Aquatic ecosystems and species are under intense anthropogenic threats. These threats directly affect services such as sustainable fisheries, drinking water or ecosystem resilience. To adequately respond to these 21st century challenges and conserve these goods and services, a fundamental understanding of the biodiversity and ecosystem processes is needed, as without knowledge there can be no application or effective management.
Considering both freshwater and marine ecosystems and species, we have designed a programme to equip you with the interdisciplinary practical skills and theoretical understanding to pursue a career in aquatic research, consultancy or environmental protection, and give you a good understanding of applying scientific understanding to science policy.
This programme balances the latest in ecological theory, conservation biology and evolutionary biology with practical application. You will take part in three residential field-courses (Dorset, Cumbria and Cape Verde) for practical, hands-on training.
You will be supervised by research-active scientists, becoming part of their research groups. We support links with a range of NGOs or potential employer organisations and strongly encourage you to publish your project work.
- Balances the latest in ecological theory with practical application
- Residential field courses for practical, hands-on training in the field
- Access to analytical, mesocosm and temperature-controlled facilities within the Centre for the Aquatic and Terrestrial Environment
- Strong foundation for employment with environmental protection and conservation agencies, the water industry and environmental consultancies or PhD research
I learned from a wide range of experts, especially during the field trips, which were my favourite part. Going to Dorset, the Lake District and Cape Verde allowed me to learn outside the classroom and get hands-on field experience
Adrienne Kerley, Freshwater and Marine Ecology MSc 2016 graduate, now a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)-funded PhD student
Research and teaching
You will have access to analytical research facilities within our Centre for the Aquatic and Terrestrial Environment, developed from an investment of £1.8 million in analytical equipment and specialist laboratory facilities. You will also have access to the Freshwater Biological Association’s River Laboratory on the River Frome in Dorset, via our River Communities Group, and to mesocosm and temperature controlled facilities at QMUL. Furthermore we will use our network of partner NGOs, research labs and industries to create further opportunities.
By choosing to study at a Russell Group university you will have access to excellent teaching and top class research. You can find out more about our research interests and view recent publications on the School of Biological and Chemical Science's Aquatic Ecology Research group page.
Centre for the Aquatic and Terrestrial Environment (CATE)
(CATE) at QMUL is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences and the School of Geography.
CATE builds on existing research strengths in areas of environmental research such as biogeochemistry, freshwater and marine ecology, terrestrial ecology and conservation. These facilities are used either in the formal teaching of this programme or are available for individual research projects.
Dorset Field Facilities
The Aquatic Ecology Group has a complementary unit (the River Communities Group) who do more applied research, based at the River Laboratory of the Freshwater Biological Association in Dorset. For example, we have a suite of ponds, 50% of which are heated above ambient temperatures, in which run long-term climate change experimentation. You will have the opportunity to conduct both field work and lab projects at this site.
- Aquatic science lectures in London
- QMUL Aquatic and Whole Organism Biology Group seminar series
- QMUL Geography seminar series
- UCL Centre for Ecology and Evolution
- London Freshwater Group
- Institute of Fisheries Management
- The Linnaean Society
You will receive a programme of relevant lectures by email.
If you have any questions about the content or structure, contact the programme director Dr Christophe Eizaguirre
Your taught modules take place in blocks of two weeks of full-time teaching (normally 9am-5pm), followed by weeklong study breaks for independent learning and coursework. This structure allows for an intensive learning experience, giving students the opportunity to immerse themselves in their subject.
The following modules are typically offered as part of this programme:
- Ecosystem Structure and Function: Ecosystems are under continued and growing threat from human activity (e.g. habitat loss, invasive species and diffuse pollution) and if we seek to preserve them then we need to understand how ecosystems function and how they respond to either enforced or natural change. Here we focus on the structural and functional elements of many ecosystems, from shallow lakes to tropical forests, with a particular focus on contrasting aquatic environments.
- Statistics and Bioinformatics: Covers core statistics methods, within the R statistical computing environment. R has become the de facto environment for downstream data analysis and visualisation in biology, thanks to the hundreds of freely available R packages that allow biological data analysis solutions to be created quickly and reliably.
- Quantitative Techniques for Surveying and Monitoring in Ecology: In the first week, there will be a series of lectures, workshops and practical data analyses classes where you will learn the theory behind designing and initiating surveys and monitoring campaigns for research projects and also for conservation & management. In the subsequent week, you will be able to put the theory into practice in the field at a location such as Lake Windermere and environs: here you will undertake electrofishing and hydroacoustic surveys for fish populations, zooplankton and benthic invertebrate surveys, a census for aquatic birds, and camera-trapping for aquatic mammals. Other skills such as the use of the modern telemetric tools will be demonstrated.
