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The University of Southampton

SOES3031 Marine Molecular Biology

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

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.
  • Explain the relationship between gene regulation and biogeochemical functions.
  • Perform basic molecular biological analyses.
  • 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 and biogeochemistry.
  • 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

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, lecturer's 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.

Independent Study110
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 15%
Examination 65%
Laboratory Assignment 5%
Mid-term test 15%
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