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BSc (Hons) - Marine and Freshwater Conservation (with integrated foundation year)

An abundance of rivers, lakes and coastline on your doorstep will inspire your marine conservation degree studies and prepare you to make a difference to the environmental conservation of our planet.

With a shortage of marine and freshwater scientists in the UK, there’s never been a better time to study to become a future expert in the world of marine biology and aquatic conservation.

Our foundation year will build a solid base in scientific, intellectual, investigative skills and knowledge.


Marine and Freshwater Conservation (with integrated foundation year) cover image

Course Overview

On this degree course, you’ll receive a thorough introduction to a range of marine and freshwater environments from upland springs to coastal zones. Once you’ve mastered the fundamental understanding of biodiversity and its conservation we’ll move on to the processes affecting the behaviour and characteristics of aquatic habitats. You’ll also be able to choose from a number of modules to suit your interests so you can tailor your own degree, backed up by laboratory and field-based teaching from research-active tutors to boost your practical and analytical skills. If you choose the ‘with placement’ version of the degree you will also complete a year away from campus, undertaking a UK or international placement; some of our former students have chosen to study in countries including Cambodia, Canada, Mexico and Montenegro. We also offer our students and abundance of conservation volunteering opportunities as well as field trips across the UK and overseas.

On this course you will...

  • Benefit from the only UK conservation degree taught inside a national park. This provides you with easy access to charismatic wildlife and diverse and distinctive habitats and ecosystems.
  • Be taught by experts in aquatic conservation, each with a wealth of experience in the conservation of marine and freshwater species and their habitats.
  • Enjoy small class sizes which allows us to provide a personal approach to teaching and student support.
  • Be actively involved in the reintroduction of endangered wildlife species in Cumbria. So you can gain hands-on experience in species reintroduction as part of your degree.
  • Study in a vibrant community within the landscape of the English Lake District. This provides amazing recreational opportunities and you will live and breathe conservation.

Course Structure

What you will learn

With a shortage of marine and freshwater scientists in the UK, there’s never been a better time to study to become a future expert in the world of aquatic conservation. So, we’ve designed you a unique course - with the guidance of professional environmental consultants and aquatic scientists - so you can study freshwater and marine conservation together in one degree.

You'll be guided through the wonderful range of marine and freshwater environments to be found on our planet, from upland springs and freshwater lakes, through coastal environments to deep sea trenches.

Year one

You'll build a solid base in scientific, intellectual and investigative skills and knowledge, which will be expanded upon during the rest of the course.

  • Essential University Skills 1
    This module develops your academic and professional skills required for effective learning and successful progression through your chosen honours degree programme and beyond.
  • Essential Biology
    To develop knowledge and understanding of the fundamental principles of biology, essential to further study in your chosen field.
  • Scientific Investigation
    To explore the protocols associated with scientific investigation.
  • Essential University Skills 2
    You will expand your learning in the areas of research, writing structure and reflective learning. You will also gain skills in presenting research to an audience and in reflecting on your development throughout your integration foundation year.
  • Environmental Sciences
    Introduces field-based skills akin to the natural sciences with interdisciplinary content which relates Human Ecology to Toxicology, Public Health, Epidemiology and Parasitology. Giving you a good foundation in the basic principles required for your degree.
  • Dynamic Earth
    You will study applied aspects of geology, geomorphology, climatology, hydrology and soils within the context of your area of interest. There will be opportunity for laboratory and field classes to support your understanding within a regional context.
Year two

You'll study six modules to give you a fundamental understanding of biodiversity and its conservation.

  • Conservation Skills & Practice
    The role of a contemporary conservationist is broad ranging and likely to face many challenges and complexities.This module will develop the core scientific skills and practical skills needed as a conservationist, for both success in your undergraduate studies and to enhance your employability.
  • Introduction to Conservation Biology
    Students will get a firm grounding in what constitutes conservation, where the discipline has come from, organisations that are involved, legislation policy and international agreements, and strategies and practice importance for conservation biology.
  • Biodiversity 1
    This module aims to introduce you to the range of biodiversity on the planet. Lectures will provide a comprehensive introduction to biodiversity while field- and laboratory-based sessions will give practical experience and the skills to identify major taxonomic groups.
  • Biodiversity 2
    Field identifications will be using easily observed characteristics and field guides whereas the laboratory sessions will be using microscopes to observe the required details to use in scientific keys. When possible, specimen for identification will be collected by students in the local environment.
  • Introduction to Ecology
    The aim of this module is to provide you with a broad understanding and knowledge of ecology and ecological processes. Ecology, the study of interactions between organisms and with their environments, provides a theoretical and practical framework for managing and working with different ecosystems.
  • Aquatic Environments
    You will study aquatic environments using an integrated approach from freshwater catchments to deep ocean trenches. The module will give an essential foundation to the study of conservation of aquatic ecosystems.
Year three

You'll study the processes controlling the behaviour and characteristics of aquatic habitats, their plants and animals. Plus, there are many opportunities to get on-the-job experience in the field, with a UK or international placement or by volunteering with local conservation organisations.