- Science into Policy and Management – includes week in Dorset: Here a broad spectrum of human environmental impacts and their mitigation will be explored. The first half of the module will bring the student ‘face to face’ with potential regulators, practitioners and potential employers (typically Defra, Environment Agency, Natural England) through a series of guest lectures. These topics are then explored and summarised through an unpacking and feedback workshop. The second half is field based with current practitioners working directly in the field of bioassessment and biomonitoring. National and international legislation and directives are introduced through a series of case studies to look at the link between successful science and policy.
- Marine Mammals and Turtles – field course to Cape Verde: The module focuses on the diversity, behaviour, ecology, physiology, conservation and management of cetaceans (whales and dolphins), and marine turtles. It covers such issues as the life history and migrations of turtles, their diving ability and behaviours, the social behaviour of dolphins, and the conservation of whales. It also includes (even though they are not mammals or reptiles!) a brief look at the sea-birds and sharks that will likely also be seen during field excursions. For part of the module you will be taught in the archipelago of Cape Verde, with boat trips for whales and shark observations, sea turtle monitoring. Mornings will be dedicated to lectures and workshops while afternoons and evening will be dedicated to hands-on practical experience.
- Tropical Ecology and Conservation – field course, usually to either Borneo or Cape Verde
Find out more about this programme in the Freshwater and Marine Ecology student handbook.
You will undertake a 24-week individual research project where you will collaborate with research groups within the Centre for the Aquatic and Terrestrial Environment, or with external agencies and charities like the Environment Agency, Wild Trout Trust, Froglife, or the Broads Authority.
Examples of recent academic papers resulting from research projects:
- Harvey GL, Henshaw AJ, Moorhouse TP, Clifford NJ, Holah H, Grey J, Macdonald DW (2013) Invasive crayfish as drivers of fine sediment dynamics in rivers: field and laboratory evidence, Earth Surface Proc Land DOI:10.1002/esp.3486
- Dossena M, Yvon Durocher G, Grey J, Montoya J, Perkins D, Trimmer M & Woodward G (2012) Warming alters community size structure and ecosystem functioning. Proc Roy Soc B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0394
- Trimmer M, Maanoja S, Pretty JL, Hildrew AG & Grey J (2010) Potential carbon fixation via methane oxidation in well oxygenated river bed gravels. Limnol Oceanogr 55: 560-568
- Ravinet M, Syvaranta J, Jones RI & Grey J (2010) A trophic pathway from biogenic methane supports fish biomass in a temperate lake system. Oikos 119: 409-416
- Rawcliffe R, Sayer CD, Woodward G, Grey J, Davidson T & Jones JI (2010) Back to the future: using palaeolimnology to infer long-term temporal changes in shallow lake food webs. Freshwat Biol 55: 600-613
A minimum of an upper second-class BSc (Hons) degree (or equivalent international qualification) in a relevant subject such as environmental science, biology, chemistry or geography. Applicants with a good lower second class degree may be considered on an individual basis, taking into account relevant background and related achievements.
This programme includes one compulsory overseas field course. Students must choose one fieldwork option in Cape Verde or Borneo. Costs for flights, accommodation and meals are fully covered by the tuition fees - you will not have to contribute additional funds towards this field trip. Costs for compulsory fieldwork with the UK are also covered by the tuition fees.
English language requirements
All international students are required to provide evidence of their ability in English language.
The minimum level required for entry to our postgraduate programmes is:
- IELTS (International English Language Testing Service) - 6.5 (with a minimum of 6.0 in writing)
- WELT (Warwick English Language Test) – BBC/BCC
- TEEP (Test of English for Educational Purposes) – 6.5
- Cambridge ESOL Certificate in Advanced English – B
- Cambridge ESOL Certificate of Proficiency in English – C
For further information about our English language requirements please visit our international pages.
Am I eligible?
To check your eligibility contact our Postgraduate Admissions team:
Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 3328
Learning and teaching
Our Freshwater and Marine Ecology programme combines traditional lectures and practicals with a diverse range of learning formats. Group work, student presentations and open discussion/debate are an integral part of the programme, giving you the chance to develop communication and team-working skills. We take pride in cultivating a close-knit and friendly working relationship between academics and students on this programme. You will benefit from small group teaching, normally no more than 15 students in each seminar, allowing for a more intensive learning experience and increased interaction.
Teaching and assessment
You will take six taught modules, which make up 50% of your final grade. These will be assessed through a mixture of reports, essays, practicals, presentations and multiple choice questions.
Your taught modules take place in blocks of two weeks of full-time teaching (normally 9am-5pm), followed by weeklong study breaks for independent learning and coursework. Most modules are taught through lectures during the morning, with practicals, seminars, discussion groups and workshops taking place in the afternoon.
You will also have opportunities for fieldwork, including a weeklong field course, usually in Cumbria, and a tropical ecology field course, usually in Borneo. Much of the theory covered in your taught modules you will apply in a real research context during these field courses.
Your research project and dissertation is 50% of the final grade and typically involves field sampling, experimentation, laboratory work and data analysis.
You are encouraged to use your independent study time to engage with current researchers in the labs, or volunteer for extra fieldwork, thereby giving you first-hand experience of the research environment. You will also have opportunities to attend lab meetings, shadow PhD students and gain a full understanding of the research taking place in our department before deciding on your own research project.
You will undertake a supervised independent research project and dissertation.
Recent dissertation topics by students from this programme include the following:
- Conservation Genetics of loggerhead sea turtles
- Isoscapes of Jellyfish in the Irish Sea
- Restauration Genetics of Brown Trout in South East England
- Effects of microplastic on aquatic foodwebs
- Feeding ecology of loggerhead sea turtles
- Eco-evolutionary dynamics in marine ecosystems
- Stable isotope analyses of kelp forests
- Movement ecology of loggerhead sea turtles.
- Effects of eutrophication on host-parasite interactions
Tuition fees for Home and EU students
2018/19 Academic Year
Full time £10,250
Tuition fees for International students
2018/19 Academic Year
Full time £20,500
There are a number of sources of funding available for Masters students.
These include a significant package of competitive Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) bursaries and scholarships in a range of subject areas, as well as external sources of funding.
Queen Mary bursaries and scholarships
We offer a range of bursaries and scholarships for Masters students including competitive scholarships, bursaries and awards, some of which are for applicants studying specific subjects.
Find out more about QMUL bursaries and scholarships.
Alternative sources of funding
Home/EU students can apply for a range of other funding, such as Professional and Career Development Loans, and Employer Sponsorship, depending on their circumstances and the specific programme of study.
Overseas students may be eligible to apply for a range of external scholarships and we also provide information about relevant funding providers in your home country on our country web pages.
Download our Postgraduate Funding Guide [PDF] for detailed information about postgraduate funding options for Home/EU students.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 5079
Other financial help on offer at Queen Mary
We offer one to one specialist support on all financial and welfare issues through our Advice and Counselling Service, which you can access as soon as you have applied for a place at Queen Mary.
Our Advice and Counselling Service also has lots of Student Advice Guides on all aspects of finance including:
Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 8717
With aquatic ecosystems under threat from multiple stressors, we have designed a programme to equip you with the necessary interdisciplinary practical skills and theoretical understanding for employment in this area or further research.
Careers in research-focused positions
Some of our graduates apply their degree knowledge directly, working in research-focused positions such as chemistry consultants, molecular microbiologists and conservation officers in labs as far afield as Australia, South Africa and the USA. Many others pursue their academic interests from MSc to PhD-level, or from PhD to postdoctoral research associate or research fellows, and eventually to lectureships.
What are our graduates doing now?
Recent graduates from our masters degrees have gone on to do further research in the UK and abroad, including PhD positions at Queen Mary, Oxford University, University College London and at universities in the USA and New Zealand. Others have secured employment in industry and academia, including environmental consultancies, UK and overseas government agencies, the pharmaceutical industry, a global oil field services provider and as the head of a department at a university in Guyana.
The range of skills gained through our programmes, coupled with opportunities for extra-curricular activities, has enabled students to enter careers such as:
- NERC funded CASE PhD studentship - Environment Agency
- Internship - NERC
- Curator - Natural History Museum
- Community Learning and Engagement Officer - London Wildlife Trust
- Aquatic Ecologist field post - Consultancy firm Ahern
- Ecology Fisheries Ecologist - Brown May Marine
- Research Chemist - Xention Research
- Scientist - Phosphonics
- Ecotoxicologist - ADAS UK Ltd
- Consultant - HR Wallingford
- Technical Officer - Environment Agency
- Research Intern - Zoological Society of London
Career support at QMUL
Throughout the course, postgraduates have access to a careers programme to prepare them for applying for work after graduation. This programme includes workshops on job hunting and job applications as well as employer events to facilitate networks and help students to explore their options. Recent career events open to the School’s postgraduates include the SBCS Industrial Liaison Forum featuring small and medium sized employers, and workshops on applying for and doing a PhD.
Queen Mary’s location between Canary Wharf, the City and the Olympic Village redevelopment means that there are substantial opportunities for on campus and local part time work and work experience. On campus there are 1200 job and volunteer opportunities ranging from E-learning Assistant to Website Administrator and from Society President to Student Mentor. QTemps job agency offers work suitable for current students and recent graduates, QMSU Volunteering facilitates volunteering and QM JobOnline hosts over 800 part time and full time job vacancies.
Read more about our careers programmes and range of work experience opportunities on the QM Careers pages.