Marine Ecosystem Management (MSc) 2023 entry

This MSc provides students with a superior understanding of marine systems, exploring the interconnections between the physical environment, biodiversity and the impacts of human activities. Taught by leading experts from the Scottish Oceans Institute, it is designed to prepare students for professional careers in research and management.

Start date
September 2023
End date
September 2024
One year full time
School of Biology

Application deadline

Friday 28th July 2023.

Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

“Highlights have been working in small classes with leading ecologists, statisticians, oceanographers and policy advisors and gaining practical experience of environmental sampling. There is a vibrant, welcoming student community and plenty of opportunities to find your niche, with a huge variety of sports clubs and societies.”
- Edinburgh, Scotland

Entry requirements

  • A first or upper 2.1 (Honours) undergraduate degree in a relevant natural science. Other scientific, engineering or mathematics degrees may be acceptable. If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.
  • Training in advanced mathematics and statistics (at least to UK school AS/A-level, Higher, International Baccalaureate or equivalent).
  • Very good baseline IT skills including word-processing, spreadsheet use, email and internet.
  • English language proficiency. See English language tests and qualifications. If you require a visa to study, see visas information.

Please contact the School if you are unsure about your qualifications.

In addition to the above minimum requirements, it is highly desirable for applicants to have:

  • relevant field or lab experience from previous employment, project or volunteer work
  • further IT skills, e.g. programming, database software and statistical packages for analysing (such as MATLAB, SPSS, SAS or R)
  • dedicated calculus or statistics modules at university level.

The qualifications listed are indicative minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.

Application requirements

For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes.

English language proficiency

If English is not your first language, you may need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability. See approved English language tests and scores for this course.

Course details

The MSc in Marine Ecosystem Management is a one-year taught programme run by the School of Biology. The programme takes a holistic approach to understanding ecosystem function and services, and draws on the quantitative and diverse academic expertise within the University's Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI).  


  • Modules include intense training in quantitative techniques (for example, statistical modelling and GIS). 
  • You might have the exciting opportunity to conduct fieldwork locally as part of a core module and further afield as part of optional field courses (extra cost applicable) including polar ecology in Antarctica or scientific diving in a tropical location.
  • Core modules in marine ecosystem function and management are complemented by a selection from optional modules including marine conservation case study, biologging, population biology, fisheries research, and estimating abundance. 
  • Stimulating, small class sizes with a focus on student-led, experiential learning. 


The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment. For more details of each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue which is for the 2022 - 2023  academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2023 entry. 


During Semester 1, students follow a coherent course of modules that provides sound training in essential skills for managing marine ecosystems. The first semester combines two compulsory modules with a choice of one of two further optional modules. 

  • Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function: provides core biological and methodological classes covering marine biodiversity and ecosystem function, their importance and evaluation; module involves local boat-based data collection and analysis. 
  • Mathematical and statistical modelling for Biologists: applies mathematical ideas to questions in biology and introduces methods for fitting models to biological data mainly using R software. 

In addition, students choose one optional module from the following: 

  • Environmental Drivers of Marine Habitats: gives an overview of the different environmental drivers of marine ecosystems, including shorter-term processes in the ocean and atmosphere, as well as climatic processes that define marine habitats. 
  • Geographic Information Systems for Environmental Management: provides an introduction to GIS and its use in environmental problem solving.  

Semester 2 combines one compulsory module with a choice of three optional modules. 

The following module is compulsory: 

  • Ecosystem-based Management of Marine Systems: introduces the concept of 'ecosystem-based management', exploring its development from more simplistic, single-species approaches. 

Students choose three optional modules. Here is a sample of optional modules that may be offered. 

  • Current Issues in Biologging: presents an introduction to the theory and practice of logging and relaying physical and biological data using animal-attached tags. 
  • Estimating Animal Abundance and Biodiversity: introduces the main types of survey methods for wildlife populations.  
  • Fisheries Research: provides an introduction to the utilisation of fish stocks in a sustainable way. 
  • Population Biology: covers the essentials of population dynamics and population modelling including population genetics, trophic interactions and spatial dynamics.
  • Marine Conservation Case Study: explores in detail the ecological and socio-economical issues and approaches to managing stakeholder interests in a local marine ecosystem (with field day trips).  
  • Predator Ecology in Polar Ecosystems - Antarctica: theoretical and practical field course including a vessel-based trip to Antarctica (requires payment of an expedition fee, offered only if international travel conditions allow). 
  • Scientific Diving: field course at a tropical diving location (requires suitable diving qualifications and payment of expedition fee, offered only if international travel conditions allow).

Optional modules are subject to change each year and require a minimum number of participants to be offered; some may only allow limited numbers of students (see the University’s position on curriculum development). 

Throughout the academic year, students complete a research project which will culminate in a written dissertation and the presentation of a poster at the MSc student conference. Projects may involve some fieldwork but will be primarily focused on the analysis of existing data. Students can choose from a range of projects suggested by supervisors and also take an active role in designing their own project plan. 

If students choose not to complete the dissertation requirement for the MSc, there is an exit award available that allows suitably qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, you will finish your degree at the end of the second semester of study and receive a PGDip instead of an MSc. 

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2023 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.


The course consists of two taught semesters and an independent research project finishing in a written dissertation and poster presentation.

The research project takes place during the entire year with particular focus during the last three months from June to August.  

The modular curriculum is designed to be coherent, providing integrated training for future careers in scientific research, management or conservation. Teaching takes the form of: 

  • lectures 
  • seminars 
  • debates 
  • workshops 
  • tutorials. 

Practicals involve lab work, field work, modelling and computer-based data analysis. 

Class sizes usually range from 5 to 30 students, depending on the module.

There is a strong focus on small-group teaching so that students are individually supported and can ask for help when it is needed.   


The MSc is enhanced by a busy programme of conferences, seminars and visiting speakers from universities in the UK and abroad. This includes regular departmental seminars in the Scottish Oceans Institute, the Centre for Research in Ecological and Environmental Modelling and the St Andrews BioNetwork, a great social and academic forum bringing together PhD and Masters students at different stages of their training. 

Check out the University website for highlights as well as the research blog for up-to-date information and events. 




More information on tuition fees can be found on the postgraduate fees and funding page.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews is committed to attracting the very best students, regardless of financial circumstances. Find out more about the scholarships and postgraduate loans available.

All taught postgraduate scholarships

After your degree


The aim is that graduates of this course will be part of the next generation of managers and marine scientists delivering integrated ecosystem management around the world.  

Graduates of the course have undertaken careers in government agencies, environmental consultancies and the commercial marine sector, both within the UK and abroad.  

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students in building their employability skills.

Further study

Many MSc graduates continue their education by enrolling in PhD programmes at St Andrews or elsewhere. PhD students at the School of Biology at St Andrews have the opportunity to undertake a research degree in their chosen subject area where research interests span the breadth of biological science. 

Postgraduate research

What to do next

Online information events

Join us for one of our information events where you can find out about different levels of study and specific courses we run. There are also sessions available for parents and college counsellors.

Postgraduate virtual days

We encourage all students who are thinking of applying to the University to attend one of our online visiting days.

Contact us

+44 (0)1334 46 3441
School of Biology
Biomedical Sciences Research Complex
North Haugh
St Andrews
KY16 9ST

School of Biology website