msc mem banner (Julie Hawkins)


This course launched in October 2006 and is aimed at people who want to pursue a career in marine conservation or marine resource management. It can be taken either as a twelve-month Masters degree or nine-month Diploma.

There is now worldwide consensus that the marine environment needs much better management. Urgent calls are being made for greater protection of marine habitats and the reform of fisheries management. The UK Government is working to create a system of spatial planning for the sea, something we have had on land for a very long time, and similar efforts are under way in many other countries. Consequently, there is a growing demand for people who have been trained in marine resource management.

This course will equip graduates for careers within non-governmental conservation organisations, Government environmental, conservation or fishery agencies and environmental consultancy companies. It also provides a firm foundation from which to launch an academic career. During the course, students will be thoroughly grounded in environmental problems affecting the oceans and will discover the latest thinking in how to manage marine resources. The course will place a strong emphasis on the importance of understanding marine ecosystem structure, function and processes and how human activities and global change are affecting these. It will also consider the socio-economic implications of these.

The course will enable students to develop their research and practical skills to a high level. These skills will be built through the dissertation project, a "term paper" which is written on an issue that is suggested by the student and a summer placement at an organisation outside the University of York. For their placement, students undertake a study of relevance to marine environmental management, which they write into a report that is assessed for their degree. Institutions where placements can be done include government agencies, NGOs, other universities or research institutes.


Fieldwork in the Red Sea (Julie Hawkins)

All Environment degree programmes have a 'modular' structure, where each module comprises a 10 credit unit or multiple of this. A 10 credit module is equivalent to 100 hours of work, typically comprising 18 contact hours with staff and 82 hours of private-study for a lecture-based module. Modules involving field and laboratory classes have greater proportions of contact time.

Students must accumulate 180 credits for the MSc and 120 credits for the diploma from compulsory and optional modules. Dissertations are compulsory and worth 30 credits for the MSc and 20 credits for the Diploma. MSc students must also complete a summer placement project, worth 50 credits, which is usually done outside the university. Students obtain 70 credits through compulsory taught modules and accumulate the rest through optional modules. During the first three weeks of term students can attend more modules than they will continue with in order to help them decide which ones they want to complete.



Current research in marine conservation 10 Fisheries, ecology and management 10 Placement 50
Research and statistical methods ENV00030H (10) Research and statistical methods ENV00030H (10)  
Marine ecosystems 10* Dissertation (10) Dissertation (40)
  Oceans, coasts and climate change 10*  
Ecotoxicology 10 Maldives field trip 10  
Spatial analysis ENV00007M 10 Environmental governance ENV00005M 10  
Biodiversity and conservation biology 10 Protected areas 10  
Tools for environmental assessment ENV00001M 10    
Total optional credits available 50/60 Total optional credits available 30/40  
Total compulsory credits 10/20 Total compulsory credits 30/40  90

*optional if BSc in marine biology


Current issues

Learn more about some of the issues covered in the course:

Other useful links:


Professor Callum Roberts - Course Co-organiser
Callum Roberts is professor of marine conservation. He is internationally known for his research on threats to marine ecosystems and species, and on finding the means to protect them. His work includes studies of the profound historical and recent alteration of marine ecosystems by fishing, on the extinction risk of marine species and on global conservation priorities for coral reefs. Recently, he has highlighted the imminent danger from fishing to life in the deep sea – the Earth's final wilderness frontier. His best-known work is on the performance and design of marine reserves, areas that are protected from all fishing. His studies show that marine reserves can be effective both as conservation tools and can enhance fish catches outside their boundaries. Callum is a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation. In 2001 he was Hardy Visiting Professor of Conservation Biology at Harvard University and in 2002 he won the Marsh Prize for Conservation Biology from the Zoological Society of London for his work on marine reserves.

Dr Julie Hawkins - Course Co-organiser
Dr Julie P Hawkins: BSc (York), MSc (Liverpool), PhD (York)
Since the late 1980s, Julie's research has been focused on studying human impacts on marine ecosystems and how to reduce the problems these create. For the last 13 years her work has primarily been on the impacts of fishing and how marine protected areas can help rectify the failings of other forms of fishery management. This has included work on extinction risk in the sea and how necessary it is to protect areas of the sea from fishing. She has repeatedly shown that complete protection for some areas of the sea is totally justified on conservation grounds and her work provided the first proof that protection from fishing can increase catches in surrounding fisheries. Over the years her work on the effects recreational scuba diving on coral reefs has moved from firstly playing a major role in getting the issue to be recognised, to then seeing it become addressed throughout the tropics. The majority of Julie's field work has taken place in the Caribbean and Middle East.

Dr Bryce Beukers-Stewart
Dr Bryce Beukers Stewart: BSc (Melbourne), PhD (James Cook).
Bryce is a fisheries biologist and ecologist whose work has ranged from temperate estuaries to tropical coral reefs and the deep-sea. The central thread in his research has been to gain an increased understanding of the factors regulating marine populations and communities so as to ensure their sustainable exploitation, primarily by fisheries. His work on deep-sea fishes was among the first to demonstrate their extreme longevity, and on coral reefs he proposed new mechanisms for community regulation of prey fish by predators. More recently his focus has been on how to improve the management of scallop fisheries through the use of predictive recruitment models, marine protected areas and stock enhancement. Bryce has also been especially active in promoting the sale and consumption of sustainable seafood by working with everyone from government ministers to fishermen, restaurants and supermarket chains.