  • Biodiversity Monitoring
    This module builds on your identification and field skills gained in first year to put your knowledge and experience with biological monitoring techniques into practice. You will develop the theory and practical application of biological survey design and monitoring schemes.
  • Evolution and Biogeography
    To understand the mechanisms that drive evolution, students will study the history of the Earth, including the major extinction and diversification events and how the distributions of plants and animals are influenced by natural and anthropogenic factors.
  • Freshwater Ecology
    This module will allow you to examine topical issues surrounding freshwater ecosystems including sustainable water resource use, pollution and catchment management and conservation of freshwater biodiversity.
  • Research Methods and Data Analysis
    The aim of this module is to introduce you to the scientific method, research design, collecting data in an unbiased manner and the analytical skills required to complete an undergraduate honours dissertation project.
  • Marine Ecology
    Over 50% of the world’s biodiversity is found in marine habitats and conserving marine species and ecosystems is an ecological imperative. The module helps you develop in-depth knowledge and understanding of marine biology, biodiversity and ecology.
  • Conservation Genetics (Optional)
    The overall aim of conservation is to maintain biodiversity, including genetic diversity. Conservationists therefore need a fundamental knowledge of genetics and genetic diversity. This knowledge will be applied to a range of ecological and conservation issues.
  • Geographic Information Systems (Optional)
    The aim of this module is to provide students with a sound understanding of the theory and application of GIS in a manner relevant to their field of study and potential future employment.
  • Valuing the Environment (Optional)
    Students will explore the concepts associated with valuing the environment including: natural capital, nature’s contribution to people and ecosystem services. You will critically evaluate these as frameworks for enabling people to “value” the environment.
Year four

From this year, you will be able to demonstrate that you have the ability to: apply and evaluate key concepts and theories within and outside the context in which they were first studied; select appropriately from and deploy a range of subject-specific, cognitive and transferable skills and problem-solving strategies to problems in the field of study and in the generation of ideas and to effectively communicate information and arguments in a variety of forms; accept responsibility for determining and achieving personal outcomes; reflect on personal and work place experience in the light of recent scholarship and current statutory regulations.

  • Dissertation
    You will undertake an independent piece of in-depth research into a topic of your choice that is related to the fields of animal conservation science and conservation biology. You will develop your research skills and gain valuable experience in project management and research dissemination.
  • Management of Aquatic Resources
    Water is essential for life on earth. It shapes the landscape, supports natural ecosystems and biodiversity, and is used by humans in numerous ways. Aquatic environments provide many different benefits to human society; from drinking water and irrigation, to fisheries, transport and recreation.
  • Applied Field Studies
    It provides you with experience of collecting and analysing a scientific data set and preparing a scientific report on a small scale and allows you to develop higher level analytical skills in hypothesis testing and reporting.
  • Conservation in Marine & Freshwater Ecosystems
    Aquatic systems are of vital importance to global biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and also provide many essential human resources. This module will build on your previous learning, enabling you to explore some of the issues surrounding conservation in marine and freshwater ecosystems.
  • Advanced GIS and Remote Sensing (Optional)
    The aim of this module is to provide students with the skills and knowledge to plan and implement projects using GIS and remote sensing to solve issues in the fields of conservation and natural resources management.
  • Conservation Strategies (Optional)
    Considers the integration of socio-ecological and economic perspectives to applied conservation strategies.You will develop the theoretical and practical conservation themes with a focus on strategies that promote the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainability of components.
  • Wildlife Management (Optional)
    Students apply their knowledge of wildlife and conservation to real life situations. The module will give students an in-depth knowledge of wildlife management techniques, stressing the importance of planning, administration and funding for effective management of habitats, populations and species.

Attend an Open Day at Cumbria

An Open Day is your opportunity to explore one of 5 campuses, meet your lecturers, and find out how the University of Cumbria could become your new home.

Take the next step towards achieving your dreams.
A student stands in front of a wall splattered with paint.