click to see more
The Master in Marine Mammal Science is offered as a full-time, intensive postgraduate programme. The course consists of two semesters with taught components and an independent research project of at least 3 months duration with the submission of a written thesis at the end.
The taught component is modular in structure. Each student is required to complete 7 compulsory modules of two to four week duration. Students also have to choose two optional modules, each two weeks in duration, from a total of six on offer. The optional modules can be thought of as either refreshers or primers for specialised study.
Teaching will be done by means of lectures, seminars and tutorials. Practicals will involve lab work, field work, modelling and computer-based data analysis. Other taught activities include a week long field trip to practice survey and observational techniques.
The course will be intensive: students will have a full timetable, and will be asked to work both as individuals and in groups.
Compulsory modules include:
Biology of Marine Mammals
This module introduces the zoogeography of marine mammals and the morphological, physiological and behavioural adaptations which have enabled this diverse group to successfully colonise all of the world’s oceans and some freshwater systems. Students will gain an understanding of the physiological and behavioural complexity underlying movement patterns, diving, foraging, reproduction, and social dynamics of marine mammals across different temporal and spatial scales. Lectures will focus on topical issues and selected examples illustrating and contrasting some of the strategies employed by different marine mammal groups.
Case Studies in Marine Mammal Biology
Many of the most topical issues in marine mammal science revolve around ecology and behaviour. In this module, students will explore aspects of diving, foraging, reproduction and social behaviour of marine mammals in greater detail through a series of student-lead seminars, lab practicals and field excursions. Emphasis will be placed on current advances in understanding and research methods. The issues discussed here are often at the base of human-marine mammal conflicts, thus understanding the underlying ecological principles not only provides interesting insights into marine mammal biology but also yields consequences for marine mammal conservation and management.
Population Biology of Marine Mammals
The module reviews the fundamental concepts of population dynamics (growth, density dependence, stability, population structure) and how these are interpreted in the light of the various life-history strategies adapted by different species of marine mammals. It then examines topics in population genetics, trophic interactions and spatial dynamics. The course also covers practical issues involved in population viability analysis and anticipated future developments in integrative modelling approaches.
Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals
From the heated debates surrounding whaling to calls for seal culls to protect commercial fish stocks, issues pertaining to marine mammals feature regularly in the public domain and often polarize public opinion. Finding ways to address human-marine mammal conflicts and advise on mitigation have become important tasks for many marine mammal scientists. Through a series of lectures, seminars, debates and workshops, students will explore human-marine mammal interactions with a view to better understand the underlying factors. They will learn to critically evaluate current conservation and management issues and will explore ways in which sound science can contribute to alleviate existing and future conflicts.
Quantitative Methods for Ecology
This module provides the basic numerical and computational skills necessary for visualising and summarising data sets. It is designed as a primer for more advanced courses in statistical modelling and also as an introduction to the computer language R. The examples and computer practicals are motivated from the ecological literature.
Students also have to choose two optional modules from a selection of five. (Note, optional field course modules require payment of additional expedition fees):
Current Issues in Marine Mammal Behaviour
Marine mammals are often seen as highly intelligent and complex in their behaviour. This module will investigate such claims by discussing current views and recent advances in the study of marine mammal social behaviour. Each student will present one topic to the class and lead the discussion on it. Topics covered will include brain evolution, dolphin signature whistles, referential communication, cetacean culture, equivalence classes, cooperation and concept formation.
Current Issues in Biologging
This module will present an introduction to marine mammal biologging science: the theory and practice of logging and relaying physical and biological data using animal-attached tags. Lectures will cover the technology currently available for measuring animal movements, investigating behaviour, ecology and physiology, some of the problems associated with tag design in terms of how data is stored and transmitted, and problems associated with data analysis and data display.
Advanced bioacoustics for marine mammal science - new for 2013/14!
Bioacoustics is an important tool in marine mammal science, used in research on behaviour, ecology, population dynamics and anthropogenic impacts, as well as in applied contexts for mitigating impacts. St Andrews has a world-leading group of experts in this field, which attracts students (almost half the 2012/2013 course are using bioacoustics for their project research), but the topic is currently only covered briefly in occasional lectures within the MRes curriculum. There is therefore a need for a dedicated advanced level module to deliver to students the full benefit of the concentrated expertise we currently possess. The module would also be an important resource for research postgraduates needing to acquire skills in this area.
Predator Ecology in Polar Ecosystems – A field course in Antarctica- in early 2014!
This module offers MRes students the unique opportunity to gain theoretical and practical experience in polar ecology with special emphasis on top predators (cetaceans, pinnipeds, sea birds), ecosystem functionality and management of Antarctic marine living resources. Students will participate in a two week vessel-based expedition to Antarctica during the austral summer. This field trip involves travelling to southern Argentina, conducting at-sea surveys during transit to/ from the Antarctic Peninsula, participating in shore-based activities, and exploring Antarctic coastal waters from small boats. Through a series of specialist lectures, student-led seminars, on-board practicals, field excursions and dedicated observational studies students will gain in-depth understanding and critical awareness of the current scientific, conservation and management challenges of the Antarctic ecoregion. Upon return to St Andrews students will complete a specialist case study on a selected topic which will culminate in the presentation of a report in journal format. This module requires payment of a substantial expedition fee. See the 2012 students' expedition blog and some Students on Ice videos about the 2012 expedition- on land (Cuverville) and at sea (Drake Passage).