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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Learn about marine biology and marine ecology.

  • Develop a knowledge of marine life and ecology, whether for work or general interest.

  • The first two lessons deal with marine environments (weather, nutrient cycle, reefs, shallow and deep water environments, etc.).

  • Lessons 3 to 8 deal mostly with marine animals, particularly more complex animals.

  • The last lesson considers human impacts upon marine environments.


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Study marine ecology systems - marine weather, animal and plant life, and the human impact on these.

  • Understand sea life.

  • Learn about the components of marine ecology.

  • Learn about the environments that marine life exists in - nutrient cycles, food chains and more.

  • A foundation course for anyone with a passion for the sea and marine biology.



Marine Studies I is a Professional Development Course suitable for:

  • Environmental Scientists.
  • Divers.
  • Marine Tourism Operators.
  • Aquaculture Farmers.
  • Fishermen.
  • or a foundation course for anyone with a passion for the sea and marine biology.


Course Duration: 100 hours.

Start Date:
Start at any time - study at a pace that suits you, and with full tutor support for the duration of your studies.

Lessons: The course comprises 9 lessons including contents as outlined below.

Lesson 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.)
Lesson 2. Shallow Waters & Reefs
  • Coral Reefs
  • Rocky Shorelines
  • Estuaries
  • Introduction to marine arthropods.
Lesson 3. Shellfish & Crustaceans
  • Molluscs and Brachiopods
  • True Crabs
  • Hermit Crabs
  • Lobsters
  • Prawns etc.
Lesson 4. Squid, Octopus, and Other Primitive Animals
  • Cephalopods and Clupeoids, etc.
Lesson 5. Fish Part A
  • (Cartilaginous Fish) Sharks
  • Eels
  • Rays
  • Shark Life cycle
  • How dangerous are sharks?
  • Effect of sharks on tourism, etc.
Lesson 6. Fish Part B
  • (Bony Fish) Fish Anatomy/structure (identifying external and internal parts)
  • Legalities (protection of wildlife)
  • Types of fish, etc.
Lesson 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 and substitutes for those products
Lesson 8. Turtles, Sea Snakes and Seabirds
  • Types of turtles and sea snakes
  • Toxicity of sea snakes
  • Turtle protection
  • Penguins and other sea birds (e.g. stints, knots, pelicans, swans, gulls, eagles, ibis, egrets, terns, shearwaters, gannets, albatross, prions, oyster-catchers and petrels)
Lesson 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 and other marine life


You can start the course at any time.

It is studied by distance learning, so you can study in the comfort of your own home. But this doesn't mean you are all alone in your studies.  Our highly qualified and friendly tutors are there to help you every step of the way.  If you have any questions at all, they are always happy to help.

Each lesson includes set tasks, and is completed with an assignment which the student submits to their course tutor.  The tutor will mark the assignment and return this to the student with comments and suggestions for further reading.


  • We are an established distance learning school (for over 37 years), and independent.

  • Our courses are written and taught by experienced professionals, so you know you can expect a high quality of teaching and support.

  • You can start the course at any time and study at your own pace.

  • Fit your studies around your own busy lifestyle - we provide full tutor support for all the time you are studying.

  • Study where you want to - online studies offer the flexibility for you to determine where and when you study.



A Professional Development Course for:

  • Environmental Scientists.

  • Divers.

  • Marine Tourism Operators.

  • Aquaculture Farmers.

  • Fishermen.

  • A foundation course for anyone with a passion for the sea and marine biology.



If you have any questions, please get in touch with one of our specialist tutors - they will be more than happy to help you with any questions that you may have.  Please get in touch with our FREE COURSE COUNSELLING SERVICE.



There is an enormous diversity of animals and plants that live in the sea. Learning all of their names can seem overwhelming for anyone starting into studying this subject, but it doesn't need to be.

There is in fact a very well organised, scientific system for classifying these organisms - at first into a small number of large groups, then in turn each of those groups is broken down into smaller groups.

