Planet Earth has five great oceans and 113 seas, including those that are landlocked. They are the lifeblood of Earth – driving weather, climate, and supporting all living organisms.
Despite this though, to date, we have only explored less than five per cent of the ocean – much still remains to be discovered from exploring the mysteries of the deep.
Coinciding with the return of BBC’s Blue Planet 2 to our screens (8pm, BBC One, Sundays), take the plunge and explore the wide variety of marine research taking place by our pioneering academics at Plymouth today.
The truth is down there.
Exploring the coastal world
Plastic pollution and the planet
"In 2004, my team were the first to use the word microplastics to describe the microscopic fragments of manmade products in a research publication, it was not a word that many would have comprehended. After all, these fragments can measure a fraction of a millimetre in length, and be less than the width of a human hair.
"Individually, it is perhaps hard to see the potential harm they could cause. But when you consider some estimates suggest there are 5 trillion of these particles floating in our oceans, it becomes a different story. Our research has shown these items are now everywhere in the oceans, from our most visited coastlines to the remotest parts of the deep seas."
The ‘sea fangle’ phenomenon
The phenomenon of sea fans washing up on the coastline of the South West will continue unless more is done to prevent commercial and domestic plastic pollution from entering into the marine environment.
A team at the University of Plymouth has warned that ‘ghost fishing’ – where plastic fishing line and other pollutants entangle marine life – is having an impact upon species such as the pink sea fan.
“Sea fans are important species as they form coral gardens that increase habitat complexity and contribute to biodiversity".
– Dr Emma Sheehan, of the School of Biological and Marine Sciences
It follows the discovery of hundreds of ‘sea fangles’ – a term given to sea fans wrapped up in a ball of debris – on beaches across the region over the last decade.
Find out more about sea fans and watch our animation about the strandings of North East Atlantic pink sea fans
Artificial coastal defences could be used to enhance marine biodiversity
Future coastal defences, harbours and ports could enhance biodiversity within the marine environment through the use of cement substitutes. But the materials used need to be selected carefully in order that native and non-native species are not adversely affected, a study by the University of Plymouth suggests.
The study is one of the first to combine chemical leaching and biological data regarding the use of artificial materials within coastal and marine infrastructure.
44 invading species 'loose' in North Atlantic, study shows
Accidental introductions of non-native species has been of increasing concern since the 1980s when human-mediated transportation, mainly related to ships' ballast water, was recognised as a major route by which species are transported and spread.
A review published by PML Applications Ltd (the wholly-owned subsidiary of Plymouth Marine Laboratory, PML) and the University of Plymouth, brings together and updates evidence on invasive species for the NE and SW Atlantic Ocean, in order to assess the risk represented by the shipping trade between these two regions.
Non-native species are a crucial issue that needs to be addressed to raise general awareness and publicity, alongside scientific surveys and monitoring, improved data availability, regulations, management tools, risk assessment, stakeholders' commitment, enforcement, best practices and constant surveillance.
The University’s Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK. We provide the external portal to our extensive pool of world-leading experts and state-of-the-art facilities, enabling us to understand the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions.
We are integrating our multidisciplinary expertise in marine and maritime research, education and innovation to train new scientists, engineers, policy-makers, artists, technicians and business managers of the future.
Study the seas at Plymouth
School of Biological and Marine Sciences
As a student studying with us in the School of Biological and Marine Sciences, you will learn from academics who are world-leading experts in their respective research fields, who have a shared commitment to deliver high quality teaching and support.
During your time with us, you will be fortunate enough to benefit from our unique facilities and resources; such as our purpose built £5 million Marine Station – situated on the water’s edge; as well as the University’s LABplus – our open access laboratory.
The shores and clear coastal waters of Devon and Cornwall provide an unrivalled resource for marine biologists
We offer three marine biology undergraduate courses, which are closely integrated and have the same entry requirements. In addition, we offer a Foundation year, which (upon successful completion) allows access to all three of our programmes.
- BSc (Hons) Marine Biology
- BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology
- BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Oceanography
- BSc (Hons) Marine Biology with Foundation Year
We're proud to be one of the primary forces in marine science
Studying a marine science degree will expose you to a wide range of exciting and important subjects such as physical, chemical and biological aspects of oceanography, coastal processes, meteorology and climatology, hydrographic surveying, marine conservation and sustainable management of marine resources.
- BSc (Hons) Marine Sciences with Foundation Year
- BSc (Hons) Ocean Exploration and Surveying
- MSci (Hons) Ocean Science
- BSc (Hons) Ocean Science and Marine Conservation
- BSc (Hons) Oceanography and Coastal Processes
Postgraduate taught programmes
- MRes Applied Marine Science
- MSc Applied Marine Science
- MSc Hydrography
- MRes Marine Biology
- MRes Marine Renewable Energy
- MSc Marine Renewable Energy
Read about Zoe Waring's, one of our recent ocean science graduates, adventures in Antarctica below and meet more of our alumni and be inspired by their experiences.
Ocean science graduate Zoe Waring dives for data in the depths of Antarctica
"It’s very hard to describe what it is like to live in Antarctica year round, as there is nothing quite like it."
Since graduating, Zoe Waring's role is now as a Marine Assistant at the Rothera research station in Antarctica, where she has had to live and work with the contrasts of this extreme environment.
Zoe's diverse job has seen her dive through sea ice to collect data to help the study of local species and the effects of global warming, as well as scale mountains, and live through the plunging temperatures and even total darkness that winter brings.