MAE-30306 Marine Animal Ecology


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper2
Group work2
Excursion (multiple days)15
Course coordinator(s)dr. R Osinga
dr. LE Becking
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. AJ Murk
dr. R Osinga
dr. LE Becking
Examiner(s)prof. dr. AJ Murk

Language of instruction:


Mandatory knowledge:

ZSS06100 Laboratory Safety

Assumed knowledge on:

AFI-31306 Life History of Aquatic Organisms; AEW-22806 Marine Systems

Continuation courses:

MAE-50306 Short Research Projects in Marine Animal Ecology, MAE-Thesis, and MAE-Internship


This course aims at providing knowledge and understanding on the functioning and resilience of marine animals in a changing environment. In this course we will focus on the mechanisms of adaptation of marine animal to environmental changes. We will then use this understanding of ecological mechanisms to explore the concept and implementation of Building with Nature (BwN). BwN is the synergistic combination of coastal engineering and ecological processes. 

Adaptation involves different ecological and evolutionary time-scales, from short-term plasticity to long-term adaptation. A multi-level approach will be taken: adaptation at the organism level (eco-physiology, recruitment and early life-stage development), at the population level (population genomics/genetics) and at the ecosystem level (shifts in community composition). Latest developments in the field will be used to illustrate ecological concepts in multiple ecosystems, including temperate, tropical and deep sea systems. Understanding of these concepts is vital to assess the adaptive responses of animals and ecosystems to various influences and human activities and the opportunities for management of a.o. biodiversity, invasive species or impacts of climate change. Techniques that are used in marine animal ecology will be discussed and practiced. 

Building with Nature is an approach in which local conditions are taken into account during an early planning stage of coastal engineering, to be able to make use of services provided by engineering species and additional positive effects of local ecosystem functions. The local conditions include the natural physical processes, ecology and social-economic aspects. By not just building in nature but also with nature, additional benefits can be created for nature, recreation and the local economy while preventing adverse effects. Current developments will be included such as the implementation of bivalve reefs for coastal protection and marine production and dedicated coral reef building and restoration that enhance biodiversity and provide several ecosystem services for local communities. To experience the complexity of building with nature projects, the students will develop a conceptual design, including physical, ecological, economic, and governance aspects, the students will learn to quantify the engineering functions (e.g. sediment capture, wave energy dissipation) and other ecosystem services of Building with Nature designs. Students will integrate disciplinary aspects of a Building with Nature design (e.g. physical, ecological, economic, and governance aspects) by making a knowledge clip about an existing or a new Building with Nature project.
We expect active participation from the students during interactive lectures, tutorials, practicals and monitoring activities at an oyster reef in the Netherlands. During, the course, selected trending topics in marine animal ecology will be presented. Each student has to define a relevant research question and write a short research proposal. The student also will pitch this proposal during a short presentation.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- explain relevant terms, principles, processes and concepts in Marine Animal Ecology;
- design a research approach to address a specific question in Marine Animal Ecology;
- produce experimental and empirical data in Marine Animal Ecology;
- analyse provided data from field studies;
- identify commercially available marine animals using DNA barcoding data;
- collect, analyse and evaluate scientific information on a current issue;
- develop a testable hypothesis and write a research proposal;
- present and defend a research proposal, while convey the message in a compelling manner;
- name and explain in relevant terms
 principles, processes and concepts in Marine Animal Ecology.


- participate in interactive lectures;
- read, interpret and critically judge scientific literature provided and acquired by the student;
- develop skills in molecular ecology techniques with a computer practical using DNA barcoding data to unveil the (true) identity of commercially available marine animals;
analyse provided data from field studies on 1. Population genomics, 2. Community species assemblages develop skills in experimental ecology by executing an ecophysiological experiment on stony corals;
- join an excursion to Building with Nature sites in The Netherlands, execute field measurements and participate in a stakeholder meeting;
- create, together with 3-4 fellow students, a knowledge clip integrating two interdisciplinary aspects of a Building with Nature design;
- design (individually) a research project and write a grant proposal in the style of KNAW Ecology Fund;
- present one's own proposal in a 3 minute pitch.


- electronic exam (Question Mark Perception) (30%);
- group assignment Building with Nature (25%);
- individual research proposal (40%);
- individual pitch of proposal (5%).
All assessments will be marked out of 10 and to pass the course you must get at least 5.5 on each of the tasks. Clearly above or below average practical performance will be used to round of the final mark.


Course guide, handouts & topical publications.

Restricted Optional for: MBIBiologyMScD: Spec. D - Ecology6WD
MBIBiologyMScB: Spec. B - Development and Adaptation6WD
MASAnimal SciencesMScF: Spec. F - Animal Ecology6WD
MAMAquaculture and Marine Resource ManagementMScB: Spec. B - Marine Resources and Ecology6WD