Start Date: Monday 21st September 2015
Monday 21st September 2015
The marine environment supports a huge variety of ecosystems. Some are extremely diverse and productive such as coral reefs and mangroves, others the equivalent of marine deserts, with very low productivity and species diversity. This range of habitats is reflected in the adaptations we observe in marine life, from the light producing bioluminescent deep sea angler fish, to the giant whale sharks that sieve the oceans for tiny planktonic copepods.
Whale shark off the Seychelles
The seas have sustained man for millennia, producing an abundance of food. Today we harvest over one hundred million tons of sea food annually, often pursuing valuable species to the point of extinction. We have already experienced the effects of over fishing, with the collapse of a number of fisheries thought to be inexhaustible.
Technology has given us the capacity to denude the seas on a massive scale. It is now up to fisheries scientists, marine biologists and politicians to impose restraints based on biological and economic models, that ensure the seas are harvested sustainably in the future. This has already been achieved by a number of countries including Iceland and New Zealand both of which have very healthy fish stocks.
This module explores the broad principles underlying marine biology, followed by a more detailed look at a range of marine organisms and ecosystems, including coral reefs, the intertidal zone and the deep sea. This will enable you to gain a general understanding of the processes at work in the marine environment and relate these to specific ecosystems and adaptations of organisms.
Topics will also include aquaculture and fisheries, examining the main methods used, their ecological impact and the scientific basis of a more sustainable approach.
Topics covered will include.
- Introduction to marine environments
- Marine organisms including plants, animals and microorganisms
- Ecology and biodiversity of marine ecosystems including the open ocean, deep sea, coral reefs, sea grass beds, kelp forests, mangroves, tidal zones and estuaries
- Fish physiology, nutrition and behaviour
- Human impacts on the marine environment
- Fisheries science
Learning / Teaching Methods
This course is delivered via the internet using an online system called ELE: the Exeter Learning Environment. Students will be given a username and password to log in to the course. A 'unit' of course material will be released every week for students to work through and class discussions on this material will take place in the online forum.
Class discussions are asynchronous - i.e. students do not need to be online at a 'set' time - they can leave and collect messages from the online discussion environment at a time suitable for them.
Throughout the course, students will be given ideas to respond to in the online discussion area; these are optional and there are no assignments in terms of essays or other marked work. Students who might like to undertake a short piece of written work may be able to arrange this with the tutor on an individual basis.
As this course is non-credit-bearing there are no exams or assessments.
This course will help students to acquire:
- An understanding of the physical properties of the marine environment
- Awareness of the biological aspects of the marine environment
- Familiarity with the diversity of marine organisms and their classification
- An appreciation of the different marine ecosystems and their importance within the marine environment
- Basic familiarity with fish physiology, nutrition and behaviour
- Awareness of key principles of fisheries science and mariculture
- An appreciation of the human pressures affecting marine habitats and their conservation
There are no required texts for this course, however one of the following texts would be useful if you wish to undertake further reading:
Karleskint, G (2009). Introduction to Marine Biology (International edition of 3rd ed). Brooks/Cole.
M.J.Kaiser et al (2011). Marine Ecology, Processes, Systems and Impacts (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press.
Alternatively there is a wealth of information on-line, these are some general websites that provide excellent information on marine biology subjects, further relevant web links will be provided throughout the course:
General marine biology:
Marine Biological Association of the UK:
- Census of Marine Life:
- World Register of Marine Species: