Certificate in Marine Studies

Study marine biology online. Learn about fish, crustaceans, marine mammals and other marine life; their environments, management and conservation.

Course CodeVEN014
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)600 hours

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 If you love marine life and fish, you should study this certificate!

The opportunities for people who know about marine biology are endless.

  • Start a business or get a job
  • Follow your dreams of working in Marine Biology
  • 600 hour course
  • Broad based, solid foundation in Marine Science & Commerce
  • For people working or wishing to work in marine conservation, eco tourism, research or commerce

This course covers topics such as marine studies I & II, Earth Science and allows the student to investigate areas of special interest to them via research projects.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Certificate in Marine Studies.
 Marine Studies I BEN103
 Earth Science BEN204
 Marine Studies II BEN203
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 3 of the following 9 modules.
 Aquarium Management BEN105
 Research Project I BGN102
 Workshop I BGN103
 Invertebrate Animals BEN218
 Mariculture - Marine Aquaculture BAG220
 Research Project II BGN201
 Workshop II BGN203
 Ecotourism Tour Guide Course BTR301
 Environmental Assessment BEN301

Note that each module in the Certificate in Marine Studies is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

What's covered by the Core Modules?


This module has 9 lessons as follows:

  1. Marine Ecology Systems
    Ecology, Marine Weather (including El Nino, Thermocline, Gulf streams, etc), Continental shelf, Nutrient cycle, Red tide, Plankton, Marine Plants (including Mangroves, Shallow & Deep water algae, etc)
  2. Shallow Waters & Reefs
    Coral Reefs, Rocky Shorelines, Estuaries, Introduction to marine arthropods
  3. Shellfish & Crustaceans
    Molluscs and Brachiopods. True Crabs, Hermit Crabs, Lobsters, Prawns etc
  4. Squid, Octopus, and Other Primitive Animals
    (Cephalopods and Clupeoids, etc)
  5. Fish Part A
    (Cartilaginous Fish) Sharks, Eels, Rays; Shark Life cycle, How dangerous are sharks? Effect of sharks on tourism, etc.
  6. Fish Part B
    (Bony Fish) Fish Anatomy/structure (identifying external & internal parts); legalities (protection of wildlife), types of fish, etc
  7. Marine Mammals
    (Dolphins, Whales, etc) Types of marine mammals, protection and politics, position of these animals in the food chain, products derived from marine mammals & substitutes for those products.
  8. Turtles, Sea Snakes and Seabirds
    Types of turtles & sea snakes; toxicity of sea snakes; turtle protection, penguins and other sea birds (eg stints, knots, pelicans, swans, gulls, eagles, ibis, egrets, terns, shearwaters, gannets, albatross, prions, oyster-catchers and petrels).
  9. Human Impact on Marine Environments & Fishing
    Human impact on marine environments; commercial vs recreational fishing, significance of certain mesopelagic fish, techniques for managing stocks of fish & other marine life.


There are 10 lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction and Simple Organisms (Protists, Sponges etc)
  2. Marine Plants
  3. Cnidarians and Worms: Anemones, Jellyfish, Crustaceans, Flatworms
  4. Arthropods
  5. Molluscs
  6. Echinoderms: Starfish, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers
  7. Non-Bony Fishes: Lampreys, Hagfishes, Sharks, Rays
  8. Bony Fishes I
  9. Bony Fishes II
  10. Marine Mammals


There are 9 lessons as follows:

  1. Structure and Forces - including plate tectonics and volcanoes
  2. Rocks and Minerals - this lesson also looks at the formation and features of rocks and minerals
  3. Surface Changes - erosion, weathering and surface waters
  4. The Oceans - this lesson covers examines waves, seawater, tides and the corriolis effect
  5. Air and Weather - the structure of the atmosphere, seasons,solar radiation and meteorology
  6. The Greenhouse Effect - also including the ozone layer and atmospheric pollutants
  7. Global Weather Patterns - looks at climate and climate classification
  8. Geological Time - relative dating, radiocarbon dating, fossils and more
  9. Modern Environmental Issues


Complement Your Studies and Increase Employability

We suggest that our Marine Studies students who are looking for employment gain additional qualifications such as an Open Water Divers Licence and a Coxswains (or similar boating) Licence, as they will then be better positioned to gain employment in this competitive field.

If you want to discuss possible career paths, use our free career and course counselling service, and talk with an experienced academic. click here

Marine Environments Need Management

A marine ecosystem is based on the same principles that apply to any ecosystem. Water quality is as important as air quality as this is the abiotic component by which most marine organisms (apart from marine mammals) obtain oxygen. In some respects a marine environment is more fragile because of this very factor. However, large marine systems have the ability to dilute impurities such as toxic chemicals or suspended solids. The smaller the marine system (i.e. tidal pools or estuaries), the more susceptible it is to disturbance.

