals and fish
  • Direct and indirect human impact on the marine environment
  • Coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove systems
  • Marine and freshwater taxonomy and biodiversity
  • Diving and snorkel-based practices

Your independent research project allows you to develop your own interests. Previous topics have included shellfisheries and water quality, turtle ecology in Greece and coral reef conservation strategies in the Caribbean and Indonesia.

There are numerous opportunities to go on field trips as part of this course, although please note that these may be subject to additional costs. These are provided against the relevant modules under the structure tab on this page.

During the field trip to Wakatobi Marine National Park in Indonesia, our students are able to participate in underwater lectures.

Visit our marine biology subject page for more information and content.

Why we're great.
  • Our field courses cover the local Marine Conservation Zone, Indonesia, the Mediterranean and Scotland, providing access to major marine ecosystems from rocky shores, mud flats and salt marshes, to tropical mangroves and coral reefs.
  • Undertake research in our new aquarium and experimental marine biology facility, complete with new research boat.
  • We are ranked top 25 for overall student satisfaction for Biology in the National Student Survey 2021.

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.

If you spend a full year abroad you'll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year. You won't pay any tuition fees to your host university

Placement year

Alternatively, you can spend your third year on a placement year with an external organisation. This is usually focussed around your course, and enables you to learn about a particular sector, company or job role, apply your academic knowledge in a practical working environment, and receive inspiration for future career pathways.

If you complete a placement year you'll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that 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, where you will learn from and work alongside our expert staff.

Our research covers a wide spectrum of biology – from the cell right through to communities and ecosystems. Key academic staff for this course include Dr Leanne Hepburn, who works on community ecology of coral reefs, Professor Dave Smith who is researching tropical marine biology and conservation, Dr Michael Steinke, who is working on biogenic trace gases in marine environments, and Dr Michelle Taylor, who studies deep-sea connectivity and recently spent time on a scientific research expedition in Antarctica. Dr Taylor is also the course director for BSc Marine Biology.

The University of Essex has a Women's Network to support female staff and students, and our School was awarded the Athena Swan Silver Award in October 2020, which reflects the work carried out by staff in our School to continue to improve equality, including a mentorship scheme, support for postdoctoral research staff, and financial help towards childcare costs for academics who wish to attend conferences.

Specialist facilities

Recent spending by our University has allowed for major refurbishment and expansion of our School of Life Sciences, including:

  • Work in an open and friendly department, with shared staff-student social spaces
  • Conduct your final-year research alongside academics and PhD students in shared labs
  • Participate in our national and international field courses in Plymouth, Greece and Indonesia
  • State-of-the-art research facilities, from brain imaging systems, to CO2 incubators, underwater video cameras, and coral reef research aquaria
  • Teaching facilities including new undergraduate laboratories

Your future

As the world's environmental problems increase, the demand for qualified marine biologists and ecologists continues to grow.

Following your degree in marine biology you can opt for further study, or pursue careers as varied as conservation, writing and editing for scientific publications, research or consultancy for coastal-based organisations.

Our students have taken up a wide range of careers in research laboratories, consultancies, business and industry, conservation practice and environmental assessment. Others have gone on to work in sales, publishing and management, while others still have chosen to enhance their career opportunities by studying for MSc or PhD degrees.

Recent graduates have gone on to work for the following high profile organisations:

  • New Earth Solutions
  • Engine Group
  • Cromwell Council
  • DEFRA
  • Postgraduate marine and environmental biology

We also work with our University's Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

“Since graduating from Essex, I started a job at the Environment Agency in the National Fisheries Laboratory, looking at freshwater fish health, ageing and species. It involves lots of elements that I learnt from my studies such as identification and lab skills, which really helped in my application.”

Yasmin Harris, BSc Marine Biology, 2019

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

GCSE: Mathematics C/4.

A-levels: BCC, including Biology.

BTEC: DDM, depending on subject and units studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.

