Marine Mammal Science (MSc) 2023 entry

The MSc in Marine Mammal Science prepares students for professional careers in the research and conservation of marine mammals. It is the only research-focused MSc degree in this popular subject worldwide, and is taught by leading experts at the Sea Mammal Research Unit and the Scottish Oceans Institute.

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

Application deadline

Monday 3rd April 2023.

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

“The programme is an intense year but an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in marine mammal science. The more time you invest in the programme, the more you get out of it. The variety of specialisms by the staff mean the options for your personal research project are endless and connections with international institutions are encouraged and supported.”
Emma, wearing a purple jacket and sunglasses on a boat on a sunny day
Emma
- Derbyshire, England

Entry requirements

  • A first or upper 2.1 (Honours) undergraduate degree or equivalent in a biological 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 SQA Higher, GCE AS or A-Level, 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.

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

These must all be submitted by the application deadline.

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 Mammal Science is a one-year taught programme run by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU), the only UK institution dedicated exclusively to marine mammal research. The MSc further draws on the quantitative and diverse academic expertise within the University's Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI).  

Highlights 

  • Although focused on marine mammals, this programme also covers advanced topics in quantitative marine ecology and animal behaviour. 
  • Modules include intense training in quantitative techniques (for example, statistical modelling and GIS) and applied research methods, including a Scotland-based field course to practice survey techniques (at no additional cost). 
  • 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. 
  • The core curriculum is complemented by advanced optional modules in topical research areas of biologging, bioacoustics, behaviour and cognition, and population biology. 
  • Stimulating, small class sizes with a focus on student-led, experiential learning. 

Modules

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. 

 

 

  • Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals: explores human and marine mammal interactions. 
  • Principles of Marine Mammal Biology: introduces the zoogeography of marine mammals and the morphological, physiological and behavioural adaptations that have enabled this diverse group to successfully colonise all of the world's oceans and some freshwater systems. 
  • 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. 

Students choose three optional modules in Semester 2. Optional modules are subject to change each year and require a minimum number of five participants to be offered; some may only allow limited numbers of students (see the University’s position on curriculum development). 

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

  • Advanced Bioacoustics for Marine Mammal Science: theoretical and practical application of techniques used to study marine acoustics. 
  • Current Issues in Biologging: presents an introduction to the theory and practice of logging and relaying physical and biological data using animal-attached tags. 
  • Current Issues in Marine Mammal Behaviour: current views and recent advances in the study of marine mammal social behaviour and cognition.
  • Estimating Animal Abundance and Biodiversity: introduces the main types of survey methods for wildlife populations. 
  • Population Biology: covers the essentials of population dynamics and population modelling including population genetics, trophic interactions and spatial dynamics. 
  • 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).

Throughout the academic year, students complete a research project which will culminate in a written dissertation and 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. Projects will be supervised by SMRU staff but may be carried out with joint supervision from staff in other institutions. 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 are exit awards available that allow 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.

Teaching

The course consists of two taught semesters and an independent research project culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation and poster presentation. The research project takes place during the entire year with particular focus during the last three months from mid-May to mid-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 45 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. 

Events

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 social and academic forum bringing together PhD and Masters students at different stages of their training.

Students on the course are encouraged to attend (and present a poster or talk at) the annual student conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy in the UK which takes place in varying locations every year.

See the UK and Ireland Regional Student Chapter website for more details. 

Fees

Home
£11,120

Overseas
£27,230

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

Careers

Graduates of the course have gone on to complete PhDs or work as research scientists for government agencies, industry, environmental consultancies or marine conservation organisations as well as in academic institutions worldwide. 

Graduates also become part of a large and growing alumni network, with many students continuing on to become research scientists, either at St Andrews or as part of international collaborations. SMRU has held noteworthy alumni gatherings at professional conferences, and graduates can stay in touch with each other using a Master-course-specific Facebook group. 

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

Phone
+44 (0)1334 46 3441
Email
pgtaughtbiology@st-andrews.ac.uk
Address
School of Biology
Biomedical Sciences Research Complex
North Haugh
St Andrews
KY16 9ST

School of Biology website