International Master of Science in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation

Course content

The marine environment is a precious asset. Oceans and seas provide 99% of the available living space on the planet, cover 71% of the earth’s surface and contain 90% of the biosphere and consequently a large share of global biological diversity. Marine ecosystems play a key role in climate and weather processes. Indispensable to life itself, the marine environment is also a great contributor to economic prosperity, social well-being and quality of life. However, the marine environment is facing a number of threats including loss or degradation of its biodiversity and changes in its structure, loss of habitats, contamination by dangerous substances and nutrients and impacts of climate change.

The EU-Marine Strategy provides an integrated framework for analyzing relevant community policies’ contributions to the protection of and the impact on the marine environment. In order to obtain these goals, we need to have well-trained people who are able to evaluate, understand and investigate the state of the marine environment, and this at different levels and from different disciplines such as general oceanography, ecology, chemistry, physics, statistics, geology, social sciences, economy, and aquaculture.

The EMBC+ programme is strongly oriented to the fundamental understanding of the structure and function of marine biodiversity, the acquisition of several kinds of tools required for understanding the complexity of biodiversity patterns and processes, and finally to the application of this knowledge for nature conservation and restoration.

Course structure

The study programme is running for 2 academic years and is divided in 3 thematic modules:

  • Understanding the Structure and Function of Marine Biodiversity (at least 18 ECTS) deals with the fundamental aspects of oceanography (on a multidisciplinary basis, including physics, chemistry, geology, biology, ecology, biogeography, climate change), the structure and functioning of marine biodiversity (from genes to habitats) and with impact studies.
  • Toolbox for Investigating Marine Biodiversity (at least 18 ECTS) provides an advanced training in statistics and experimental design, modelling, taxonomy, data and information management, field observations and interpretation and molecular methods.
  • Conservation and Restoration of Marine Biodiversity (at least 6 ECTS) deals with the application of the above mentioned theories and methods in order to develop a sustainable use of the marine environment.

The spring school is a mandatory and interdisciplinary training activity which lasts for 10 days and unites students and teachers to collaborate on specialised topics at a European Marine Research Station. The focus is on both developing scientific knowledge and on creating a beneficial integrative experience for students and teachers. The spring school is worth 6 credits.

For the development of personal skills and skills in research project implementation (i.e. transferable skills), at least 8 ECTS are required and may include a training in the basic knowledge of the native language of the country of actual study period, training in scientific communication, research management, and this related to one or more of the topics in the thematic modules. Although the courses will be given in English, native language training will enhance social integration of the students in their host countries.

At the end of the second semester, students have the possibility to do an internship at any associate or full member of the EMBC+ master programme. Instead of an internship, students can choose to follow an additional set of thematic courses for 12 credits at one of the main partner universities.

In the second semester of the second year, a research project (Master thesis) of 30 ECTS is scheduled.

Programme mobility

The main difference and advantage of this programme versus the Master of Marine and Lacustrine Science and Management is the mobility and the co-operation between different leading universities.
The student will live and study in at least two European cities and will receive a Joint degree signed by six European universities:
- Ghent University (Belgium);
- University of Bremen (Germany);
- University of the Algarve (Portugal);
- University of Paris 6 (France);
- University of Oviedo (Spain);
- Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (Ireland).

There is an obligatory mobility for at least one semester (30 ECTS) to one of the six partner universities. Students will choose in the first year among three universities – Ghent, Bremen or Algarve – which are offering in the first semester mainly the basic multidisciplinary courses. For the second semester, each of these universities is organising more specialised courses and will start with the scientific training in research projects.

In the second year, the students move to Paris, Oviedo or Galway for the first semester. The second semester of the second year students can move again to the research institutes where the thesis work is done.

Career perspectives

The EU-Marine Strategy provides an integrated framework for analyzing relevant community policies’ contributions to the protection of and the impact on the marine environment. This EU-Strategy is the basis for the national European authorities and policies at the one hand and is the basis for debate at the global scale regarding policies for Nature protection and Conservation in general. The EMBC+ Masters will be well trained to operate immediately within these policy environments. Most of them will use this Master as a basis for PhD research.

Masters and Post-docs specialized in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation can help in the implementation of the strategies for future sustainable use of the natural marine resources taking into account the natural ecological background of the ecosystems. The added value for EMBC Masters will be that they can operate on a global scale since there is no restriction in the programme regarding types of biotopes (going from the coast to the deep sea and from poles to poles).