MSc Coastal & Marine Environments: Physical Processes, Policy & Practice

General information

The MSc in Coastal and Marine Environments is directed at graduates from Geography, Natural Sciences and other related disciplines in the social and natural sciences, and at professionals in the field who are interested in furthering their knowledge of the field.

Coastal and marine environments are critical to local and national economies, support diverse habitats and communities, and provide a suite of ecosystem services. This field-intensive postgraduate programme examines emerging discourses surrounding the long-term health, use, and management of coastal and marine systems.


Programme Structure

Coastal and Marine Environments: Physical Processes, Policy and Practice is a full-time postgraduate MSc programme delivered over 3 semesters (12 months). It is directed at graduates from Geography, Natural Sciences and other related disciplines in the social and natural sciences, and at professionals in the field who are interested in furthering their knowledge of coastal and marine environments. A part-time option is available for mid-career EU residents with professional backgrounds and training. 

Modules (all 10 ECTS unless otherwise stated) 

Field and Laboratory Methods (Dr Aaron Potito). This module outlines the principles of designing and implementing a research project: collecting representative data in the field; coding data and database construction; quantitative data analysis; and mapping and spatial data analysis within a Geographic Information System. The aim of the module is to instill in students the ability to collect primary and secondary data, analyse those data, draw conclusions, and present findings in a meaningful and professional manner. 

Coastal Processes and Landforms (Dr. Eugene Farrell). The purpose of this module is to provide a general introduction to the discipline of coastal geomorphology, a review of coastal environments and related problems, and a more detailed consideration of beach-dune systems. Specifically, this module will focus on identifying and understanding the complex relationships between the suite of physical processes actively shaping the coast. Emphasis is put on critical analyses of the process-landform models (e.g. sediment transfers; system equilibria) operating on different time scales (seconds to millenia). Other themes will examine how multi-disciplinary field based sciences are designed and used to inform future coastal management strategies. 

Reconstructing Marine Environments (Dr Audrey Morley). This module introduces the concept of using a multidisciplinary ecosystem approach to study the marine environment, incorporating key disciplines such as geomorphology, physical and chemical oceanography, and marine geosciences. Teaching focuses on the practical, cross-disciplinary skills involved in sample and data acquisition and processing, deployment and operation of equipment and instrumentation and analyses of these data. 

Biodiversity and Coastal Change (Dr Terry Morley). Coastal habitats are one of the most sensitive environments to climate change. This course aims to foster an interdisciplinary assessment and analysis of coastal biodiversity science and conservation within a context of global change. Students will learn techniques used to identify, monitor, and analyse biodiversity at multiple scales and ecosystems, and how to assess coastal habitat sensitivity to environmental change. Students will be exposed to current ecological methods, major threats to coastal environments, and the legislastive framework used to implement conservation and restoration in coastal ecosystems. The course will provide hands' on training in the R statistical programming language via DataCamp online data science education.  

The Tropical Ocean and Global Climate (Dr Gordon Bromley). This module explores the processes of low-latitude ocean-atmosphere heat transfer and the mechanisms by which local perturbations are transmitted globally. Students will be introduced to current concepts in tropical climate dynamics, physical records of past tropical change, and the ramifications of tropical instability for global climate. Emphasis will be placed on the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, which represents the dominant source of global climate variability on Earth today. Case studies will demonstrate the marine, terrestrial, and human aspects of the role of the tropical oceans in global climate. 

Marine Spatial Planning and Policy (Dr Liam M. Carr). This module critically explores how society has viewed and used coastal and marine environments throughout history, examines evolving views on how these systems have been valued, evaluates various policies and practices employed in its management, and identifies current and future issues that threaten coastal and marine system functionality and resilience. Students will be introduced to a range of tools used in managing coastal and marine environments, and will investigate policy and practice suitability at both single- and multi-sector levels. Special attention will be given to the suite of EU policies concerning coastal and marine systems, including the Habitats Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Water Framework Directive, Common Fisheries Policy, and the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive. Governance policies will be critiqued and students will gain experience in understanding the role and impact of public outreach and media coverage. 

Dissertation (Independent Research Project; Advisor selected for project). This is a key module in the programme. It allows students to develop, organise and execute a research project based on independent research which will bring to the fore their critical analysis skills, their practical and applied skills and their ability to link classroom and real world challenges. The conducting of an independent research project is one of the foremost skills developed during a student’s academic career.

