Marine Geography (MESci)

The four year MESci course at Cardiff involves hypothesis testing, critical analysis and problem solving whilst learning about the process and outcomes of research.

Marine Geography students carrying out survey work during field course in Jersey
Marine Geography students carrying out survey work during field course in Jersey

It builds upon and augments the equivalent BSc programme by means of a fourth year which enables you to undertake a specialist research project in the area of your choice. It is designed for high quality candidates who might aim to pursue a research career in academia, government or industry.

Cardiff is the birthplace of the discipline of Marine Geography in the UK. The degree scheme has been running since 1976 and is an extremely successful training route for employment in the marine and coastal sector or for future academic study. The scheme is an exciting blend of the physical and human geography of deep sea marine and coastal environments. A major component of the course in Cardiff is that of hands on field work including coastal and offshore mapping of the marine environment in order to understand its physical and biological characteristics. This work involves using some of the most advanced and exciting technology available

Situated in an estuary with a large tidal range and with access to a wide variety of coastal environments, Cardiff is an excellent base for both traditional fieldwork and innovative seatime training. The School operates its own Research Vessel Guiding Light, a 12m catamaran used by all undergraduates as part of its research led teaching programme. Additional fieldwork currently includes overseas field courses to Jersey, Malta and Greece where aspects of physical geography (such as biodiversity, water quality, seabed mapping) are combined with applied use within human geography (such as legislation, management and science into policy).

Key facts

UCAS Code1D79
Entry pointSeptember 2016
Duration4 years
AccreditationsInstitute of Marine Engineering, Science and TechNlogy (IMarEST)
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 150 places available
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 740 applications
Typical A level offerAAB. At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerWBQ Core will be accepted in lieu of one A-level, excluding the required science/Geology/Geography A-level(s). At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical International Baccalaureate offer32-33 points, including at least two Sciences at Higher Level
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome.

Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course.
QAA subject benchmark

Earth sciences, environmental sciences and environmental studies

Admissions tutor(s)

Dr Jennifer Pike, Admissions Tutor

Mr Simon Feeley, Course Administrator

Important Legal Information: The programme information currently being published in Course Finder is under review and may be subject to change. The final programme information is due to be published by May 2016 and will be the definitive programme outline which the University intends to offer. Applicants are advised to check the definitive programme information after the update, to ensure that the programme meets their needs.

The four year undergraduate programme is designed for high quality candidates who aim to pursue a research career in academia, government or industry. The course involves learning about the process and outcomes of research and enables students to specialise in areas of their choice.

This applied and industry-relevant degree draws on the traditional skills of the geographer to observe, measure, map and analyse the significance of a wide range of physical and human variables. Coastal and offshore fieldwork are an important feature of this programme, enabling hands on training for students to use modern survey methods rather than just learn about them.

When you graduate from this degree you will have a detailed knowledge of both the processes and interrelationships involved in ocean, atmosphere, marine physical geographical/environmental systems and the means of acquisition, handling and presentation of information including remote sensed data and the use of Geographical Information Systems. You will also be able to explain the interactions between the human and Earth systems, particularly the resources, risks, impacts, governance, and management of marine and coastal environments. You will be trained in the practice and philosophy of research and will have been able to pursue these skills in a major research project of your own choice.

The holistic nature of first year is highly beneficial for those that are still unsure with what career pathway they desire. Alongside the social aspect, the field trips are a great way of developing key skills such as geological mapping, independent research and collaborative fieldwork. The MESci Research Project was particularly valuable as this enabled me to use resources and develop skills directly linked to my current position in industry.

Phalene Gowling, MESci International Marine Geoscience 2013

Year one

The course structure is very flexible. All Cardiff's School of Earth and Ocean Science degree programmes share a common first semester. This is designed to give you a sound foundation in Earth Sciences upon which to build. At the end of your first Semester you will decide whether to continue with your original degree choice or choose another of Cardiff's Earth Science degrees.

