MSc/MRes Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology

General information

Do you want to help find new solutions to manage our marine natural resources?

Run in collaboration with staff at Marine Scotland Science, this MSc programme will provide you with an appreciation of the key issues that are central to the management of marine resources, practical skills and field work experience that you can apply to real world situations and opportunities to expand your professional network.

Taught by renowned researchers and leading practitioners you will gain valuable insights into marine ecosystems in Scotland and internationally. You will learn to analyse and interpret marine data sets, understand relevant policy, write professional reports and apply your knowledge and skills to the challenging task of managing marine resources.

Studying at world class facilities, you will have the opportunity to undertake field research in marine ecology at several stations like Oceanlab and Cromarty Lighthouse. There are also opportunities to carry out research in partnership with professional agencies such as Marine Scotland Science (MSS), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

This MSc is aimed at individuals with a relevant undergraduate degree who wish to gain specialist knowledge and technical skills. The programme will benefit individuals looking to progress to PhD level and those already working in marine sciences who are keen to upgrade their knowledge and skills.

Why Study Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology?

  • You will develop quantitative skills such as statistical and mathematical modelling, making you more attractive to prospective employers.
  • Aberdeen is the centre of a diverse range of marine activities and the programme offers interaction with a range of industries from aquaculture to offshore oil and gas.
  • Courses are delivered by internationally renowned academics, government scientists, teaching fellows and marine resource managers.
  • You will gain essential research skills including project planning, literature reviewing, data analysis and interpretation which will be beneficial to your future career.
  • Study at world class research facilities such as Oceanlab located on the Ythan Estuary, the Lighthouse field station in Moray Firth, Bettyhill and Eynhallow.
  • Guest lectures from NGOs, the fishing industry, government agencies and staff from Marine Scotland Science.
  • You will have the opportunity to engage with Marine Scotland staff, go on tours of their fleet of research vessels and collaborate with them for research projects. A number of our graduates have gone on to work for Marine Scotland after completing their degree.
  • The University of Aberdeen is ranked number 1 in Scotland in terms of overall research excellence in the fields of earth systems and environmental sciences (REF 2014).
  • Aberdeen is one of the best places in the world for dolphin spotting and is also home to the largest dolphins in the world.


Syllabus - Compulsory Courses

The taught part of our MSc Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology programme requires students to take eight compulsory courses over two terms. In addition, students will also choose from a diverse range of elective courses according to their individual learning objectives. For example, you can choose to enhance your skills in marine data analysis and Geographic Information Systems, or deepen your knowledge of the key components of marine ecology and ecosystems.

Marine Ecology & Ecosystem Management- Using the North Sea as a case study, one of the most well studied marine ecosystems, students will critically evaluate key issues related to the conservation and management of marine resources. Lectures from marine ecologists, industry consultants and government scientists working in applied marine management provide insights into current issues. Practical work provides training in data recording and analysis and the feedback received on your scientific report will strengthen your written communication skills. Class debate will provide an opportunity to strengthen your critical thinking skills and support the development of strong oral communication skills.

Population Ecology- The course is structured as a series of weekly themes, which each reflect areas of current research in animal ecology. The content of the course is research-based, drawing on case studies from research-active staff within the School of Biological Sciences. The topics cover a range of ecological and spatial scales: from single species’ population dynamics to community dynamics, and from local to macro-scale processes, with a focus on the application of current ecological knowledge and theory.

Experimental Design & Analysis- This course is uniquely tailored for biologists and will provide students with the required background theory and practical skills relevant to modern ecology and biology. The unique format of example-led lectures and real

Fisheries Science- The course, which includes a significant contribution from Marine Scotland’s Science’s Marine Laboratory Aberdeen, introduces students to the essential elements of fisheries science. It consists of three main sections: fishing technology and behaviour, fishery independent methods, and stock assessment techniques. Ultimately it will equip students with the basic knowledge and skills required to assess the abundance and distribution of fish and to understand key elements of the provision of advice for fisheries management.

Research Project- The three-month individual Research Project can cover any area of applied marine and fisheries ecology and is undertaken under the supervision of a staff member who is expert in your chosen field. Many projects are also done in collaboration with an external organisation. The project provides opportunities for you to develop your abilities and skills, generate hypotheses and design ways of testing them and to analyse, report and discuss your findings. You will learn to take responsibility for implementing your own plans and modifying them as necessary. The project is written up in the form of a scientific paper manuscript.


Optional Courses

Statistics for Complex Study Designs- This highly regarded course will take your understanding of statistics to the next level and provide you with the skills and confidence to analyse your complex biological data. Through a combination of lectures, computer based practicals and group work you will gain an understanding of how to deal with pervasive issues in the analysis of real world biological data such as heterogeneity of variance and spatial and temporal non-independence. Hands on computer tutorials will allow you to apply statistical models using modern statistical software (R) to real data, collected by researchers to answer real biological questions.

