FAQ's about the Marine Biology Degree

What will I study on the Marine Biology degree at Stirling?

Your interest in the marine environment may have been developed by watching fascinating television programmes or simply rock-pooling on holiday. In the first year we will build on whatever knowledge you have with a fascinating look at Our Blue Planet. Cell biology, Laboratory and Field skills, Animal Physiology and Our Thirsty Planet (all about man's thirsty relationship with water) will also form the core first year subjects, through a mixture of lectures, practical and fieldwork.

In the second year Introduction to Aquatic environments will explore the nature of freshwater and marine systems, their biology, physics and chemistry. This will be accompanied by courses in Statistics, Evolution & Genetics, Biodiversity, and Science of Diving. The latter covers the physiology and science behind diving, as well as other forms of underwater observation and research.

Modules in the third year include Microbiology, Management of Living Aquatic Resources (which includes fisheries), Animal Physiology, Issues in Marine Biology, and Aquaculture, as well as an intensive field-based module before the summer break.

Between the third and fourth year, students embark on the residential Marine Mammals field course, currently in the Scottish Islands, which continues with further study during semester 7, alongside Advanced Marine Taxonomy and Systematics, which covers everything from worms to sea squirts.

A major part of the Honours (4th) year is the Honours Project module, which runs over both semesters and involves individual research work alongside a named academic supervisor. This culminates in the writing of the honours thesis, and giving an oral presentation of your findings. This project gives you the opportunity to research a topic of particular interest with support from our experienced staff. There are considerable opportunities for project work overseas as well as in the UK.

4 years will pass quickly and it is up to you to make the most of your time at Stirling. We will provide the means and materials, the exhilaration and inspiration and you just need to enjoy the experience of learning about marine biology!

Why is the Institute of Aquaculture offering a degree in Marine Biology?

The Institute of Aquaculture has an excellent world wide reputation in the fields of aquaculture and aquatic science. With a highly skilled and expert team of scientists with well equipped state-of-the-art laboratories, many of the skills needed to work in the respective fields of science are common between Marine Biology and Aquaculture.

Many of our staff have themselves studied Marine Biology and decided later to specialise in one of the disciplines that makes up what is called Aquaculture. The Institute is a very well equipped department, with excellent teaching facilities, tropical and freshwater aquaria and marine and freshwater external facilities, all available to support the study of Marine Biology.

The Institute is therefore well placed to offer a Marine Biology degree.

There are quite a few Universities offering Marine Biology Degrees - What is so

First and foremost Stirling University is an excellent place to study. The campus provides beautiful surroundings, student facilities are excellent and with the distinction of being “Scotland' s University for Sporting Excellence”, the sports facilities are world-class.

The City of Stirling is a lovely and relaxed place to live, a mixture of the historic and contemporary, with much to offer in terms of nightlife and culture. The cost of living is cheaper than other central belt locations such as Glasgow or Edinburgh. It has one of the lowest drop-out rates in the UK and the student union has been voted the “best bar none” in 2005, 6 and 7. The University was ranked as best University in the UK for “a good place to be” (International Student Barometer, 2008) and ranks in the top 3 Universities in Scotland for Student satisfaction (National Student Survey 2008).

Stirling University degree programmes are flexible, and offer the opportunity to study a range of subjects in core Marine Biology, but with sufficient flexibility to allow the study of other biology, conservation and ecology modules offered by our sister division of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

The Institute of Aquaculture is a world class institution which is able to build on its strengths in Aquaculture and to be able to offer students a unique combination of applied and traditional Marine Biology subjects to study. We are centrally located for access to both the East and West coasts of Scotland with a diversity of shores and coastal waters and habitats. The chance to see whales and dolphins during one of our extended field courses, the chance to study diverse and varied marine habitats, and the opportunity to learn modern scientific techniques are just a few of the reasons why Stirling is an excellent for budding Marine Biologists.

At Stirling you will be taught in a friendly, dynamic and encouraging environment and you will be encouraged to develop your own interests and expertise in Marine Biology during your stay here.

Where does the Marine Biology course lead? What are my job prospects?

The transferrable skills and expertise gained at Stirling makes our graduates very employable. 96% of Stirling graduates find jobs within 6 months of completing their degrees. Our students are sought after in relevant areas of employment such as:

Environmental protection, environmental impact assessment, environmental and conservation fields, pollution control, water companies, fisheries management, governmental regulatory departments and the aquaculture sector.

In addition, there is a wide range of more general graduate employment, such as pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies, bioinformatics, health and clinical sciences, forensic science and medical sales and marketing, science journalism and teaching.

There is also the option to gain further advanced post-graduate training to Masters and PhD levels for those wishing to develop specialist skills and/or follow a research career.

Of course it is important to consider your future career, but it is equally important to complete a degree in Marine Biology or Aquaculture that will inspire you, exhilarate you, will make you think, will give you up-to-date transferable skills, will give you an advantage when the time comes to graduate and will give you an all-round experience that you will never forget.

I love whales and dolphins. Will I get the chance to study these?

Yes, in detail on the Marine Biology Honours programme only.

At Stirling we are close both the East and West coasts of Scotland where seals, whales, dolphins, porpoise and many species of sea bird are abundant. These will be studied in a general way in years one and two, but in year 4 during our Marine Mammals and Turtle Biology module you will have the opportunity to view these animals at close quarters and to study their taxonomy, behaviour and biology. This may inspire a desire to conduct a research project on these animals and we will try our very best to accommodate this.

Many people are attracted to marine biology through a fascination with the beauty and behaviour of the big marine animals. That is all very well but as a Marine Biologist you need to know about all aspects of marine life, from the very smallest to the very biggest and all sizes in between. The Marine Biology programme will give you plenty of opportunity to study the wide diversity of animals and plants that live in our seas and oceans.

What is a typical week on a Marine Biology course?

There is not really such a thing as a typical week in Stirling. You may be in lectures, you may be in the lab or carrying out fieldwork on the shore and each week the content varies. So there is always plenty of interesting work to occupy you.

The University operates a two-semester system and in each semester you will normally be studying 3 modules at a time, totalling 6 per year. Most modules consist of 3 lectures per week and typically a practical session every week or two. The structure varies according to the subject and practicals will be a mixture of laboratory and field-based work.

There are dedicated reading weeks mid-semester and before exams. As with any university course, there is the expectation of a large amount of independent study, which can be in your own home or our recently refurbished library and study space.

In your final year, you will complete a piece of research for which you will contribute to the experimental design and you will manage the time and effort required to complete this work. This is completed with the presentation of a report and an oral presentation to complete your degree programme and is equivalent to a triple module.

Outside these commitments, the campus and the city of Stirling offer many eating and drinking opportunities, time for socialising and developing as an individual. However, it's well worth looking at the opportunities on campus too, such as joining a course-relevant club or society - maybe the ever-popular diving club!

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