MSc in Marine Mammal Science

General

Program Description

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.

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, and draws on the quantitative and diverse academic expertise within the University's Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI).

Highlights

  • Although focused on marine mammals this programme 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 field course to practice survey techniques (at no additional cost).
  • Students have the exciting opportunity to conduct fieldwork and training in Antarctica as part of the optional module in polar ecology (requiring additional payment of a substantial expedition fee). See the students' Antarctic expedition blog.
  • 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.

Teaching format

The course consists of two taught semesters followed by an independent research project culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation and poster presentation. The research project takes place during the entire year with a 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 and tutorials. Practicals involve lab work, field work, modelling and computer-based data analysis. Class sizes 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.

Modules

The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment.

Compulsory

  • Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals: explore human-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, introduces methods for fitting models to biological data mainly using R software.

Optional

Students choose three optional modules in Semester 2. Optional modules require a minimum number of five students to 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: introduces the main types of survey methods for wildlife populations; taught by experts from CREEM and the School of Mathematics and Statistics.
  • Population Biology of Marine Mammals: population dynamics, population genetics, trophic interactions and spatial dynamics.
  • Predator Ecology in Polar Ecosystems: field course located in southern Argentina and Antarctica (requires payment of an expedition fee which covers all costs, including travel and accommodation).

Dissertation and research project

Throughout the academic year, students complete a research project which will culminate in a 15,000-word 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. 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 2019 entry.

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 stay in touch with each other using a Master course specific Facebook group.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students on a taught postgraduate course and offers a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.

Entry requirements

  • A first or upper 2.1 (Honours) undergraduate degree or equivalent in biological science. Other scientific, engineering or mathematics degrees may be acceptable; please contact the School if you are unsure about your qualifications. 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.

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 a university level.

The qualifications listed are indicative of 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

  • completed Marine Mammal Science application form 2019 (Word).
  • two original signed academic references.
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates.
  • evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language).

Funding

Recent Graduate Discount

The University of St Andrews offers a 10% discount in postgraduate tuition fees to students who are eligible to graduate or who have graduated from St Andrews within the last three academic years and are starting a postgraduate programme with the University of St Andrews.

Last updated October 2019

About the School

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coas ... Read More

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coast of Scotland, students may find themselves crossing golf-courses on their way to class, or jogging along the beach after dinner. Not only does the University have a world-class reputation, but it also offers a diverse range of social activities, including over 140 student societies and 50 sports clubs. Historic buildings are juxtaposed against the modern facilities, and the many student traditions truly make studying at St Andrews an unforgettable experience. Read less
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