Molecular Ecological Techniques- The course will develop the student’s awareness of how molecular genetic techniques, including modern ‘omics technologies, can be used to inform our understanding of aspects of ecology, evolution, population biology and conservation science. The course will describe the underlying central dogma of molecular biology that explains how genetic diversity arises and can be harnessed as molecular markers. It will then review the contribution of molecular genetics in individual, population and species level studies.

Sustainable Aquaculture- Lectures by research staff working in aquaculture provide you with specialised knowledge in a range of current issues, including growth, nutrition, health and disease resistance, genetics and environmental interactions. Preparation for seminars and the essay allow you to direct your own learning and explore methods and current advances in your chosen topic. Participation in the seminars helps you to develop your communication skills and provides you with feedback on your understanding of the issues.

Marine Environmental Impact Assessment (online)- In recent decades, concern about environmental damage in different parts of the world has led to public pressure on governments to regulate ‘developers’ and others so as to minimise adverse environmental effects, while allowing economic activities to continue. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been developed as a critical component of the approach to achieving sustainable development.

Marine Spatial Management- You develop an appreciation of the level of understanding of the physical and biological oceanography, biodiversity, trophic interactions, species survival and reproduction issues required to implement spatially explicit, sustainable ecosystem-base management, conservation and effective marine spatial planning.

Ecology, Conseravtion, and Society- Six themes that reflect current theory and practice in the interface between ecology, conservation and society are explored through structured in-class activities challenging you to consider problems and evidence from different perspectives. Case studies drawn from different disciplinary perspectives (e.g., anthropology, economics, human geography, philosophy) increase capacity for self-reflection and awareness of ethical and moral issues embedded in problems often framed as ecological.

Marine Conservation Management- Effective engagement with conservation of marine biodiversity requires an open mind, creativity, patience and an appreciation of shared learning. This course is structured to help you develop those essential skills while building your understanding of current issues in marine conservation and how conservation professionals engage with these issues.

Learning outcome:

The course places an emphasis on equally developing both your biological and quantitative toolkits. Understanding biological and ecological processes, learning new analytical techniques, and understanding how to apply those to manage natural resources.


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", "0731 - Marine spatial planning", "0831 - Fisheries


Venue: University of Aberdeen
Aberdeen, United Kingdom

College of Life Sciences & Medicine
Polwarth Building, Foresterhill
Aberdeen, AB25 2ZD



UK/EU/ RUK students: £8.300
International students: £17.900

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trip courses. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.


International non-EU Applicants

Further Information about tuition fees and the cost of living in Aberdeen


Funding Opportunities

The following options are available to support your studies.

  • Tuition Fee and Living Cost Loans - SAAS loans up to £10,000 for eligible students
  • Aberdeen International Masters Scholarship - £2,000 tuition fee discount for eligible students
  • Alumni Discount Scheme - 20% discount for our alumni
  • Scottish Fishermen’s Trust - up to 3 bursaries of £1000 each for students undertaking their research project in an area related to SFT business (fisheries, offshore energy)
  • Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre - 2 awards are available to cover MSc fees for 1 academic year. Successful applicants must commit to a project relevant to the aquaculture industry in Scotland

View all funding options in the Funding Database



A UK 2:1 honours degree (or international equivalent), in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, or other relevant subject; applicants with a 2ii (or equivalent), particularly with some relevant experience, may also be considered. We also consider individuals with degrees in a wider range of disciplines who are clearly motivated by the programme and have some relevant experience.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 51; Reading - 51; Speaking - 51; Writing - 54

Cambridge English Advanced & Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Find more specifics on English language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

  •  CV- an up-to-date CV/Resumé
  • Degree Certificate- a degree certificate showing your qualifications
  • Degree Transcript- a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
  • Personal Statement- a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme

International Applicants

Information about visa and immigration requirements can be found here.

Application Procedure:

Applying for postgraduate programmes at the University of Aberdeen is simple. With the exception of our PGDE programme which has a separate application process, all of our postgraduate programmes can be applied for and managed online through the University's Applicant Portal. There is no application fee for postgraduate taught or research applications. 

More information about applying, such as how to complete the application form, when to apply, and how the application is processed, can be found here.

Grant Opportunities:

Scottish Fishermen’s Trust

  • £1000 bursaries, 3 awarded each year on a competitive basis. A 1 page description of the student research project is due mid November and the award is made in the 2nd semester.

Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) Scholar programme

  • New to the 2016/2017 academic year, the University of Aberdeen will be supporting SAIC Scholars Connect Plus, offering funded places to students interested in a career in aquaculture.

View all funding options in our Funding Database.


Academic level: Master


The degree programme is assessed using a diverse range of formats including written reports, oral presentations, practical write-ups, group reports, management plans, literature reviews, project plans and the research project report. Academics provide detailed, individual feedback.

Qualification: Master of Science

UK Credits
Occupations (not validated):
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