Learning to identify sea life is far easier if you learn the large groups, thoroughly at first, then, one by one, learn about the sub categories of each of those larger groups. This provides a framework in which you can organise your knowledge, and in doing so, it all becomes easier.

This is the way we teach you.

Consider marine reptiles, for instance.


There are many reptiles that have adapted to a marine lifestyle. The earliest of these occurred during the Paleozoic era almost 300 million years ago.

Many of these species became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period. Some extant species remain including sea snakes, sea turtles, crocodilians and sea iguanas.

Sea Turtles (Superfamily Cheloniodea)

Sea turtles have evolved to live in the oceans over 100 million years. They occupy all oceans aside from the polar regions. There are 8 species of marine turtles, these include:

  • Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata.

  • Green Turtle Chelonia mydas.

  • Black (or Eastern Pacific Green) Turtle Chelonia agassizii.

  • Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta.

  • Leatherback Turtle Dermochelys coriacea.

  • Olive Ridley Lepidochelys olivacea.

  • Kemps Ridley Lepidochelys kempii.

  • Flatback Turtle Natator depressus (endemic to northern Australia).

Sea turtles are known to migrate long distances between feeding and nesting sites. They have even been recorded to travel between oceans. They have paddle-like flippers, a modified ribcage (shell) and have lungs to breath like other reptiles.

Sea turtles live their life virtually submerged in water, only leaving the oceans to lay eggs. They have large lungs which enable them to exchange oxygen quickly and avoid trapping gases when diving deeply. They breathe air, but if needed can divert to anaerobic respiration for extended periods of time. Generally life histories are relatively similar between the different species.

Most sea turtles are long lived. They are known to have a lifespan of up to 80 years. It can take decades for them to reach sexual maturity. All sea turtles lay eggs. Breeding females will lay eggs on a beach in a hole dug with her hind flippers. The eggs are soft-shelled and can number up to 200 depending on the species. The sex of hatchlings is influenced by the temperature of the sand. Lighter sands are generally higher in temperature which results in a higher incidence of females hatching.  Eggs generally hatch between 7-12 weeks. Sea turtles do not exhibit any signs of parental care for the young.

Sea turtles can be carnivorous, omnivorous or herbivorous. Green sea turtles are the only herbivorous adult turtle, feeding on sea grasses and algae. Most carnivorous species feed on crabs, shrimp, molluscs and jellyfish. As this food source is high in salt sea turtles possess a unique salt excretory gland. This gland can be positioned in different places depending on the species, such as the corner of the eye or the nostril.  
All sea turtles are threatened. The main threats to sea turtles are pollution and habitat modification (especially sea grass beds, nesting beaches, mangroves and corals).

Sea Snakes (Order Squamata)

There are around 50 species of aquatic snake. As they are cold-blooded most are found in coastal tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  They are generally 1 metre long, however some have been recorded at more than 3 metres.

All sea snakes have developed a paddle tail and eel-like body shape that is laterally compressed to adapt to an aquatic lifestyle.  The ventral scales found on most other snakes is absent as are the muscular links. This would make them unable to move on land.

They are all adapted to feed, breed and breathe in an aquatic environment. Sea snakes breathe through valved nostrils that close when underwater. Some species can stay below water for up to 80 minutes before coming up for air and can dive to 100 metres or more.  The lungs can extend the entire length of the body. This can assist with buoyancy, storing air when diving.

Sea snakes are carnivorous. Most feed on fish, but they can also feed on fish eggs and eels. Like the sea turtles, sea snakes have a salt excretory gland under their tongue. All of these snakes are extremely venomous, using their venom to paralyse prey. Their venom is the most potent of the animal kingdom, however there has never been a recorded human death from a sea snake bite.  As they have no natural predators in the ocean, they can be quite curious of humans.

Most sea snakes are viviparious (embryos develop inside the body of the parent). Litter size can vary from 1 to 30, however, most produce less than 10 offspring at any one time. The young are born in the water where they live their entire life. The young can be quite large, some being half the size of the mother.

