Aquatic Pathobiology

Study Aquatic Pathobiology and graduate with a university degree

Postgraduate Diploma, MSc

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Aquatic Pathobiology
  • Type Full-time
  • Start date September The course is available on a block-release basis (by selecting individual or a series of modules) over a period not exceeding five academic years.

Dr Trevor Telfer University of Stirling
+44 (0) 1786 467921

The Institute of Aquaculture is one of a handful of institutions worldwide wholly devoted to aquaculture science and is the only university department of its kind in the UK. The Institute is internationally recognised for both research and teaching and has more than 70 staff and 80 postgraduate students.

Our goal is to develop and promote sustainable aquaculture and in pursuit of this carry out research across most areas of aquaculture science including:

  • Reproduction and Genetics
  • Health Management
  • Nutrition
  • Environmental Management
  • Aquaculture Systems and International Development


Course objectives

You will gain an understanding of the biology, husbandry and environment of farmed aquatic species, in addition to specialist expertise in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of aquatic animal diseases in cultured organisms. It is also intended as preparation for students who plan to pursue a PhD in the area of aquatic animal health or disease.

Entrance requirements

A minimum of a second class honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject.  Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence of your proficiency such as a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 (5.5 in all bands).

If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard.

Our range of pre-sessional courses.

Modes of study

Full-time or discontinuous study.

Course start date


The course is available on a block-release basis (by selecting individual or a series of modules) over a period not exceeding five academic years.

Structure and content

The full Master’s course for each degree outcome is divided into four taught modules containing 12 subject areas or topics; two foundation modules, two advanced modules and a single research project module. The overall course is divided into three parts:

Foundation modules
The Foundation modules are taught between September and December. There are six compulsory topics of study within two taught modules, taken consecutively, giving instruction in basic aquaculture concepts and skills. Successful completion of both foundation modules will qualify you for a Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Aquaculture.

Advanced modules
The two advanced modules consisting of six compulsory topics of study are taught between January and April. Successful completion of the advanced modules, subsequent to the foundation modules, will qualify you for a Postgraduate Diploma in Aquatic Pathobiology.

Research Project module
The Research Project module is normally completed between April and August, and involves research in many areas of aquatic animal health. These projects are mostly laboratory based and often result in peer-reviewed publications. Successful completion of the module, subsequent to foundation and advanced modules, will qualify you for an MSc in Aquatic Pathobiology.


The research interesting within the Institute of Aquaculture is highly varied and covers mainy aspects of the technical and policy-based development worldwide. Present research interests are:

Animal Welfare: Impact of husbandry systems on the stress response and welfare of cultured fish.

Applied Fish Physiology: Energy budgeting and metabolism of halibut, carp, cod and tilapia; SDA, nitrogenous metabolites, activity budgeting, oxygen consumption and requirements. Applied anaesthesia and stress considerations.  Remote stereo video imaging and biomass measurement:  Predictive energy budgeting in fish and shrimp.

Aquaculture Engineering: Treatment of aquaculture wastes; aquaculture system design and development; fluid mechanics of fish tanks and incubators.

Aquaculture Nutrition: Nutrition of temperate and tropical finfish and crustaceans; lipid nutrition; antioxidant and carotenoid biochemistry; larval nutrition; control of appetite/fat deposition in fishes; use of agricultural wastes and other products as substitutes in diets; nutrient requirements in relation to digestible energy intakes. The present emphasis is on the lipid nutrition of salmonids and specifically the biochemistry and molecular biology of the desaturases involved in the formation of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Aquaculture Production: Design of production systems, economics and resource use in aquaculture; sustainability of aquaculture, manpower planning, technology transfer.  Use of Geographic Information Systems and satellite imagery in facility planning and natural resource use periphyton-based aquaculture.

Aquatic Molecular Toxicology: Cellular effects of metals, organic pollutants and agrochemicals on aquatic organisms; environmental regulation of genes for detoxification systems; in vitro toxicology as alternatives to whole animals testing; biochemical responses to pollutants as biomarkers of environmental exposure and ecosystem health; fish developmental biology; application of molecular biological and genetic techniques to mechanistic investigations of adaptation of fish populations to polluted environments. 

Biotechnology: Cryopreservation and micromanipulation of fish gametes. The interaction of physico-chemical factors on the viability of post-thawed gametes.

Ecotoxicology: Effects of poorly water soluble compounds on aquatic ecosystems, their structure and function; development of test systems with artificial sediments and benthic communities; field evaluation of novel chemotherapeutants; development of physiological models to predict impacts of toxicants.

Environment: Qualitative and quantitative aspects of water use; micro- and macro-environmental impacts of resource use and waste production; modelling of waste production and impacts; evaluation of Environmental Assessment techniques; remediation; impacts of aquaculture on biodiversity; use of modelling and GIS in coastal management of aquaculture.

Epidemiology: There is currently a project studying the risk factors and control of White Spot disease in cultured shrimp in Vietnam and India.

