School of Life Sciences

Field Trips

Field trips are a core part of the educational experience for our life sciences students.

scuba diver selfie
Whatever your degree you will have opportunities to travel off-campus

We believe field trips are integral to ecology and marine biology training. Our students enter the field in the first few weeks of their degrees. These local trips are to the Colne Estuary and Brightlingsea harbour. Later in the year, students receive UK field training in Scotland.Second year students have the opportunity to undertake field work in the Wakatobi National Park in (Indonesia), Samos in Greece, and the Finnish Arctic.

Final year students can attend the local the local Estuarine and Coastal Ecology course, and conduct field-based research as part of their final year projects.

For marine biology students, our campus position very close to the Essex coast gives us access to both freshwater and saltwater environments. In addition to UK-based trips, we also arrange fieldtrips abroad to give students experience of tropical marine environments. Previous locations for our international trips have included Indonesia, where we have helped preserve coral reefs, as well as Greece and Croatia.

For our biomedical, biochemistry, and biological sciences students, our staff arrange trips to laboratories and professional institutions across the UK.

UK-based field trips

Field trips don’t just give you a chance to study marine life in its natural habitat. You will also learn and practice an important set of skills that will be essential for your own projects, including identification skills for a range of flora and fauna, survey and sampling techniques for environmental factors and animals, and recognising safety issues and implementing the correct guidance.

Local ecology

Undergraduate and postgraduate students who are taking marine biology modules attend field trips that are easily accessible from our Colchester Campus, namely theColne (around Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea) and Blackwater (Mersea Island and Maldon) estuaries.

These estuaries are home to a rich saltmarsh environment. The Blackwater estuary in particular is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and Mersea Island is the only Marine Conservation Zone in England for native oysters.

Academics in our department carry out a range of research projects in these areas, which will help influence conservation work to protect the ecosystem for generations to come. This means that your trips will be led by people who are experts in our local environments.

Coral reef close up shot

East of England coast

Outside of the classroom you have access to other coastal areas that may interest you.

Wivenhoe train station has a regular service along the coast to Walton-on-the-Naze (fossil shark tooth heaven) and Clacton-on-Sea.

If you’d like to go further afield, then Colchester Station has frequent trains to Norwich, where you can reach the stunning East Anglian coastline around the towns of Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Cromer, and Sheringham.

Our easy train access to London also means you can take a weekend trip to southern coastal towns such as Bournemouth, Brighton, and Hastings.

International trips

Marine biology students also have opportunities to take part in field trips abroad. These experiences broaden the knowledge base of our students, and helps them develop their scientific skills in a new environment.


Our School has particular expertise in the marine ecosystems of Indonesia, with work by our researchers leading to Wakatobi Marine National Park receiving UNESCO status in 2012.

Scuba divers getting dressed


In spring 2022 our marine biology students took part in a five-day field trip to Croatia.

Based on the beautiful Silba Island, part of an archipelago to the west of the mainland, students took part in outdoor lectures and seminars, walked along the coastline for site surveys, and dove in the Adriatic to carry out reef surveys and ecosystem analysis.

Students learned about the delicate marine environment of the Adriatic, including identification of the species that are unique to this area.


In 2022, our students visited Greece to learn valuable technical skills such as how drone and remotely operatives vehicle (ROV) video footage is used to study seagrass and coralligenous reef ecosystems.

Group of students on a boat posing for a picture with the rocky cliffs of Greece behind them in the background


Whatever degree you study, from undergraduate level to PhD, or biochemistry to tropical marine biology, you will have opportunities to attend conferences in your area of interest.

Some of these trips are organised by your lecturers and will involve a group of students attending a one-day event. Alternatively, information about upcoming events may be circulated by the School and you will be encouraged to make your own arrangements to attend.

Conferences are an excellent way for you to broaden your professional networks, meet your peers and discuss their learning and research experiences, and hear interesting talks and the latest research from other experts.

Biomedical and biochemistry trips

Students on our biomedical and biochemistry degrees will have opportunities for their own field trips throughout their studies.

We arrange trips to laboratories, such as NHS biomedical labs, where you will see the technology and skills you learn in the classroom put into practice.

We also run a non-residential field course around the coastlines and estuaries of Essex, developing practical skills whilst working alongside local stakeholders, conservation charities and regulatory partners to understand the role of academic research within the wider context of managing and protecting coastal ecosystems. This combines fieldwork with lab skills for an intense week of studying our soft sediment coastlines, understanding the main ecological drivers, the socio-political framework of coastal management, and the impact of human activity on coastal ecosystems.

What is it like?

Read Russel Smart's blog on the stimulating and enjoyable aspect of acting as field course technician on residential marine and ecology field modules to Indonesia, Greece, and Scotland.