By Dr Andrew Davies Senior Lecturer at School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University
Nestled between the mountains of Snowdonia and the award-winning blue flag beaches of Anglesey, the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University offers one of the most picturesque university settings in the UK.
We have offered courses and conducted research across the spectrum of marine sciences for over six decades, in a truly multidisciplinary department that hosts academics from the fields of chemistry, physics, geology, geography and biology. It is this combination of location, multidisciplinarity and long-term experience that has led to The School of Ocean Sciences (SOS) educating and guiding many successful graduates, 3,000 of whom we remain in contact with through our vibrant alumni community.
SOS prides itself on combining world-leading and novel cutting-edge research with exciting and engaging teaching, that combined, produce students that have been trained to become the next generation of marine scientists with the knowledge and skills to build successful careers in the marine science sector.
Location and facilities
Location is pivotal when it comes to the study of the marine environment. SOS is a stone’s throw away from the Menai Strait, where we live and breathe the sea every single day. Our research vessel, the RV Prince Madog, is moored on our pier and is a prominent presence in the waters of the Irish Sea. On Anglesey, we have access to a beautiful rural coastline with sandy beaches, rocky shores, dramatic cliffs and small bays, each with their own enigmatic organisms from crabs to limpets to seabirds and marine mammals and dynamic oceanographic and geological conditions. A short walk over the iconic Menai Suspension Bridge leads to Bangor, a small and safe city that offers many of the amenities found within larger cities.
Whilst North Wales may seem remote, Bangor is actually very well connected to main transport routes though regular trains to London (3.5 hours) and the A55 dual carriageway that is connected to the M56/M6 motorways (Manchester 1.5 hours by car).
SOS comprises a cluster of buildings, nestled amongst the bustling town of Menai Bridge, that have been there since the 1950s. This now includes the new Marine Centre Wales, recently opened by HRH the Prince of Wales, and is a unique focal point for the marine business sector in Wales. Its lecture theatre hosts some second and third year undergraduate teaching, whilst practical work is accommodated in large and well-equipped light and airy dedicated teaching laboratories in the Craig Mair Building. Students make the most of being based so close to the sea as they regularly collect organisms for observation, either by walking to the shores in the Menai Strait or by short coach journeys around the island and thus maximizing time in the field and in the laboratory. Being local drastically reduces our carbon footprint whilst ensuring that collected living material is studied in pristine condition.
Students learning how to survey a rocky shore in north Anglesey.
SOS is one of the few university departments in the UK to house a wide spectrum of aquaria supplied with flowing seawater directly from the sea, not recirculated, providing an excellent environment for maintaining and growing marine organisms. These facilities are available for student research projects, summer bursary placements and the volunteer schemes that are run to enhance student experience and skillsets.
SOS is also one of the few university departments in the UK with its own dedicated ocean-going research vessel. Our vessel supports our seagoing scientists and is a vital tool used in our teaching. During a degree at SOS, you will have the unique opportunity to gain real seagoing experience on board the RV Prince Madog. Depending on your degree you will conduct fish surveys, deploy oceanographic sensors, learn about marine mammal monitoring and/or undertake multidisciplinary research.
Teaching key interdisciplinary skills
SOS staff place great emphasis on teaching our students practical skills, as well as literacy and numeracy, ensuring that they leave with the skillsets that are in demand by employers and that they have built the confidence to use these in their future careers. These include computational, observational and experimental skills, and depending on degree, may include elements such as taxonomy, designing experiments and using state-of-the-art oceanographic and geophysical equipment. Our degrees can be categorised into biological (e.g. Marine Biology, Marine Vertebrate Zoology, Applied Marine Biology, Marine Biology and Zoology), physical/geological (e.g. Geological Oceanography, Marine Geography, Ocean and Geophysics, Physical Oceanography) and multidisciplinary (e.g. Marine Biology and Oceanography, Marine Environmental Studies, Ocean Science), and can be taken as three-year Bachelor of Science, or as a four-year extended degree such as Master of Science or research experience with industry (Applied Marine Biology). All our degrees can be combined with an international year abroad.
Over many decades, SOS has developed into a truly unique learning environment. It is collegiate, cohesive and inclusive across everyone in our department, from staff to students. Our academics are highly approachable and supportive, and build lasting academic relationships with our students. After all, we all share a passion for the marine environment.
We are well aware that the landscape of universities and careers is changing, so we place an emphasis on employability, offering careers advice, CV writing workshops, interview skills training and we frequently invite alumni to SOS to enlighten our undergraduates about the latest developments in national and international industries, placements and research.
Bangor is amongst a select group of universities that achieve excellence in both teaching and research. Three years in succession we have been rated amongst the top 15 universities in the UK for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey, with high scores for our provision of teaching, academic support, personal development, and assessment and feedback. We offer free membership to Bangor’s Students’ Union’s clubs and societies, and with over 150 of them there is bound to be something to everyone’s taste. We also guarantee a room in our student halls of residences to all first-years who apply before the given UCAS deadline. In addition, market research shows that the cost of living in Bangor is much lower than in other parts of the UK—Bangor has been described as “one of the cheapest places in Britain” to be a student (The A–Z of Universities and Higher Education Colleges). Finally, our research excellence has been confirmed in the national assessment of research quality (REF 2014), in which 77% of Bangor’s research was rated either world-leading or internationally excellent, ahead of the average for all UK universities.
For those of you who are thinking of undertaking a degree in marine science, consider what you want to gain from university. If you want to experience excellent teaching and research within a unique setting and be part of a substantial and successful alumni, then Bangor may be a destination for you. You are the future of our discipline and our aim is to train you to be the next generation of gifted marine scientists.
School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University,
Menai Bridge, LL59 5AB, Wales