Learning outcome:

Career Opportunities. With coastal and marine resources increasingly promoted as being central to revitalising the Irish and global economy, the coming years will require well informed and educated leaders who understand the complexities of the interaction between the economy and health of these environments. Our taught Masters programme has been designed to integrate science, policy and governance so that students are trained to start professional careers in these areas. On graduating you will have opportunities across various fields including, but not limited to: Coastal and Marine Science, Environmental Monitoring, Professional Consultancy, Ecological Appropriate Assessment, Socio-Economic Impact Assessment, State/Semistate/NGOs, Environmental and Project Management, Planning, Governance, University and Private Research, Terrestrial and Oceanographic Surveys, Tourism, GIS, Heritage, and Teaching. 


Through lectures, workshops, ship time, field work, and independent research, MSc students are challenged to:

  • Engage scientifically and critically analyse how coastal and marine systems function and are used by communities;
  • Evaluate plans and policies that address the complex relationships between coastal and marine environments and communities;
  • Assess how well policies and legislation work to ensure long-term ecosystem sustainability and mitigate negative impacts on coastal communities and sectors. 
Contact Person: Dr Liam M. Carr (


The highlighted icons, represent the fields of education (in compliance with ISCED Classification) engaged during this course/programme.

0031 - Project management", "0312 - Policy and governance", "0511 - Biology", "0521 - Ecology", "0522 - Conservation and environmental management", "0532 - Marine Geology", "0532 - Physical and chemical oceanography", "0731 - Marine spatial planning


Venue: National University of Ireland
Galway, Ireland

College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies
School of Geography and Archaeology



Fees: EU

€6,400 p.a. FT; €3,255 p.a. PT 2019/20

Fees: Tuition

€6,176 p.a. FT; €3,087 p.a. PT 2019/20

Fees: Student levy

€224 p.a. FT; €168 p.a. PT 2019/20

Fees: Non EU

€15,550 p.a. 2019/20

Please note:  The fee payable by EU students is listed under "Fees: EU".  This field is the sum of the student levy + tuition.  Fees are payable each year and are subject to change year-on year.

Postgraduate students in receipt of a SUSI grant—please note an F4 grant is where SUSI will pay €2,000 towards your tuition.  You will be liable for the remainder of the total fee.  An F5 grant is where SUSI will pay TUITION up to a maximum of €6,270.  SUSI will not cover the student levy of €224. 

Postgraduate fee breakdown = tuition (EU or NON EU) + student levy as outlined above.


Completion of Undergraduate Degree (Level 8 or Equivalent) at Second Class Honours or Equivalent (+3.0 GPA). Selection is based on a review of candidate’s academic record at the undergraduate level, professional interests and goals, and level of relevant experience.

Application Procedure:

For postgraduate courses, click here to make your application.  You will need an active email account to use the website and you'll be guided through the system, step by step, until you complete the online form. Browse the FAQ's section for further guidance. The cost of applying is €35 and is a non-refundable application fee.

You must upload to your application electronically. You will be given instructions on what documents are required once you submit your application.You can see online in advance what supporting documents you're likely to be asked for. 

International students whose first language is not English must demonstrate that their English language ability meets the required standard for admission by providing the results of an English language proficiency test, such as TOEFL or IELTS.  Further information can be obtained here.

Assessment Dates for Applications

For most programmes, NUI Galway does not set specific closing dates for receipt of applications. Course quotas will be reviewed at specified times during the application cycle. As many courses fill up quickly, you are advised to apply as early as possible. Candidates who do not have their final degree marks available may be made a conditional (provisional) offer. 

Review dates for taught programmes are as follows: 

1 December 2018         

1 January 2019

1 February 2019

1 April 2019

1 June 2019

Applications will continue to be reviewed in the summer months if there are still programme places available. If programmes become filled in early rounds (as early offers are accepted) new applications will not be accepted and these programmes will then be closed . You are therefore encouraged to apply early.

Unsuccessful Applications

If your application has been unsuccessful, you can find out why by contacting the relevant Programme Director or College Office directly for more information.



Academic level: Master

Qualification: Master of Science

Occupations (not validated):
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