BSc (Hons) Marine Biology - Course overview
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Students on the field course in Portugal

From microbes to whales

The oceans and the creatures that inhabit them have fascinated mankind from time immemorial. From the accessible coastal margins, where most of our fisheries are, to the deepest depths, that are only beginning to be explored, there is life - and life in abundance! The study of this life is marine biology. The marine biology course focuses on the biology of whole organisms, from the diversity of life within a drop of seawater to the feeding biology of a whale, and emphasises the importance of an experimental approach to this multifaceted discipline.

Marine Biology with Plymouth University

This course will provide you with the skills and knowledge to participate in, and contribute to, our deepening understanding of the various fields of scientific investigation which constitute marine biology at the beginning of the 21st century. Central to this course is the observational and experimental study of selected aspects of the ecology, physiology and evolution of marine organisms. This requires application of various approaches ranging from theoretical ecology to molecular biology. ​
Plymouth has an unrivalled location and reputation as a centre for marine biology.  Much of the teaching is supported by practical lab and field work, with two residential field courses: one in France during the first year and another, currently in Portugal, at the beginning of the second year. Students also undertake their own research project in their third year, with many encouraged to publish their projects as papers in scientific journals. 

Jellyfishstudents in the labCoccolithophoresStudents observing Orcas

Rachel Cole

View our graduate profiles

Students doing rocky shore field work.jpg

What our students say

"The Marine Biology Degree at Plymouth University has really opened my eyes to the amount of aspects the subject covers. The course is quite varied allowing you to find out what kind of Marine Biologist you want to become, whether it's a diving researcher surveying the sea bed, a microbiologist working in the lab, or a rock pool ecologist, the list is endless!
The amount of opportunities presented to you on the course is great! It doesn't get boring because it's not all lectures... there's plenty of exciting lab sessions and countless visits to the beautiful South Devon shores to explore the wild marine life. There are also the field trips abroad where you can take the skills you have learned in the UK and apply them to marine animals you wouldn't find in this country, plus it's fun to go with your course mates.
Plymouth is the only University in the UK to offer students the choice of becoming a HSE PRO SCUBA Commercial Diver which makes you more employable during and after Uni. I did it, and now I dive in the National Marine Aquarium and dive for PhD students helping them to collect data."

Rachel Cole, Marine Biology student

Ross Bullimore, a recent graduate of the course, talks about his experiences of studying at Plymouth in the video below:

Discover what the marine biology course at Plymouth University could offer you:

Professor John Spicer teaching students on the field course in Portugal

Meet some of the lecturers

Professor Richard Thompson
Professor Richard Thompson is one of the course lecturers. His research focuses on three main topics: the effects of plastic debris in the marine environment; the ecology and conservation of shallow water habitats; and the modification of engineered structures, such as coastal defences and off-shore renewable energy devices, in order to create habitats that will enhance biodiversity.

Read more about Richard's research

Professor John Spicer teaches some of the modules in this programme. He has extensive teaching experience, and is known as a lively and entertaining lecturer. His own research interests include the effects of climate change on the physiology of marine invertebrates, and how changes in the timing of different aspects of the development of organisms may reveal how species evolve.
The photograph (left) shows John teaching students on the field course in Portugal.


The South West - a superb natural environment for fieldwork

The shores and clear coastal waters of Devon and Cornwall provide an unrivalled resource for marine biologists. A diverse range of rich coastal habitats - estuaries, sandy beaches, and rocky shores - are readily accessible for field trips and your own projects.
 Students on the shore at Bigbury
A recent World Wildlife Fund report highlights the South Devon coast as the area of highest marine biodiversity in the whole of the UK. We have rich rocky shores right on the waterfront of the city – five minutes from the campus and a range of coastal sites with varied ecology just a short drive from the city. Our field work programme is constantly praised by External Examiners who have commented that “few other universities offering degrees in marine biology have such good facilities.” 
students doing field work on the rocky shore.jpg

​The City of Plymouth as an international centre for marine science research

Marine biology staff are members of the Marine Biology & Ecology Research Centre. Besides the University, Plymouth is home to other internationally renowned establishments —  the Marine Biological Association of the UK, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, the National Marine Aquarium, and the Diving Diseases Research Centre.
Smeaton's Tower Plymouth Hoe.jpg
We collaborate in many research projects with these organisations and, as a student, you will have opportunities to benefit from the great intellectual environment this provides through numerous talks, events and activities. Many of our students gain valuable experience whilst working or volunteering, or conducting research for their final year dissertations in association with these organisations.




Diving opportunities at Plymouth 

Plymouth has wonderful diving opportunities, and the Marine Centre at the University offers training courses to students.
Students learning to dive with the University Dive Centre
Many of our recent graduates are regularly working as divers on TV documentaries, as well as surveyors for environmental consultancy firms, British Antarctic Survey, and Government agencies.
Photo of Terri Souster