BSc Biology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Field Course in Marine Biology I

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL10602
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This 10-day field course is held at the Millport Field Studies Centre Station in Millport, Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland in June. Working in small teams, you will explore the inshore environment from benthic fishes, to marine mammals and sea birds of the Firth of Clyde, examining the planktonic basis of the food web, and the organisms living on rocky shores, sandy shores and the sea bed. Take a look at our field courses webpage for more information and photographs:

Field Courses
**The cost of this field course is £440 and a £300 deposit is required when you sign up for this field course; this is non-refundable unless we are unable to offer a place**



Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Introduction to Statistics for Field Courses BIOL10692 Co-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL10692 is a co-requisite of the Y1 field courses
  • None
  • Highly recommended for Zoology Students.


This course will give you experience working with marine organisms. You will use ecological surveying methods to study organisms in rocky and sandy shores, and the benthic and pelagic marine environments. You will work with invertebrates but also encounter marine vertebrates such as grey seals and porpoise. The first aim is for you to recognise shore organisms to phylum or class level and many common organisms to the species level. The second is to understand the patterns and causes of zonation on both rocky and sandy intertidal shores and to examine live planktonic organisms which form the basis of the marine, and global, ecosystem.

Learning outcomes

 This course aims to give you ‘hands-on’ field experience working with marine organisms. In the first half of the course, through a series of practicals, you will learn how to sample marine organisms, estimate marine biodiversity, and identify organisms belonging to major animal phyla. In the second half of the course you will develop and test your own hypotheses in a group research project where you’ll be responsible for the experimental design, execution, analyses and interpretation. You will also learn how to write a formal research report. Your research project provides an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained from your practicals and will help to develop your skills as a marine biologist and a scientist. It will also teach you effective teamwork and to how to produce written and oral communications to a short deadline.


The 10 day residential course will be held in June following the exam period. The course is held at the Field Studies Centre Millport, in Millport, Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland. Lectures, laboratory work and field work (including boat work) are included. Accommodation is full-board in the hostel adjacent to the Marine Station. Transport will be by coach to Glasgow then by ferry to Cumbrae.

Field Courses will require a financial contribution to be made early in the first semester of your first year. In cases of financial hardship, you should contact the Senior Advisor as soon as possible. You cannot change field course registration after the end of the second week of teaching in Semester 1.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
All projects require a complete statistical analysis and thus properly designed experiments.
Students decide how to approach their research projects - there is room for creativity along side the scientific method.
Working in a group often requires a leader and/or delegator.
Project management
Students design, as a group, how to approach their research project. They need to consider material, tide times, animal welfare and time management and delegation.
Oral communication
Students do a number of group presentations. All students are expected to contribute but not all have to speak. All are required to answer questions.
Problem solving
Each project requires aspects of problem solving.
Students need to use the library, the field books, the Internet and the seashore to complete their projects successfully.
Written communication
Students keep a lab/field book documenting their research during the 10 day course. They are also required to do 6 practically that are written up and graded. Finally, they hand in one group based formal lab report on the research projects they conduct in groups.
The students learn how to design and experiment, they learn how to collect and analysis diverse data sets. They learn time management and team work under tight deadlines.

Assessment methods

A short assessed piece of work from the introductory session on biostatistics is worth 10% of the unit mark and happens before the course begins.  The remained of the unit mark (90%) will come from the three components (equal weight) undertaken during the unit: 33% Practicals (individual mark) 33% A species identification test (individual mark) 33% Oral and written presentation of an group research project (group mark).

Feedback methods

Feedback is ongoing throughout the course as students interact with staff and demonstrators receiving oral feedback on their progress daily. Students write up and hand in 5 short Practicals at the half way mark of the unit. These are all marked and handed back to the students with written feedback during the course. Results and test papers for the species identification test are released to students on the last day of the course and all demonstrators are there to discuss marks and comments with students. Feedback on oral presentations and research reports are provided by email within 3 weeks of the course finishing.

Recommended reading

A bespoke handbook is given to each student at the beginning of the course.  This contains all the basic information needed for the unit.  It also contains the practical exercises, the research projects, and details about how to write a research report and reference material and details on where to look for greater explanation/depth. Additional material that is available for students there includes:

  • Campbell A C (1994) Hamlyn Guide to the Seashores and Shallow Seas of Britain and Europe. Hamlyn
  • Gibson R, Hextall B & Rogers A (2001) Photographic Guide to the Sea & Shore Life of Britain and North-west Europe. Oxford University Press
  • Hawkins S J and Jones H D (1992) Marine Field Course Guide I: Rocky Shores. Immel
  • Hayward P J, Nelson-Smith T & Shields C (1996) Collins Pocket guide to the Sea Shore of Britain and Northern Europe. Collins
  • Hickman C, Roberts L & Larsen  A (1995) Integrated Principles of Zoology. McGraw-Hill

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 72
Lectures 5
Practical classes & workshops 8
Independent study hours
Independent study 15

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Holly Shiels Unit coordinator

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