School of Biological and Marine Sciences

MRes Marine Biology

Marine biology is an extraordinarily broad and dynamic subject, reflecting the diversity and energy of marine ecosystems and the fantastic array of life they contain, making this a compelling subject to study. Marine processes exert massive influences on the Earth’s climate and the pattern of biogeochemical cycling. Closely linked with the diverse research pursuits of a range of scientists this programme allows you to apply and develop your particular skills in a marine context.

Careers with this subject

Advice from graduate Olivia Durkin:

 "Although I may have not followed the typical path of a marine biology graduate, I have always remained flexible in the available job opportunities and therefore gained a very varied skill set, enabling me to adapt to different roles and projects. Do what you enjoy and it’s ok if you don’t end up being the dolphin trainer you thought you might be."

Read more from Olivia in her case study.

Key features

  • Study in Plymouth, an internationally renowned city for marine biological research.
  • Participate in a specifically designed, topical programme jointly hosted by Plymouth University and the Marine Biological Association (MBA) of the UK.
  • Choose between two pathways to suit your research interests, biodiversity and ecology or cellular and molecular biology.
  • Benefit from being taught by recognised experts with worldwide links to research organisations and projects. 
  • Draw on our expertise, working alongside research staff on a personal project.
  • Undertake an extensive, original and innovative research project, often in collaboration with MBA Research Fellows, or one of our other partner institutions (Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science and the National Marine Aquarium), either in the UK or abroad.
  • Excellent training for further research. 
  • See the benefit from close links with the research community worldwide.

Places are limited and in great demand. To ensure you have a good chance of securing a place speak to us and apply as early as possible.

Course details

  • Programme overview
  • In your first term you will study core modules which concentrate on building up your general research and academic skills. You’ll also be introduced to the research and organisation of the MBA and the Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre at the University, with a focus upon raising your awareness of potential dissertation topics and advisors. You’ll take a specific module based on your chosen specialisation. The ecology option includes additional training in the analysis of ecological data and conservation/biodiversity assessments. The cellular and molecular option meanwhile focuses on DNA and microbiological techniques, biological imaging, and electrophysiological methods. The majority of time from mid-January onwards is spent on your research project and dissertation. You’ll undertake your project working directly with researchers at the MBA, Plymouth University or one of our other partner institutions. It may also be possible to conduct your project abroad.
    Core modules
    • BIO5131 Postgraduate Research Skills & Methods

      The module provides the research- and communication-related skills that biology postgraduates require to carry out an original research project at the forefront of their academic discipline. Emphasis is given to the philosophy, design, ethics and management of research, effective communication to a range of audiences, and advice on career management and presentation skills involved in job applications and interviews.

    • MBAM5106 Advanced Research in Marine Biology

      This module introduces students to marine biological research at the MBA and PU, the approaches and techniques used and the staff, with a focus upon the interdisciplinarity of contemporary marine biology. The module also familiarises the students with MBA practices and facilities, including safe working and risk assessment. Students will be provided with guidance on the preparation of scientific research for publication.

    • MBAM5109 Marine Biology MRes Dissertation

      The student will complete an independent research project that they have designed. The project can be submitted in a journal paper format or as a dissertation. The write-up will include project aims, research problem to be addressed, methodology, data analysis, interpretation, discussion/synthesis, conclusions, supported by Figures and Tables. The student must defend the work in a viva voce with the External Examiner.

    Optional modules
    • MBAM5107 Molecular and Cellular Approaches in Marine Biology

      This MBA-based module is an intensive introduction to the advanced molecular and cellular principles, concepts and techniques and that are applied by researchers at the MBA. The students will be actively involved with relevant research groups and will be taught using a lecture/seminar and practical approach.

    • MBAM5108 Marine Ecology and Conservation

      This module deals with three main areas: threats and impacts upon marine systems, marine conservation methods & policy, and data analytical approaches for marine ecological studies.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MRes Marine Biology Programme Specification September 2018 2361

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

A good degree (2:1 or above, USA GPA 3.1 or above) preferably in a biological science. Other suitable degrees may be considered.

If you have overseas qualifications you can check their comparability with the UK equivalent through the UK National Recognition Information Centre (NARIC), who provide an advisory service. 

English language requirements 

If your first language is not English then evidence of English proficiency is required. For further advice on the appropriateness of overseas qualification and proficiency in the use of English, please contact our International Office

The minimum IELTS score for acceptable English proficiency for entry is 6.5.

Fees, costs and funding

New Student 2018 2019
Home/EU £9,500 £9,500
International £14,000 £14,400
Part time (Home/EU) £550 £550
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances.

International students

Scholarships are available for international students.

How to apply

Applying for postgraduate taught study

The University aims to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Postgraduate Admissions and Enquiries team are on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail. If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

If you would like any further information please contact the Postgraduate and Enquiries team:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858


Submitting an application

Apply for postgraduate study using our online postgraduate application form.

Alternatively you can download a copy of the application form to be submitted by hand, by post or via email with accompanying attachments.

Additional guidance information can also be downloaded on how to fill in the postgraduate application form.

Applying for postgraduate research study

The University aims to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. The Doctoral College is available to answer any queries on our postgraduate research degrees.  If  you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via

If you would like any further information please contact the Doctoral College:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 587640


Submitting an application

Apply for postgraduate study using our online postgraduate application form.

Alternatively you can download a copy of the application form to be submitted by hand, by post or via email with accompanying attachments.

Additional guidance information can also be downloaded on how to fill in the postgraduate application form.

Studying marine biology

This programme reflects the breadth and excitement of marine biology through its close links with the diverse research pursuits of a range of leading scientists, in one of the world's foremost locations for marine studies.

You’ll be better prepared for a career in academic marine research or for working independently within a company or governmental organisation.

Find out more about our Marine Biology courses

Marine biology facilities

You’ll benefit from the outstanding facilities and resources of a network of institutions that will aid your development and prime you for a successful career in research.

Find out more about our facilities and resources

Careers in marine biology

Work opportunities for trained marine biologists exist worldwide within regulatory bodies, government agencies, conservation organisations, environmental consultancies, aquaculture, and fisheries management. Many graduates progress directly to a PhD.

MRes Marine Biology offers a range of relevant experiences that enable you to progress to careers within the public or private sector.

Dr Oliver Tills – graduate quote

For me the biggest attraction of the MRes Marine Biology was the opportunity to spend nine months performing my own research. My research focused on variation in the timing of key events during the embryonic development of aquatic organisms.

After finishing the MRes, Oliver won a scholarship for a Plymouth University funded PhD and is now a postdoctoral researcher.

Graduate profile - Dr Lucy Turner

I went on to do a PhD in land crab biology, which meant I carried out fieldwork on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

Lucy is now a Lecturer in Marine Biology at Plymouth University

Read Lucy's profile

Graduate profile - Ellie Vaughan

I had already heard about Plymouth’s great reputation for marine biology, but it wasn’t until I did some work experience during Year 12 at the National Marine Aquarium when I was truly won over.

Ellie tells us about how the University supported her coral reef research.

Read Ellie's profile

Research in marine biology

The programme team’s philosophy is to involve you in research groups working at the cutting edge of science, creating experiences and outputs directly relevant to progress to PhD and beyond.

Find out more about our research in this area