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The University of Southampton

SOES3031 Marine Molecular Biology

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

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 biological analyses and their applications in contemporary research in marine sciences 4. To provide further practical training in the use of molecular biological methods

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

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


Recent advances in molecular biology have made it possible to apply a molecular perspective to diverse marine biological research topics ranging from cell-to-cell interactions, differentiation and immunological responses within individual species, to interspecies interactions, ecosystem functioning and responses to global environmental changes. The application of PCR-based and lately ‘omics’-based molecular biological technologies to marine research has allowed e.g. the identification of previously unknown organisms that are key to the evolution of eukaryotic life, the discoveries of 'cryptic' species within important marine functional groups, the realisation of unusual relationships among previously considered unlikely partners, and the recognition of how community structure is important in driving marine biogeochemical cycling, and vice versa. This course will focus on (1) the theoretical molecular mechanisms that are important in maintaining population structure, abundance and resilience of marine organisms and communities; (2) the underlying principles and applications of modern molecular biological techniques commonly used in current marine and environmental research. Lectures will provide an account of our knowledge of molecular evolution integrated at organismal to system levels: population biology, biogeography, ecology and systematics; the basis of various molecular biological techniques to analyse genotypes and phenotypes of marine species and communities; and principles behind sequence analyses to decipher the potentials and activities of metabolic functions. Examples will be used to illustrate the widespread applications and the types of knowledge that can be acquired via molecular analyses. In addition, a few seminar-styled, case-study lectures would be given by internal and external experts in the field, with subjects ranging from small unicellular microorganisms to metazoans, and from individual species level to ecosystems studies. Practical sessions will provide hands-on experience on some common molecular analytical procedures in the laboratory, while computer-based bioinformatics exercises will introduce the basic sequence analyses and metabolic pathway deduction.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lectures: The lecture slots (26 hr main + 2 hr review) are the principle delivery mechanism of the theoretical and factual contents of this module. They will provide a fundamental understanding of the molecular dimensions of marine organisms and communities. 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 and recommended readings are provided for each lecture. Practical sessions: These are aimed to allow the development of appropriate practical skills in molecular biological analyses. Interactive practical sessions start with a short introductory talk highlighting techniques to be employed and the goals to be achieved. Practicals include the basic techniques involved in the extraction and manipulation of nucleic acids, PCR, next-generation sequencing, as well as computer-based bioinformatics analyses. These practicals are integrated as closely as possible to the lecture materials. Blackboard: a dedicated site for this module is set up, which includes all relevant module information. Lecture slides will be available on Blackboard prior to lectures, and lectures will be recorded via Panopto and made available on Blackboard. Links to some key recommended journal articles would be found in association with the corresponding lectures. Announcements of important additional information for the module would be made on Blackboard (and emailed in parallel). You will be further informed of any relevant research news, along with research seminars by internal and external guest speakers in the University outside our regular scheduled sessions.

Independent Study92
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Examination 70%
Mid-term test 15%
Practical Report 15%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

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:


There are no additional costs associated with this module.

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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