Callum, Julie and Bryce will teach the core marine science components of this course. They are complemented by a talented group of academics in the department including:


2015 Summer Placements

Easter Island,
Mexico and 
mainland Chile
Easter Island:the unfolding history of ecological transformation beneath the sea (PDF  , 307kb)







In 2013, our students will be working on summer placement projects in

  • eighteen countries
  • four oceans
  • twelve seas

Below is a list of the locations and titles of our students' placements:


What controls seasonal phytoplankton production in the Arctic? Jenny 201213 (PDF  , 863kb)

Australia (Queensland)

Friend or foe – Has the public view of sharks changed? Richard 201213 (PDF  , 323kb)Marit 201213 (PDF  , 281kb)

Australia (Tasmania)

Ways to improve forecasting the Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery.

Belize Lessons for a rehabilitation sanctuary – can mapping movement of manatees aid with their conservation? Laura 201213 (PDF  , 481kb)

A spatial analysis of Bermuda’s recreational fishing industry.

Canada (Nova Scotia) Dog whelks eat barnacles but what else do they do to them? Anisha 1213 (PDF  , 479kb)
Cayman Islands

How does feeding sharks affect their behaviour and abundance? Beth201213 (PDF  , 10,372kb)

Cayman Islands

“Have I met you before?” - Using photographic identification to help protect coral reef megafauna. Rich E 201213 (PDF  , 1,466kb)

Cook Islands

Do locally managed marine reserves benefit coral reef invertebrates? Emily 201213 (PDF  , 560kb)

Cook Islands

Do locally managed marine reserves benefit coral reef fish? Georgia 201213 (PDF  , 176kb)

England (Cambridge)

A description of the southern sawshark’s sensory system. Marit 201213 (PDF  , 281kb)

England (Hull)

Valuing ecosystem services for fisheries. Ruth 201213 (PDF  , 26kb)


Implications of soft coral bleaching on coral reef fish biomass and biodiversity – how might reefs fare under climate change? Rebecca 201213 (PDF  , 450kb)

Isle of Man

Applying traditional knowledge to protect marine megafauna. Bryony 201213 (PDF  , 569kb)

Japan (Tokyo)

Environmental change and coral reefs – responses to global and local stresses. Juliette 201213 (PDF  , 3,012kb)

Japan (Tokyo) A stock-take of biodiversity: assessing ecological change to human induced environmental stress.

Man or manta? – the conflicts of tourism with conservation and how to resolve them. Annie 201213 (PDF  , 482kb)


Socio-economic impacts of jellyfish outbreaks on tourism. Gwyneth 201213 (PDF  , 1,185kb)

New Zealand

Photo-identification as a conservation tool for Bryde’s whales. Cat 201213 (PDF  , 510kb)

Scotland (Aberdeen)

How to set up a Marine Protected Area – the UK experience for what works best for whom.

Scotland (Edinburgh) What do Glaswegians think about fishing in the Clyde?
Scotland (Isle of Arran)

What state the sea-bed? – Charting recovery after fishing has stopped. Sarah 201213 (PDF  , 1,347kb)

Scotland (Isle of Arran) "Gimme Shell-ter": Effects of no take zones on size, abundance and fecundity of scallops. Dan 201213 (PDF  , 215kb)
Scotland (Isle of Arran) 

Effects of a No-take Zone on lobsters. Paul 201213 (PDF  , 378kb)


Creation of marine conservation videos for kids. Holly 201213 (PDF  , 1,442kb)


Will aquaculture succumb to ocean acidification? – The case for green mussels. Daisuke 201213 (PDF  , 8,417kb)

USA (Boston)

What is the next step for ecosystem based fisheries management in New England?

USA (Washington DC)

"What a load of rubbish": Analysis of plastic beach litter from around the world. Nicola 201213 (PDF  , 1,121kb)


























































In 2012, our students undertook their summer placement projects across the globe, including:

  • thirteen countries
  • three oceans
  • seven seas

Below is a list of the locations and titles of our students' placements:

Belize Development of local and international strategies for manatee conservation
Bonaire Assessment of sea turtle nest sites in Klein Bonaire: what is required for effective conservation?
Cayman Islands  Would Cayman Islanders support shark protection laws? 
Cook Islands The marine turtles of Rakahanga Atoll: assessment of their distribution, abundance and population status
Cyprus  Determination of seabream (Pagellus acarne) age and growth rates in the Eastern Mediterranean
Dorset, UK  A baseline coastal survey of the Brownsea Island Nature Reserve 
Egypt  How do dive centres view Egypt’s shark protection legislation? 
Eire  A study of bottlenose dolphin distribution within Ireland’s Shannon Estuary 
Gabon Communication in bottlenose and common dolphins: acoustic differences between inshore populations 
Isle of Arran, Scotland  Is protection from fishing increasing species abundance and biodiversity in the Lamlash Bay no-take marine reserve?
Isle of Man  Distribution of lugworms on sandy shores: what are the impacts of bait digging? 
Lowestoft, Suffolk Modelling the potential distribution of an invasive comb jellyfish Mnemiopsis in the North Sea
Maldives Protection of a manta ray aggregation site: necessary measures to curtail tourism? BL Placement blog (PDF  , 44kb)
New Zealand How does environmental variation affect scallop populations (Pecten novaezelandiae) in New Zealand
New Zealand What threat to dolphins: are boat strikes and fishing gear causes for concern? EB Placement blog (PDF  , 541kb)
Oban, Scotland Can artificial reefs help protect wildlife?
Seychelles Integrating marine conservation into school curriculums: practise from a small island community
Turkey Distribution of iron from atmospheric inputs in the Bay of Izmir
Teesside, UK Recreational impacts on waterbirds at the Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast European Marine Site
Tynemouth, Northumbria Increasing public awareness of marine conservation: can one local aquarium help? HMH Placement Blog (PDF  , 1,939kb)


Placement blogs from previous years


Course testimonials
(scroll down for publications arising from the course)

Publications arising from MEM dissertations and placements

  • Price, A.R.G., Evans, L.E, Rowlands, N and Hawkins, J.P. 2013. Negligible recovery in Chagos holothurians (sea cucumbers) Aquatic Conserv: Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2344 Price et al 2013 (PDF  , 368kb)
  • Linaker, R. 2012. Recreational disturbance at the Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast European Marine Site. Report to Natural England, 45pp
  • Craven, H.R., Brand, A.R. and Stewart, B.D. 2012. Patterns and impacts of fish bycatch in a scallop dredge fishery. Aquatic Conserv: Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst. Craven, Brand and Stewart 2012 (PDF  , 828kb) 
  • O’Leary, B.C., Smart, J.C.R., Neale, F.C., Hawkins, J.P., Newman, S., Milman, A.C. and Roberts, C.M. 2011. Fisheries mismanagement. Mar. Pull Bull. OLeary et al 2011 Fisheries mismanagement (PDF  , 690kb)
  • O'Leary, B. Brown, R.L., Johnson, D.E., von Nordheim, H., Ardon, J., Packeiser, T. and Roberts, C.M. 2012. The first network of marine protected areas in the high seas: the process, the challenges and where next? Marine Policy.
  • Bainbridge, J.M., Potts, T., and O'Higgins, T.G. 2011. Rapid Policy Network Mapping: A New Method for Understanding Governance Structures for Implementation of Marine Environmental Policy. PloS ONE 6(10): e26149.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026149 John Bainbridge paper (PDF  , 600kb)
  • Howarth, L.M., Wood, H.L., Turner, A.P. and Beukers-Stewart, B.D. 2011. Complex habitat boosts scallop recruitment in a fully protected marine reserve. Marine Biology. DOI 10.1007/s00227-011-1690-y Howarth et al (2011) (PDF  , 946kb)
  • Diamond, B and Beukers-Stewart, B.D. 2011 Fisheries discards in the North Sea: waste of resources or a necessary evil? Reviews in Fisheries Science 19: (3) 231-245 Diamond & Beukers-Stewart (2011)-1 (PDF  , 665kb)
  • Thurstan, R.H. and Roberts, C.M. 2010. Ecological meltdown in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland: 120 years of change in a coastal marine ecosystem. PLoS ONE 5(7): e11767 Firth of Clyde PLoS One (PDF  , 879kb)
  • Rocliffe, S. 2010. Protecting East Africa’s marine and coastal biodiversity: Marine Conservation Agreements in the Western Indian Ocean. The Nature Conservancy and the University of York, 61pp
  • Peters, H. and Hawkins, J.P.  2009. Access to marine parks: a comparative study in willingness to pay. Ocean & Coastal Management 52: 219-228.
  • Thurstan, R.H., C. M. Roberts, J.P. Hawkins and Neves, L. 2009. Highly Protected Marine Conservation Zones: defining damaging and disturbing activities. CCW Policy Research Report No. 09/01
  • Roberts, C.M., R. Brown, A. Davies, T. Molodtsova, B. O'Leary and M. O'Rourke 2008. Proposals for Protection of Areas on the High Seas in the OSPAR Region. University of York, 153pp.
  • O'Leary, B.C. 2008. The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management: High Seas Fisheries Management and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation. NAFO SCS Doc. 08/22.
  • Thurstan, R.H., C.M. Roberts, J.P. Hawkins and L.B. McAuslan. 2008. Marine Reserves in Northern Ireland: The Way Forward. The Ulster Wildlife Trust and WWF UK, 70pp.
  • Peters, H. 2007. Anthropogenic Disturbance of Grey Seals on Kitterland, Isle of Man. Report to the Wildlife and Conservation Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Isle of Man Government. 39 pp.