Histopathology: Finfish and crustacean diseases, with special reference to infectious diseases and therapy. The main emphasis is on the economically significant problems affecting farmed aquatic animals.

Immunology: Production of monoclonal antibody probes against fish pathogens and fish immunoglobulins. Development of rapid methods (including ELISA, imminohistochemistry, IFAT, PCR, in situ hybridisation) to detect a variety of fish bacterial, parasitic, viral and fungal pathogens. Environmental monitoring of fish pathogens using PCR. Development of vaccines to prevent Proliferative Kidney Disease, Bacterial Kidney Disease, Rainbow Trout Fry Syndrome, Pasteurellosis and Aeromonas hydrophila infections. Studies on the effects of dietary additives on the immune response in fish.

International Aquaculture Development: Sustainable and ethical trade and development of aquaculture; the food supply chain and sustainability; socio-economic and poverty elevation through aquaculture production; marketing issues within the food supply chain.

Microbiology: Viral diseases of tropical and temperate fish, e.g. Viral Nervous Necrosis, Infectious Salmon Anaemia;  bacterial diseases of fish, shellfish and amphibians, e.g. bacterial kidney disease, Cytophaga spp. infections, vibriosis in shrimp and frog septicaemic disease.  Disease prevention and therapy; development of novel therapeutic agents and methodology of administration; safety and efficacy studies.

Nutritional pathology: Dietary requirement studies in novel species and their pathologies; specific deficiencies in farmed fish, pancreas disease, Vitamin E, metal toxicity.

Parasitology: Host/parasite interactions; pathology of parasitic infections; parasitic population dynamics in relation to culture condition; epidemiology; diagnostic methods; biosystematics of pathogenic species; molecular biology of parasites; vaccines; sea lice biology; parasite management and control strategies.

Physiological Ecology and Feeding Habits of Cultured Species: Ecology of lakes, reservoirs and ponds and their management for aquaculture; feeding behaviour of tropical food fishes.

Reproduction Biology and Genetics: Reproductive strategies in fish; environmental and hormonal control mechanisms; biological rhythms; fecundity; gamete quality; induced spawning; sex reversal; androgenesis; gynogenesis; hybridisation; sex determination; inbreeding; selection and management of broodstocks; genetic markers; electrophoresis; mitochondrial DNA; species identification; taxonomy and conservation.

Delivery and assessment

The course is delivered though a variety of formats including lectures, practical classes, seminars, field visits and directed study. Assessment consists of a number of assignments in a range of formats. The research project is graded on your activities during the project, your dissertation and a seminar presentation made in front of your peers, supervisors and examiners. The dissertation is examined by Aquaculture and external examiner.

Module titles

Foundation modules:

  • Principles of Aquaculture (topics: Aquatic Animal Biology and Health, Aquatic Animals in the Environment, Aquatic Animal Nutrition and Food Safety) (AQUPX1)
  • Aquaculture Production (topics: Aquatic Animal Reproduction & Genetics, Aquatic Production Systems, Aquaculture in Practice) (AQUPX2)

Advanced modules:

  • Aquaculture Diseases & Diagnosis (topics: Systemic Pathology & Histopathology, Parasitic Diseases, Microbial Diseases) (AQUPW1)
  • Aquaculture Disease Treatment (topics: Immunology, Epidemiology and Health Control, Ecotoxicology) (AQUPW2)

Research Project

Module information

Course Director

Dr Trevor Telfer

RAE rating

The Institute of Aquaculture, with a rating of 2.45 in the latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), was graded the top aquaculture department in the UK.


The degree has been taught for almost 40 years and only one of its kind. It give students the unique opportunity to study the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of aquatic animal diseases in cultured organisms in one of the top institutions of the world.

Career opportunities

This course has run for almost 40 years and has trained over 200 students (in combination with Aquatic Pathobiology) from all over the world. It equips graduates with expertise applicable to a wide range of potential careers. The career path selected depends on your personal interests, as well as your previous experiences. Our graduates generally find employment in their area of interest and the world employment market in the area of aquatic animal health remains buoyant.

The course provides a natural career progression for most candidates and a conversion course for others wishing to enter the field. It also provides training for those who wish to pursue a PhD, especially in aquaculture, aquatic health, fisheries and aquatic resources management.

Over the last five intakes, in combination with the Aquatic Veterinary Studies degree, about 30 percent of graduates have gone on to a PhD or further research, about 25 percent have taken employment as aquatic health consultants, about 20 percent work in government fisheries departments, about 15 percent are university lecturers and the remainder are managers of farms or aquaria or have other types of employment.



You should expect to pay fees for every year you are in attendance and be aware fees are subject to revision and may increase annually. Students on programmes of study of more than one year should take this into account when applying.


Masters Scholarships

The Scottish Funding Council is funding Home/EU tuition fees for a number of places on this course.  Funded places are open to applicants domiciled in Scotland and the EU.  More information

Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan

This course is currently approved for PTFL (Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan) funding from SAAS.  More information

Information on possible sources of funding