The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre SouthamptonUndergraduate study

SOES3031 Marine molecular biology

Module Overview

The aim of this module is for you to gain a fundamental understanding of the molecular dimension of marine organisms.

This module is taught at NOCS.

Aims and Objectives

  1. To expand upon the core knowledge of molecular biology acquired in SOES 2026
  2. To provide an all-round understanding of the structure, function and information encoded in genes proteins and other macromolecules
  3. To establish critical understanding of the underlying principles of common molecular analyses and their use in contemporary research in marine biology, ecology and biogeochemistry
  4. To provide further practical training in the use of core molecular biological methods
Learning Outcomes

At the end of the module you should be able to:

  1. Describe the organisation, structure, function and evolution of genes.
  2. Describe the fundamental principles of molecular evolution.
  3. Explain the relationship between gene regulation and biogeochemical functions.
  4. Perform basic molecular biological analyses.
  5. Evaluate findings obtained from common molecular biological analyses
  6. Compare and contrast applications of different molecular methods in addressing specific research questions in marine biology, ecology and biogeochemistry.
  7. Assess the metabolic functions and phylogenetic relationships among organisms based on molecular analyses.


Recent advances in molecular biology have made it possible to apply a molecular perspective to global-scale oceanographic research questions involving biogeochemical cycles. In recent years, the application of PCR-based and lately ‘omics’-based molecular biological technologies to oceanographic research has allowed e.g. the identification of previously undistinguishable 'cryptic' species within important marine functional groups, the realisation of unusual metabolic pathways in globally ubiquitous marine species, and the discovery of novel and globally important organisms in marine biogeochemical cycling.

This course will focus on (1) the theoretical molecular genetic mechanisms that are important in maintaining population structure, abundance and resilience of marine organisms; (2) the underlying principles and applications of modern molecular biological techniques commonly used in current oceanographic and environmental research. Case studies will be used to illustrate the widespread usage and the types of knowledge potentially gained from applying these molecular methods. Examples would be given by internal and external experts in the field, with subjects ranging from small unicellular microorganisms to metazoans, and to biogeochemical cycling and ecosystems studies. Lectures will provide an account of our knowledge of molecular evolution integrated at organismal to system levels: population biology, biogeography, ecology, and systematics; and the basis of molecular techniques available. Practicals will introduce you to molecular laboraotory protocols and computer-based bioinformatics analyses.

Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:40
Private study hours:110
Total study time: 150 hours

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lectures: 24 x 50 minute lectures will provide a fundamental understanding of the molecular dimensions of marine organisms. An outline of each lecture is provided at the start of lectures or on Blackboard. Lectures are complemented by extensively illustrated handouts. Where relevant, lecturers’ own research experience is brought into the lecturing sessions. References are provided for each lecture.

Practical sessions: will allow you to develop appropriate practical skills in molecular protocols. Interactive practical sessions start with a short introductory talk highlighting techniques to be employed and the goals to be attained. Practicals include the basic techniques involved in the extraction and manipulation of nucleic acids, as well as computer-based analyses using bioinformatics tools. These practicals are integrated as closely as possible to the lecture materials.

Other activities: you will be informed of any relevant research seminars, guest speakers, WUN video-conferences.

A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Resources and reading list


Lecture and practical materials would be available on , as well as additional information on assessment and reading lists. Instructions for accessing this material will be given during the course.


Assessment methods


Theory Examination (65%): A 2-hour written paper. Tests Learning Outcomes 1-7.

Mid-term Quiz (15%): A 45-minute test on the lectures given during the first 4 weeks of the semester. Tests learning outcomes 1-3, 5-7.

Bioinformatics Coursework Report (15%): Report on the computer-based bioinformatics practical. Tests learning outcomes 1,2,5,7

Laboratory Log book (5%): Tests learning outcomes 4,5


Linked modules

Pre-requisites and / or co-requisites

SOES2026 or SOES2011

Marine vertebratesSOES20112
Introduction to marine molecular biologySOES20262


Programmes in which this module is compulsory

This module is only compulsory in F704 if students are here in Semester 2 (ie if they only have semester 1 abroad).

ProgrammeUCAS CodeProgramme length
MSci Marine BiologyF7034 years
MSci Marine Biology with study abroad4 years


Costs associated with this course

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Printing and copyingThe University printing costs are currently: A4 - 5p per side (black and white) or 25p per side (colour) A3 - 10p per side (black and white) or 50p per side (colour) Please Note: Paper sizes not recognised by the printing devices will prompt you to select the size and then charge a minimum of 50p per black and white copy and a maximum of £1 per colour copy. You can pay for your printing by using the money loaders or by using print copy payment service by going to Please remember that we are unable to refund any credit that has not been used by the end of your course, so please consider this when topping up your printing/copy account. The University Print Centre also offer a printing and copying service as well as a dissertation/binding service. Current printing and copying costs can be found here. They also provide a large format printing service, e.g. Academic posters. £0.05-1.00

There will also be further costs for the following, not purchasable from the University:

EquipmentIT - Data Storage: Students are expected to provide their own data storage device.
EquipmentIT - Data Storage: It is advisable that students provide their own laptop or personal computer, although shared facilities are available across the University campus.
FieldworkAccommodation: For compulsory residential field courses accommodation and travel are normally provided. You are usually expected to cover the costs of food and drink, although some courses may include meals. For optional field courses, you may be asked to make a contribution to the travel and/or accommodation costs.
FieldworkInsurances: Although travel insurance is covered by the University high risk items, for example laptops and mobile phones, will require separate personal insurance.
FieldworkTravel: For compulsory residential field courses accommodation and travel are normally provided. You are usually expected to cover the costs of food and drink, although some courses may include meals. For optional field courses, you may be asked to make a contribution to the travel and/or accommodation costs.
StationeryA ruler, a pair of compasses, set squares, protractor, pencils (including coloured), eraser, calculator, penknife.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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