Marine ecosystems are often complex and dynamic environments in which many organisms are involved in many intricate and often totally unobvious relationships. It is due to this complex web and fragility that marine ecosystems can be subject to sudden and dramatic consequences as a result of changing environmental conditions. A prime example of this is the collapse of certain fishing industries due to a lack of efficient control over the fishing quota and practices. Overfishing of a certain species can be expected to produce this result, however there are instances of seemingly totally unrelated species being affected by the exploitation of another species.

Fishing communities who are reliant on the productivity of these environments can also be adversely affected by the depletion of stocks. The economies of countries such as Peru and Newfoundland have been reliant on the income generated from their coastal fisheries. Over-exploitation of these systems in response to the growing demand for fish stocks, places huge pressures on the sustainability of these systems to endure such demands.

Another example (and putting coral reefs at very high risk of being destroyed in the 21st Century) is the consistent rise of global warming and its known effects on coral bleaching. Over the past one hundred years, the temperature of sea water in many tropical areas has been rising. Rising water temperatures block the photosynthetic reaction that converts carbon dioxide into sugar (a process carried out by the zooxanthellae – the microscopic algae that reside within the corals). The result is a build-up of products that poison the zooxanthellae. To save itself, the coral expels the zooxanthellae and some of its own tissue, leaving the coral a bleached white. The bleached coral can recover, but only if cooler water temperatures return and the algae are able to grow again. This is an incredibly slow process however, and the rate of destruction of the reefs is far quicker than the recovery rate.

The limitations that marine environments present to humans have made the progression of knowledge and insight through research a slow process. Our knowledge of marine ecology is still quite limited; there are places within the ocean that have never been visited by humans due to our own technical limitations. However, there has been a marked increase in research and discoveries in the last century due to technological advancement. It is, apart from space, the last frontier.

Physical Characteristics of Water

  • Temperature -The degree of intensity of heat of a body in relation to other bodies, measured in degrees Celsius(C)
  • Salinity The concentration of salts contained in a given volume of water. Measured in grams of salt per kilogram of water, or more simply in units of parts per thousand
  • Water Density The quantity of mass of water per unit volume. This is measured in grams per unit centimetre

The surface temperature of the oceans is constantly variable. Water in the tropical oceans may have a temperature of 28 degrees Celsius, or higher at the height of summer. In the Polar Regions, sea temperatures of -2 degrees Celsius are common. Unlike freshwater that freezes at 0 degrees Celsius, seawater freezes at an even lower temperature, dependent upon the salt content of the water.


The average salinity of sea water is approximately 3.5%, or 35 parts per thousand. In the open ocean, away from major rivers, melting ice and areas such as the bottom of the Red Sea, salinities will be higher than coastal areas (and especially so compared to river mouths).

Salinity is tested by measuring the electrical conductivity of a sample at known temperatures. Oceanographers often use instruments known as CTD's (Conductivity/Temperature/Depth probes). These instruments can obtain accurate profiles or continuous records of temperatures and salinity through the column of water from the surface to the sea bottom.

There are a few reasons for variations in the salinity of sea water.

  • Evaporation and freezing: both processes result in an increase in the salinity of the remaining or underlying water
  • High rainfall – reduces salinity
  • River runoff – reduces salinity
  • Melting of ice – reduces salinity
Water Density

The density at the sea surface is normally 1,025 grams per cubic centimetre. The lighter water floats on the denser water, or, density increases with depth.

It is normal for cold water to be denser than warm water. In hot water, the molecules are bouncing off each other more vigorously, and need more space than in cold water - the result is that you have fewer molecules per unit volume in something hot than in something cold. In the sea, temperature decreases with depth (due to high pressures and the lack of sun penetration).

Fresh water reaches its maximum density at 4 degrees Celsius, but sea water is most dense just before it reaches its freezing point at -2 degrees Celsius.
The reason for measuring the temperature of the sea is because most life forms are physiologically adapted to living within specific temperature ranges. The measuring of salinity is less clear, but is related to the density of seawater being dependent upon salinity levels, temperature and pressure.

The measure of density distribution is important to the oceanographer. It is from density distribution that direction and speed of horizontal fluid movement and the position of the atmospheric pressure required by the meteorologists can be determined. They can then monitor and predict the movement of atmospheric pressure and fronts. Except surface water where the temperature and salinity can vary within a wide range, most oceans have a close relationship between temperature and salinity. 



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Dr Robert Browne

Zoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability. Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and develop
Barbara Seguel

Teacher and Researcher, Marine Scientist, Tourism and Outdoor recreation guide, Health and Safety Coordinator & Production Manager for Fisheries, National Park Staff/Farmer, Laboratory technical aide, Zoo, Wildlife and Marine Park assistant. Barbara has w
Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand
Jade Sciascia

Biologist, Business Coordinator, Government Environmental Dept, Secondary School teacher (Biology); Recruitment Consultant, Senior Supervisor in Youth Welfare, Horse Riding Instructor (part-completed) and Boarding Kennel Manager. Jade has a B.Sc.Biol, Di
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