Our series of articles on degree courses in marine biology aims to help you choose the right course in the right place. In this edition the spotlight turns to Hull in East Yorkshire, England. By Sue Hull.The modern marine biologist is a multidisciplinarian; challenged by the need to conserve and manage marine resources effectively against a background of constant environmental change, both in space and time. He or she has to be able to identify and quantify marine organisms, describe habitats from the tropics to the poles and be competent at using a range of survey and data analysis techniques to assess and quantify marine biodiversity. But nowadays you need additional knowledge and skills up your sleeve too —knowledge of how the physical and chemical nature of the environment changes in space and time, an appreciation of social science, and of the legal and management frameworks involved in sustainably managing marine resources from a local to global scale. And having identified, quantified and described the marine organisms, you have to then make sense of the data using relevant analysis and presentation skills and place this data in context to inform management and the decision-making process. It’s a lot to learn, but there are people out there happy to help you do it.
The North Sea, with its range of readily accessible natural environments and regional management challenges, forms the ideal backdrop for our degrees within the School of Environmental Sciences, making the University of Hull an ideal place to study marine biology. With access to internationally recognised research facilities—including the world’s only submarium in The Deep—studying at Hull opens a range of opportunities to gain rich, hands-on experience as you learn. Well-known for its traditional candy floss and donkey ride seaside towns, wild coastal landscapes, seabird colonies and the occasional bungalow falling into the sea, the Yorkshire coast provides an ideal natural laboratory readily accessible from the campus. Between the major estuaries of the Tees and Humber, you can find a patchwork of unspoilt rocky shores and sandy beaches, conservation areas of international importance and major fishing grounds and sites for alternative energy generation, all easily reached from the School of Environmental Sciences.
The study of our marine heritage—so evident in the city of Hull—continues the legacy of one of the University of Hull’s longest-running areas of internationally renowned expertise, dating back to the early days of the institution. It also looks forward to the future of the institution by being closely aligned with the Energy and Environment research theme and the new Marine, Maritime and Blue Economy research institute.
There is a broad range of expertise and research interests within the School of Environmental Sciences, ranging from ecosystem function and dynamics, earth sciences and geography, sediment dynamics and flood management, conservation and fisheries biology to physiology, toxicology, zoology, social science and marine management. By linking all this knowledge and understanding of the subject alongside professional practice through the Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies, students gain a holistic, detailed and integrated understanding of current issues in the marine environment. We have close links with conservation bodies, fisheries organisations and local industry and we take into account the needs of employers when designing our degrees and developing core employability skills in our students.
Those studying marine biology in Hull certainly need waterproof clothing, wellies and a love of the outdoors, as fieldwork is a major part of what we do; we believe the hands-on approach not only helps students learn, but provides key skills for future employment.
The field and laboratory skills are ideal preparation for scientific careers with organisations such as the Fisheries Agencies, and an understanding of marine management and environmental impact assessment may help towards a career in consultancy. Conservation biologists and education officers also require a multidisciplinary framework in order to undertake their roles, and obtaining diving qualifications may guide people towards scientific diving or dive instructor careers. Hull is one of the few universities to subsidise PADI and European Scientific Diver training as well as residential and overseas field trips.
Like many other universities offering degrees in marine sciences, Hull seems to be at the edge of nowhere, at the end of the M62 bordering the Humber estuary. However, the Humber gateway reflects the international nature of the city itself and the links it has with Europe and the rest of the world. Hull is a charismatic, lively, friendly city and the University mirrors this in its approach to educating the students who choose it as a destination. The teaching and friendly nature of the campus has often been referred to as ‘one of the best kept secrets in higher education’ and it is currently ranked second in a recent Department of Education report on employability (Department of statistics, 2015).
The sea is no respecter of national and international boundaries and we have to think outside our local and regional areas in order to effectively manage and conserve our marine resources. In the School of Environmental Sciences we are passionate about passing on our skills and knowledge; we hope our graduates emerge from our degrees with that multi-disciplinary thinking and open-minded approach to their future careers and become valuable additions to the marine community.
Dr Sue Hull
School of Environmental Sciences, University of Hull, Hull, HU6 7RX