One genus of sea snake is oviparous, Laticauda (sea kraits). The five species of this genus lay eggs on land. This genus can regularly come on to shore, with one species, L. colubrina leaving the ocean to digest food.

Crocodilians (Order Crocodilia)

This order includes the Crocodiles, Alligators, Caimans, and Gharials (also known as Gavials). Crocodilians resemble enormous lizards, but they are very distinctive animals. It is the only group of modern reptiles having a four chambered heart like birds and mammals.

Crocodiles are the oldest of the reptiles and the most successful. They range in size from the Dwarf Caimans which grows to 1.4 m up to the Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus propsus) which can be longer than 7m and weigh over a tonne. All are well-adapted to amphibious life. They possess a secondary palate, valves in nostrils and throat and a powerful tail for aquatic locomotion.

The Saltwater Crocodile is the most commonly associated with marine environments. It is found in Australia, India, Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. It can occupy various aquatic habitats such as coastal waters, estuaries and freshwater marshes, swamps and rivers.

Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus)

This species is found on the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. These iguanas are unique amongst lizards as they have adapted to live and forage in the sea. They can dive to 10 metres They have a slightly laterally compressed tail which helps the iguana move through the water. Males generally grow to 1.3m in length and can weigh up to 1.5 Kg. As with all reptiles they are ectothermic so they spend much of their time basking. Their dark coloured skin enables them to quickly absorb heat. Marine iguanas feed mainly on marine algae.  Prior to feeding, marine iguanas must raise their body temperature to above 36°C.  



To enrol, simply go to the enrolment box at the top right-hand side of this page.  If you have any QUESTIONS, then please do get in touch with one of our specialist Environmental tutors, use our FREE COURSE COUNSELLING SERVICE.



Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Alison Pearce (animal)B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Masters Degree in Ecotourism. P.G.Cert. Ed. (Science). Alison's first job was in 1982 as a stockwoman, working with pigs in Yorkshire. Within a few years she of that she was working for the University of Western Australia as a Research Technician and instructor with their school of Agricultural Science.In 1989 she moved to Melbourne University as Unit Manager and Instructor in Animal Husbandry. By the mid 1990's she moved back to England to work in Animal Care and Veterinary Nursing at Cambridgeshire College of Agriculture. Throughout her career, Alison has developed and delivered courses in veterinary nursing and animal sciences for vocational colleges and universities in Australia, New Zealand and Australia. She has built a high level of expertise and an outstanding international reputation as an expert in animal sciences.
Dr. Gareth PearceGraduated from the University of Nottingham in 1982 with a B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Between 82 and 85 worked as Research Assistant and Demonstator in Animal Science at the University of Leeds. Over more than 30 years he has furthered his studies, obtaining eight significant university qualifications including degrees in Veterinary Science, Wildlife Conservation and Animal Behaviour. Gareth has significant teaching experience around the world as a faculty member at eight different universities including Associate Professor at Murdoch University and Director of Studies in Veterinary Science at Cambridge University. He has over 100 prestigious research papers published, and enjoys an outstanding international reputation in the fields of animal and veterinary science.

Check out our eBooks

BirdsIdeal for Ornithology students or the budding bird enthusiast, this ebook offers an ideal foundation on birds. Learn to identify birds from around the world with over 130 colour photographs and 117 pages of fascinating bird facts.
Marine AnimalsWith colour photos splashed throughout, this Marine Animals e-book is designed to provide a guide for some of the more common animals found in marine ecosystems around the world. Learn about the creatures hidden by the other 70% of the earth's surface. Explore more...
Animal HealthUnderstand animal health issues, diseases and how identify and manage illnesses and injuries. Animals can become sick for many different reasons -diseases caused by infections, injuries, poisoning, genetic disorders, poor nutrition and other things.
Professional Practice for ConsultantsExplore becoming a consultant. This ebook contains chapters on how to be a consultant, packaging your services, delivering the services, building your resources, finding the work and getting the job, planning and ethics.