School of Life Sciences

Our environment

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The University of Essex stands out as a premier institution for students seeking to contribute to a greener future

Through its exceptional campus site, cutting-edge facilities, enriching related events, expert staff, and the advantageous local environment, Essex provides an unparalleled educational experience. The integration of practical learning with theoretical knowledge places students in a unique position to excel in the field of environmental studies.

Exceptional campus site

Located in a region with diverse ecosystems, the University of Essex offers direct access to a range of natural habitats. The University of Essex is located within Wivenhoe Park; 220 acres of award-winning parkland with lakes, grassland and many varieties of trees. Importantly for our marine biologists, our campus is situated near the Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne estuaries - an area designated as a Marine Conservation Zone in 2013. These waterways are home to a vast array of waterbirds and are the location for several research projects, such as the restoration of our European oyster populations

Having this natural resource on our doorstep means our students get out in the field in the first few weeks of their degree. This unique positioning is ideal for students of environmental ecology and marine biology, providing them with the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning and research in real-world settings.

State-of-the-art facilities

The School of Life Sciences at Essex is equipped with modern facilities that are essential for the study of environmental ecology and marine biology. These include advanced laboratories, research centres, and field equipment. These facilities underscore the university's commitment to supporting in-depth research and practical learning experiences.

Outside of the classroom you have access to other coastal areas that may take your interest. Wivenhoe train station has a regular service further up 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 North station has frequent trains to Norwich, where you can change to get to the beautiful Anglian coastline around the towns of Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Cromer, and Sheringham.

A hand holding a thermal imaging camera in front of some plants. The screen on the camera shows some shades of orange, yellow and green.
Facilities in the School of Life Sciences

Our facilities include Ecology and Environmental Microbiology, Bioimaging, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Biophysical and Biochemical, and Molecular Cell Biology and Cell Culture laboratories.


Commitment to sustainability

The University of Essex's dedication to sustainability further enriches the learning experience for students in these fields. Through initiatives and projects aimed at reducing environmental impact, students can see principles of sustainability in action and contribute to meaningful change.

We are committed to making an impact locally, regionally and internationally by engaging with and supporting coastal communities. We will be working in partnership with service users, policy makers, frontline professionals and the public. We will build on the University’s track record of working in collaboration with local authorities and national groups, including the Coastal Communities Alliance, the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System, Essex County Council and Tendring District Council. Our new Centre for Coastal Communities will benefit from strong links to the University’s strengths in data analytics, public health, outreach, the arts, new technology and cross-disciplinary research.

Engaging events

The University is active in hosting and participating in events that connect students with the broader scientific community, including seminars, workshops, and conferences. These events facilitate learning beyond the classroom, offering students opportunities to network with professionals and engage with the latest research and developments in their fields.

Last year, the latest science on fish habitat ecology was showcased at this prestigious FSBI 2023 Annual International Symposium, held at the University of Essex.

Rich local environment

The local environment surrounding the Essex campus is a living laboratory for students of environmental ecology and marine biology. The proximity to coastlines, estuaries, and natural reserves allows for a variety of field trips and research projects. Students have the opportunity to study diverse ecosystems and species first-hand, gaining practical experience that is invaluable to their education and future careers.

Our local estuaries are home to a lush 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 have helped influence conservation work to protect the ecosystem for generations to come.

Diver on a coral reef
Explore the local natural environment as part of your degree

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.

Field trips in the School of Life Sciences

Let's make the world a better place together

For prospective students passionate about making a difference in environmental ecology and marine biology, the University of Essex offers a comprehensive educational experience that combines rigorous academic study with practical, hands-on learning. The unique campus site, modern facilities, engaging events, expert staff, and the rich local environment make Essex the best place to pursue your studies and prepare for a successful career in these vital fields.

For more information and to apply, view our environmental courses below.

Expert staff

The academics and technicians at the University of Essex include leading experts in environmental ecology and marine biology. These accomplished professionals bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the classroom, providing students with insights into current research and future trends in the field. The expertise of the School ensures that students receive a high-quality education that is both comprehensive and current.

Essex as a living laboratory

The University of Essex – Colchester Campus is home to various plant and tree species. Indeed, this unique aspect of our campus sets it apart as an exceptional educational environment. The School of Life Sciences is committed to fostering a dynamic and immersive learning experience for our students, and one way we plan to achieve this is by developing our campus into a living laboratory.

The diverse array of flora on our campus not only enhances its beauty but also serves as a rich resource for scientific exploration and academic inquiry. We want our campus to be a place where researchers, students, and even curious visitors actively participate in discovering and understanding the natural world. By transforming our campus into a living laboratory, this experience will help them connect with their surroundings and learn more about the diverse plant life on our campus.

Through biological surveys (e.g. BioBlitz), mapping, and data collection, we plan to introduce a comprehensive signage system and a dedicated mobile app that will serve as guides and educational tools for all who explore our green spaces.

Signages will display the names and characteristics of different species and provide significant information about their ecological importance. Additionally, our innovative mobile app will act as a virtual guide, featuring interactive maps, detailed descriptions of plant species, and information on the sustainability measures to maintain these botanical wonders. These initiatives will enable students to seamlessly integrate their studies and research projects with their surroundings, promote the University of Essex as an ideal choice for life sciences studies, and inspire positive action within the local community.