Marine Studies I

Course CodeBEN103
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment


  • Build a foundation for identifying marine organisms and understanding marine environments.
  • This course stands alone for anyone working or hoping to work in marine science, management or tourism.

This course it strongly complements a whole range of other courses offered by this school.

It can form part of a certificate or diploma in either animal sciences, or environmental studies.

ACS student comments

 "You ask every time if I find the course of interest. I do! I started scuba diving about 3 years ago. Previously I have dived for abalone, alikreukel and crayfish. I love the sea. I really enjoy the course! I am just sorry that I take so long to complete the assignments. My life is full of other things happening and things I have to do. But I want to complete the full course in the end (Marine studies 2 and earth science as well)"  Elizabeth van Dyk

I have appreciated and valued the feedback from my tutor and am thoroughly enjoying my course. Being a stay-at-home mum with another baby on the way I have also greatly appreciated the chance to be able to complete the work at my own pace, as some weeks/months it's hard to find the time to do it. B Robson - Marine Studies 1 course

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  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)
  2. Shallow Waters & Reefs
    • Coral Reefs, Rocky Shorelines, Estuaries, Introduction to marine arthropods
  3. Shellfish & Crustaceans
    • Molluscs and Brachiopods. True Crabs, Hermit Crabs, Lobsters, Prawns etc
  4. Squid, Octopus, and Other Primitive Animals
    • Cephalopods and Clupeoids, etc
  5. Fish Part A
    • Cartilaginous Fish: Sharks, Eels, Rays; Shark Lifecycle, How dangerous are sharks? Effect of sharks on tourism, etc.
  6. Fish Part B
    • Bony Fish: Fish Anatomy/structure (identifying external & internal parts); legalities (protection of wildlife), types of fish, etc
  7. Marine Mammals
    • Types of marine mammals (eg. dolphins and whales): protection and politics, position of these animals in the food chain, products derived from marine mammals & substitutes for those products.
  8. Turtles, Sea Snakes and Seabirds
    • Types of turtles & sea snakes: toxicity of sea snakes; turtle protection, penguins and other sea birds (eg stints, knots, pelicans, swans, gulls, eagles, ibis, egrets, terns, shearwaters, gannets, albatross, prions, oyster-catchers and petrels).
  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 & other marine life.


  • Identify characteristics of various marine environments.
  • Discuss the first basic groups of marine animal life. Identify characteristics of various marine environments.
  • Discuss the first basic groups of marine animal life.
  • Describe the range of molluscs and crustaceans in the marine environment and their lifecycles.
  • Describe the biology and ecological significance of Cephalopods and Clupeoids in the marine environment.
  • Describe a range of cartilaginous fish (sharks, rays) and selected bony fish (eels) that inhabit the ocean.
  • Describe selected species and the diversity of marine fish that exists in the world’s oceans.
  • Describe a range of marine mammals.
  • Discuss the presence of marine mammals in the seas and oceans of the world.
  • Describe a range of reptiles and birds that co-habitat with fish in the marine environment.
  • Explain the impact of humans upon marine environments and of selected aspects of commercial fishing.


As with land based environments human activities have had significant impacts on marine environments. These include such things as:

- Increased rates of erosion as a result of poor land management practices has resulted in extensive siltation/sedimentation of near shore marine environments. In particular valuable seagrass beds and coral reefs have been extensively damaged or destroyed due to the smothering effects of sediment.

- Water quality has significantly declined in many parts of the world. This is due to many reasons, but some of the more common are:

  • Nutrient loading as a result of such things as the runoff and leaching of fertilisers, animal wastes (e.g. droppings, urine), other agricultural chemicals, and sewerage. This can result in algal blooms which can deplete the water of dissolved oxygen and may result in the death of marine organisms in the area, or may be toxic to organisms (including humans) if ingested.
  • High levels of turbidity in the water (i.e. suspended sediments) which can reduce light passage through the water. This can seriously affect the growth, in particular, of marine plants that rely on sunlight for photosynthesis.
  • Pollution from human, industrial and agricultural wastes. This may be washed into rivers and streams in surface runoff that eventually reaches the sea via rivers and streams or stormwater drainage systems through bays and estuaries. It may also be directly piped into water bodies from residential and industrial areas without treatment. This can have disastrous results on marine environments, for example, one litre of oil that reaches the sea or ocean after someone has changed their cars engine oil, and flushed the old oil down the drain, or emptied it into a creek, is enough to pollute up to a million litres of water. You can imagine the damage that is caused to marine and coastal environments when an oil tanker runs aground and releases millions of litres of oil into the ocean. Marine vessels can also pollute marine environments through the loss of chemicals, such as paints and anti-fouling treatments from their hulls.
  • Sewerage both treated and untreated. Treated sewage may be high in nutrients and heavy metals, while untreated sewerage may also contain dangerous pathogens.
  • Vegetation clearance, such as the draining and filling of wetland areas; removal of mangroves; harvesting of seaweeds both from the water, and dead material from the beach; loss of seagrass beds due to smothering by sediments, channelling for shipping and damage from boat propellers (e.g. recreational fishing boats in shallow areas); and loss of coastal dune vegetation by such means as human trampling, four-wheel driving, overgrazing, or clearing for residential purposes can seriously deplete or destroy the available habitat for many organisms. Mangroves and seagrass beds in particular are extremely important breeding and rearing areas for many marine species.
  • Shellfish, lobsters/crays, and many other marine organisms have often been stripped clean, or destroyed by human foot traffic, from some marine environments, in particular tidal rock platforms.
  • Mining operations and explorations, such as bottom dredging, or drilling and harvesting of oil can result in significant damage through pollution and direct damage to bottom dwelling fauna and flora.
  • Fishing activities have seriously depleted stocks of many species, in particular by harvesting at rates higher than natural replacement rates, through damage to habitats (such as by bottom dredging for scallops), and by non-selective harvesting methods that catch large numbers of non-target species, including other fish, sea birds, seals and dolphins. As the human population increases, coupled with decreasing stocks of marine organisms, there is an increasing potential for conflict to occur between different countries over the harvesting of fish stocks.


  • To fee your passion
  • A foundation for lifelong learning about marine life and environments
  • To fill a gap in your knowledge
  • To be able to more keenly observe marine life
  • To enhance a career working on in ecotourism, science or marine industries
  • To fill a gap in your knowledge or formal education




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