Diploma in Marine Biology

Module 1 - Ocean formation

The Oceans cover over 70% of the world’s surface and contains an array of rich life, adapting to its range of climate and weather systems. The ocean has a range of habitats, and it is believed there is still much to discover about its content. This module sets the scene by looking at how the oceans are created and destroyed by sea floor spreading and plate tectonics. Continental drift and the configuration of the oceans and continents through geological history is discussed with a speculative look into the possible future configurations should the continents continue to move as predicted. The major oceans of the present day with their geological features are studied, and the path of an ocean as it progresses from birth to death is followed.

Module 2 - The Ocean as a Habitat

The oceans are constantly changing in terms of the way they form and are structured, and also their internal environment being affected by external factors. Some basic oceanography and the structure of the physical ocean from the continental shelf to the abyssal plain is studied, and we then descend into the deep ocean trenches. There are two distinct environments, the actual sea floor and the surrounding sea waters. The chemistry of seawater and how it gets its physical properties as well as the physics of light and sound propagation in the ocean is explored. The dynamics of tides and major currents and the large scale movements of seawater in the ocean basins is looked at. How waves are formed, and how temperature, density and salinity work together in the marine environment is discovered.

Module 3 - Biological evolution in the oceans

Fossils have been found that are about 3,8 billion years old, not that much younger than when Earth and the Solar Systems were thought to form about 4 billion years ago. Until 1961 it was thought that life formed on Earth by arriving as particles from other planets, until a ferocious debate arose when scientists were able to re-create simple molecular life forms in the laboratory from a rich soup of chemicals that are readily found in the seas today. In module three, we look at how life evolved in the ocean and uncover the fascinating hydrothermal vents which were discovered in the 1970s. The peculiar animals that live in these habitats and how they are able to live in such extreme environments is explored. The evolution of animals in the ocean from the tiniest one-celled animal to the largest marine mammals is discussed and the mass extinctions and radiations that have punctuated the geological history of life on Earth is shown, ending in what we continue to discover today.

Module 4 - Food webs in the sea

As on land, the life in the sea is maintained by a primary food producer, the phytoplankton, which is able to harness energy to makes it own food. We discover the secret unseen world of the microscopic marine phytoplankton and zooplankton and discuss the primary productivity and the trophic food webs which support all life in the sea. The incredible migration patterns of tiny zooplankton and how other marine animals exploit them is explored. How some of the smallest animals in the sea support some of the largest such as the great whales is discussed. Finally we look at the global distribution patterns of the tiniest organisms in the sea since they impact upon and influence the survival of all the organisms in the food chains and food web in which they form the base, yet crucial level.

Module 5 - Adaptations to life in the sea

In this module, how diverse life adapted to the harsh marine environment by forming a cyclic relationship is explored. The way animals from the smallest single-celled organisms to fish and the largest whale are able to live in the ocean, whilst others moved to the land is discussed. Biological systems such as osmoregulation, thermoregulation, locomotion, respiration, reproduction, sensory systems, diet and foraging strategies are investigated. The variety of the life in the oceans (and the land), its survival, how it is named and its evolutionary path is discovered. As a case study, the extraordinary evolutionary adaptation of the whales and dolphins as they evolved from being land animals, 50 million years ago to the fully adapted marine creatures seen today is studied.

Module 6 - Tropical environments

The tropical seas are generally considered to be much less productive, so the organisms found here are much more rigorous in the amount of primary productivity, between 30-250 times that of the open oceans. The specific conditions of the tropical oceans are explored. The beautiful coral reefs and mangrove swamps of the tropics are studied in terms of coral anatomy, growth, adaptation and their global distribution and ecology. The geological aspects of coral reef formation and how the simple coral animals evolved throughout their geological history is explored. The delicate symbiotic relationship between the tiny reef organisms and their coral hosts is assessed, and the marvellous array of coral reef fishes and their ecology is discovered and explored.

Module 7 - Polar environments

The physical environment of the polar regions appear similar, and yet there are fundamental geological differences in the Arctic and Antarctic. The Arctic is a sea surrounded by land, and the Antarctic is a continent surrounded by sea, so they contain very different organisms. The ecology of polar environments and the different species found in the Arctic and Antarctic is studied, along with the extraordinary evolutionary adaptations of the life in such extreme environments. Animals such as the fish with antifreeze in their blood form specific case studies that and the way that warm blooded animals have adapted and are able to survive in such extreme cold, will be studied.

Module 8 - The intertidal

The intertidal area or the littoral zone is the small area in the ocean affected by the rise and fall of the tides. The physical environment such as how long the waters are exposed to air, their depth and height, and the animals of rocky shores, sandy beaches and muddy estuaries affected by these changes are looked at. They are very different environments affected by the tides, yet are all at the mercy of the daily and seasonal tides. Thus, the animals have amazing adaptation such as desiccating intertidal environments and physical and biological factors for zonation of animals and plants on the shoreline. As a case study, the biology of a rock pool and the array of fascinating animals that are found there are explored.

Module 9 - Beneath the tides

It is said that scientists know more about what is found on the moon than in the deepest waters of the ocean. The abyssal areas of the deep ocean reveal new organisms in every deep scientific exploratory sea dive. The deep waters are dark, have high pressure, are cold, often have extreme conditions and appear void of life, yet show a remarkable diversity and richness of organisms, adapted for this environment. The energy transfer, food web and the surprisingly abundant animals of the deep sea are studied. The strange looking deep-sea fishes and invertebrates that are adapted to such incredible pressures exerted by the water column in this harsh environment and the animals, which create their own light: bioluminescence is investigated. The study of the ecology of a kelp forests in Alaska with its vitally important keystone species provides an in-depth study in this area of the oceans.

Module 10 - The human impact on the sea

Humans have done enormous damage to the oceans with over-fishing, oils spills and even testing Nuclear weapons upon our precious waters. The oceans have been discovered not to have unlimited food as was once thought, especially in line with the exponential rise in world population. It cannot continue to meet demands in the way we are exploiting it today. This final module looks at fisheries, the impacts of over-fishing and the main food species we obtain from the sea. The ocean pollution such as toxic pollutants, sewage and marine debris which are degrading the ocean are discussed, and how the animals of the sea are coping with it all. The history and damage of oil spills and their aftermath, and whether our well-intended clean-up operations do any good are discussed. The impact on global warming and its implications for life in the sea by looking at the geological history of climate change over millions of years and comparing it with the predictions of some of the climate models for the future is explored, and ends this course.

Cost of course £365

Entry Requirements

All students must be 16 years of age and above.

Level 3 Diploma courses require a minimum prior learning to GCSE standard in order that students can manage their studies and the assumed knowledge within course content.

Study Hours: Approximately 20 hours per unit

Assessment Method: Final online multiple choice examination.

Please note that you can enrol on this course at anytime.

Award: Diploma in Marine Biology

This course is Quality Assured by the Quality Licence Scheme

At the end of this course successful learners will receive a Certificate of Achievement

Enrol on this course via Oxford Learning College