Languages for All
Short Courses
Your basket
Your account

Marine Biology and Ecology

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

Learn about the formation of the earth and its oceans before focusing on a variety of ecosystems along with the biology and ecology of the creatures that live there.  Examine the bigger picture between the oceans and the atmosphere and take a trip to the seaside to observe some local marine life. There will be an optional field trip to visit the rocky shore at Joppa in week 9 and students will make their own way to the field site.

Please note, this course includes a field trip. The tutor will confirm the details two weeks in advance once tide times are available. Please get in contact if you have any concerns regarding accessibility of the field trip.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge required.

Content of Course

1. Oceans and Ecosystems: From past to present.  The formation of the earth and the oceans, the origins of life and the properties of water.

2. The Shoreline: Coastal geomorphology and its influence on living creatures.  Physical and ecological factors influencing the distribution of marine life.

3. The Continental Shelf: The habitat and man's use of it, oil rigs, wind farms and recreation.

4. Open Water: Examples of global ocean ecosystems and the role currents and winds play in the distribution of organisms and pollutants.

5. Fish biology and natural history:  Fishing and fisheries and their impact on natural stock levels.

6. Coral Reefs:  The importance of symbiosis and importance of corals in the ecosystem. Environmental issues of ecotourism and climate change.

7. Deep Sea:  Benthic dwellers and adaptations to extreme living conditions.  Hydrothermal vent, cold seeps and life without the sun.

8. Climate Change and Global Warming. The North and South Pole ecosystems and the impact of melting ice caps.  Gaia, the bigger picture and the relationship between biology and climate.

9. Field Trip:  A trip to a local rocky shore and a chance to work in groups to examine the organisms found there and how their distribution is affected by the physical environment (may be on different weeks depending on tides).

10. Giants of the sea and the future of the oceans. The biology and habitats of squid, sharks, dolphins and whales and a summary of the main threats to the oceans posed by man.

Teaching method(s)

Each class will be part lecture and part discussion.  Use of relevant video clips to illustrate key topics and mystery objects will be provided to support discussions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Describe the various habitats in the marine environment and the specific characteristics of each;

  • Recognise some of the creatures in these habitats and their physical adaptations associated with dwelling there;

  • Explain the environmental threats facing these habitats and the consequences of these on the global environment.


Core Readings


No single suitable textbook covers all the course material. Class handouts with lecture notes, diagrams and glossary will be provided instead.


  • Barnes , R.S.K. and Hughes, R.N.,1999.  An introduction to marine ecology. 3rd ed.  Blackwell scientific, UK.

  • Campbell, A.C., 2004.  The Hamlyn guide to the seashore and shallow seas of Britain and Europe.  Hamlyn, London.

  • Nybakken, J.W. and Bertness, M.D.,  2005.  Marine biology: An ecological approach.  6th ed.  Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco.

Web Sources

Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.