IB: 28 points or three Higher Level certificates with 544. Either must include Higher Level Biology with a minimum of grade 4, plus Standard Level Mathematics/Maths Studies grade 4, if not taken at Higher Level.
We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.
Please note that Maths in the IB is not required if you have already achieved GCSE Maths at grade C/4 or above or 4 in IB Middle Years Maths.

From 2021, we will accept grade 4 in either Standard Level Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches or Standard Level Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation.

Access to HE Diploma: 45 Level 3 credits at Merit or above, depending on subject and units studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.

T-levels: Merit, depending on subject studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.

What if I don’t achieve the grades I hoped?
If you select Essex as your firm choice, you will be able to take advantage of a flexible offer. This offer will specify alternative entry requirements to those published on our website.

If your final grades are not as high as you had hoped, the good news is you may still be able to secure a place with us on a course which includes a foundation year. Visit our undergraduate application information page for more details.

What if I have a non-traditional academic background?
Don’t worry. To gain a deeper knowledge of your course suitability, we will look at your educational and employment history, together with your personal statement and reference.

You may be considered for entry into Year 1 of your chosen course. Alternatively, some UK and EU applicants may be considered for Essex Pathways, an additional year of study (known as a foundation year/year 0) helping students gain the necessary skills and knowledge in order to succeed on their chosen course. You can find a list of Essex Pathways courses and entry requirements here

If you are a mature student, further information is here

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

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. Different requirements apply for second year entry, and specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels listed above. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Structure

Course structure

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The following modules are based on the current course structure and may change in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.

We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We’ll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, or in response to COVID-19, we’ll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.

Components and modules explained

Components

Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.

Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.

Status What this means
Core
You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Compulsory
You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Optional
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.

The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.

Modules

Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.

In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.

Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:

HR 100  4  FY

The department or school the module will be taught by.

In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.

The module number. 

The UK academic level of the module.

A standard undergraduate course will comprise of level 4, 5 and 6 modules - increasing as you progress through the course.

A standard postgraduate taught course will comprise of level 7 modules.

A postgraduate research degree is a level 8 qualification.

The term the module will be taught in.

  • AU: Autumn term
  • SP: Spring term
  • SU: Summer term
  • FY: Full year 
  • AP: Autumn and Spring terms
  • PS: Spring and Summer terms
  • AS: Autumn and Summer terms

COMPONENT 01: CORE

Quantitative methods for Life Sciences
(15 CREDITS)

Develop your skillset and boost your CV. This module prepares you for the coursework, laboratory practicals and research projects that you will encounter during undergraduate study. Get to know referencing systems and learn how to effectively communicate scientific information. Use scientific units and simple algebra and demonstrate understanding of logarithms, exponentials, geometry and elementary calculus. Learn how to design experiments, handle data and display, interpret and analyse basic statistics. Teaching and learning will be through a mixture of lectures, classes, practicals and tutorials, with an emphasis on developing the key transferable skills needed for a career in biosciences.

View Quantitative methods for Life Sciences on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 02: COMPULSORY

Marine Biology Field Skills
(15 CREDITS)

Develop practical field skills that are critical for any practicing Marine Biologist. Spending one week at the Marine Biological Association of the UK in Plymouth, you gain key knowledge of marine invertebrate and algal identification, classification and distribution, developing skills in experimental design, field data-collection and data analysis. Please note that students make their own travel arrangements for this modules. As part of this module you will be required to attend a field trip to Plymouth to the Marine Biological Association of the UK (MBA) where you will develop your field research skills in Biology. The cost for this trip is approximately £50, which you will need to pay.

View Marine Biology Field Skills on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 03: CORE

Genetics and Evolution
(15 CREDITS)

Why do we all look different? Are some illnesses hereditary? Are animals born ready-suited to their environment? From the early theories of Mendel to modern studies in molecular genetics, you explore how scientists have answered these questions over the last 150 years. Examine how the structure and function of DNA allows genetic material to be expressed, replicated and inherited, and consider how genetic variation leads to adaptive evolution. From developing new technologies in gene cloning to the applications for modern medicine, you explore how geneticists are building on the earlier achievements in this fundamentally important field to enhance our understanding of life on earth.

View Genetics and Evolution on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 04: CORE WITH OPTIONS

BS111-4-SP or BS106-4-AU
(15 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 05: CORE

Microbiology
(15 CREDITS)

Get to know the culprits of some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Despite major advances in treatment and prevention, incidences of infectious disease continue to rise. Vast diversity, rapid evolution and the opportunistic nature of micro-organisms present a significant challenge. You examine how different viruses and bacteria invade, interact and replicate within living hosts, and explore the consequent impact on ecology, industry and disease. A series of four practical sessions allows you to get hands-on and develop valuable skills. You learn how to purify, observe, count and kill micro-organisms in our purpose-built labs, gaining experience of aseptic techniques, serial dilution, response to antibiotics, and staining.

View Microbiology on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 06: CORE

Animal Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour
(15 CREDITS)

The diversity of life on planet Earth is breath taking. We share our home with a vast number of species, a large portion of which are animals. We will discover the diversity of animal forms and functions and the role of natural selection in determining individual behaviour such as foraging, breeding and predator escape. You also investigate the idea that nothing in ecology and evolution makes sense in isolation.

View Animal Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 07: CORE

Marine Ecology
(15 CREDITS)

The marine realm covers 70% of the Earth's surface. It contains ice-covered seas and hydrothermal vents, muddy estuaries, deep ocean trenches and the clear blue open sea. The oceans and seas are also integral to the whole earth-ocean-atmosphere system, which controls the climate and conditions for life on Earth. Discover the different marine environments, the organisms that inhabit them and their ecological interactions. You also investigate the physical and chemical conditions that determine the diversity of marine life and consider how human activity is influencing marine ecosystems, through overfishing, pollution, and climate change.

View Marine Ecology on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 08: COMPULSORY

Transferable Skills in Life Sciences
(15 CREDITS)

You will develop your transferable skills in scientific writing (including referencing and avoiding plagiarism), teamwork and communication through oral presentations, study and research skills (including essay writing, lecture note taking, use of library and databases). Teaching and learning will be through a mixture of lectures, classes, and tutorials. The emphasis will be on small group, tutorial-style teaching and interaction with other students on this module, with assessments tailored to your degree subject area.

View Transferable Skills in Life Sciences on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 01: COMPULSORY

Marine Biodiversity
(15 CREDITS)

Our oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97% of the planets water. This vast underwater world supports a huge diversity of living organisms – get to know them. You learn how to assess biodiversity, measure species distribution and regulate populations. Systems of particular focus include biodiversity hot-spots such as coral reefs and rocky shores. You also have chance to practically apply your skills, examining the biodiversity of muddy and sandy shores, and investigating the morphological and genetic diversity in marine amphipods.

View Marine Biodiversity on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 02: COMPULSORY

Professional skills for Ecological and Marine Scientists
(15 CREDITS)

In this career-focused module you develop skills specific to your discipline, such as information retrieval, data-analysis and interpretation techniques, as well as a broader range of transferable skills, such as communication, team-work, numeracy and attention to detail. Learn how to best approach job applications, including CV and cover letter writing, aptitude testing and the interview process.

View Professional skills for Ecological and Marine Scientists on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 03: COMPULSORY

Marine Vertebrates
(15 CREDITS)

The importance of marine vertebrates to our aquatic systems cannot be underestimated, yet some of our most iconic underwater species are under serious threat. This module focuses on the taxonomy, physiology, ecology and conservation of the top predators and keystone species, including (but not limited to), whales, dolphins, sharks, rays, manatees, marine turtles and sea snakes.

View Marine Vertebrates on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 04: OPTIONAL

Option(s) from list
(30 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 05: OPTIONAL

Option(s) from list
(30 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 06: OPTIONAL

Option from list
(15 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 07: COMPULSORY

Estuarine and Coastal Ecology Field Module (Assessed in Following Year)
(0 CREDITS)

This module concentrates on the relationship between biological diversity, and aspects of water chemistry and habitat structure in different coastal environments situated along an estuarine gradient. We will be using the Colne / Blackwater estuary complex as our field site.

View Estuarine and Coastal Ecology Field Module (Assessed in Following Year) on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 01: COMPULSORY

Research Project in Life Sciences
(45 CREDITS)

This module aims to prepare you for carrying out an individual scientific investigation on a topic relating to your degree. Develop skills to identify a suitable question and then design an experimental approach to obtain data addressing this question. The assessment focuses on your analysis and presentation of these data in a suitable scientific paper format report, on the research, understanding and critical writing about the scientific literature relating to your project. Your oral project presentation skills and response to questions, the planning and management of your project work, your progress reflection and your employability skills will also be evaluated.

View Research Project in Life Sciences on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 02: COMPULSORY

Estuarine and Coastal Ecology Field Module
(15 CREDITS)

Investigate the relationship between water chemistry and habitat structure, and biological diversity of coastal environments. Getting hands-on in the local Colne/Blackwater estuary you gain experience in assessing environmental variables, sampling protocols and general fieldwork skills. You learn to identify a wide variety of animals and plants at different salinities, as well as associated habitats such as freshwater grazing marshes and salt marshes. You are also trained in commonly used lab techniques, such as measuring phosphate concentrations and sediment properties.

View Estuarine and Coastal Ecology Field Module on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 03: COMPULSORY

Fisheries Ecology
(15 CREDITS)

Fisheries provide food and employment to millions of people across the globe. Get to know the social and economic drivers of fishing and explore the subsequent impact on marine ecosystems. You gain an understanding of the scale and significance of fisheries and learn to critically analyse the methods used to assess their efficacy.

View Fisheries Ecology on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 04: OPTIONAL

Option from list
(15 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 05: OPTIONAL

Option from list
(15 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 06: OPTIONAL

Option from list
(15 CREDITS)

Placement

On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Teaching

  • Learn through a combination of lectures, laboratory sessions and coursework
  • Gain experience collating and interpreting data, and reporting findings clearly and concisely
  • Benefit from teaching at our local marine biology field centre

Assessment

  • Degrees are awarded on the results of your written examinations together with continual assessments of your practical work and coursework
  • Conduct a research project into marine biology in your final year of study

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee

£9,250

International fee

£20,050

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

Home/UK fees and funding information

International fees and funding information

What's next

Open Days

2022 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday, September 17, 2022
  • Saturday, October 22, 2022

Applying

Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are 'L' and 'S' respectively.

You can find further information on how to apply, including information on transferring from another university, applying if you are not currently at a school or college, and applying for readmission on our How to apply and entry requirements page.

Applicant Days

If you are an undergraduate student from the UK who has received an offer to study with us in October 2022, you will receive an invitation to attend an Applicant Day. Our Colchester Campus Applicant Days run from December to May on various Wednesdays and provide the opportunity to meet your department, tour our campus and accommodation, and chat to current students. For further information, please head to our Applicant Days webpage.

If you are an EU or International student, or can’t make any of our Applicant Days, we’ll be running a series of virtual events called Experience Essex Online throughout the year. To find out more, check out our Visit Us webpage.

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 city centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded development. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

 

View from Square 2 outside the Rab Butler Building looking towards Square 3

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tours allows you to explore our University from the comfort of your home. Check out our Colchester virtual tour and Southend virtual tour to see 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.

Open Days

Our events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. We run a number of Open Days throughout the year which enable you to discover what our campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to book a campus tour here.

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 University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.

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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