Year two

In Year 2 the modules you will take are chosen to provide a wide knowledge base and transferable skills base to make you as employable as possible in a competitive job market.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Applied GISEA213010 credits
Coastal HydrographyEA211420 credits
Marine Geography Field Skills and Research TutorialEA212920 credits
Marine EcosystemsEA211510 credits
Marine & Coastal Resource SystemsEA213410 credits
The Geomorphology of Catchments and CoastsEA213820 credits
Environmental PollutionEA211610 credits
The Ocean Atmosphere SystemEA211220 credits

Year three

In your third year you choose from a range of modules to best tailor the degree to align with your future career choice, whether that be more marine or coastal or more human or physical geography.You will complete a marine project based on the practical field or laboratory work you have done in the Summer vacation between Years 2 and 3. You will research into any area of marine geography you choose and learn how to prepare a research paper for publication. You will present the results of this research at the annual MESci Research Conference.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Marine Geography DissertationEA310530 credits
Research SkillsEA314010 credits
Application of Marine ScienceEA310710 credits
Marine Geography FieldcourseEA312510 credits

Module titleModule codeCredits
Marine GeomaticsEA312020 credits
Marine Conservation ScienceEA310610 credits
Environmental Management, Science and PolicyEA311010 credits
Water ResourcesEA311710 credits
Integrated Coastal ManagementEA311410 credits
BiogeographyEA312910 credits
GeomicrobiologyEA313210 credits
Environmental LawEA313410 credits
Coral Reef SystemsEA314510 credits
GlaciologyEA314610 credits
PaleoclimateEA314710 credits
Marine MicrofossilsEA310210 credits

Year four

You will complete a Masters research dissertation in any Marine Geography related topic that can be supervised in the School. You will work one-to-one with a research supervisor and probably interact with a research group. Since the School is very large and of international research standard, this means that you have a wide choice of dissertation topic. Many students develop their own topics and contact a researcher to see if they can supervise it. Alternatively a list of projects is published each year for you to choose from. The research dissertation is complemented by a Research Frontiers module, in which the latest ideas in Earth Sciences research are discussed. In addition to a Year 4 fieldcourse and the Research Frontiers module you have a choice of optional modules.

Module titleModule codeCredits
MESci FieldcourseEA410510 credits
MESci Research ProjectEA412070 credits

Module titleModule codeCredits
Evolution of AntarcticaEA410710 credits
ExtremophilesEA411610 credits
Process Geomorphology - from Source to SinkEA411010 credits
Coastal Science and PolicyEA411710 credits
IPCC: The Physical Science BasisEA412310 credits
The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

The School of Earth and Ocean Sciences has an excellent tradition of teaching in the Earth Sciences. This educational experience is enhanced by frontier earth scientists from a wide variety of disciplines, involved in national and international research programmes, teaching alongside its students as they learn. This team ensures students receive the highest quality teaching, delivered by lecturers at the cutting edge of international research. In addition the School is able to maintain a friendly and informal approach brought about by staff-student interactions during fieldwork.

The modular course structure enables the School to offer an exciting and relevant spectrum of vocational degree programmes. These cover a wide range of modern geosciences from the traditional geology approach to the more industry focussed exploration and resource geology through to the equally applied environmental geoscience and water borne marine geography. The first semester is common to all degree schemes and you then confirm your chosen programme in January of your first year. Thus there is a chance to sample university teaching styles before committing to a particular degree programme or pathway.

Teaching in the School is conducted by a variety of methods:

  • formal lectures
  • laboratory practicals
  • IT practicals
  • fieldwork - both on land and for the Marine Geography students on the sea in the School's own research vessel too

Formal lectures and practical classes have the emphasis on students taking ownership of their own learning programme and "learning how to learn". Fieldwork is a vital format for understanding the earth sciences and all students go on at least one residential field trip each academic year as well as numerous specialist day trips. All students are assigned a tutor who will hold timetabled tutorials: fortnightly in Year 1 and monthly during other years. Your tutor will be a specialist in your degree programme and will advise on both academic and pastoral matters.

As well as conventional BSc programmes, an optional one year industrial placement is available for some of the BSc degrees. These placements provide an opportunity for students to gain in-depth experience in a range of relevant industries. Students are supervised and visited by University staff while enjoying the experience and career enhancement that results from a 'Year Out'. The four year MESci schemes focus on research training and critical analysis making students who take these programmes very employable in a range of professions.

Most modules will contain some element of course work so the ability to work independently is crucial. Formal unseen exams and presentations are a key component of the way you are assessed. You will also undertake group work and project work, with all students producing a substantial dissertation on a topic of their choosing in the final year.

In 2012, 86% of the School's graduates were in employment or engaged in further study within six months of graduation, with others taking time out to travel.

Employers included: local government plus companies and organisations such as the Environment Agency, Titan Environmental Surveys and Osiris Projects.

Typical career destinations for graduates in Marine Geography include hydrographic surveyor; marine conservation officer; water industry; marine environmental consultant; oceanographic surveyor; waste management; port authority officer; marine research.

Careers case studies

Leigh Kroeger, BSc Marine Geography 2011 

Marine biologist at a 5 star resort in the Maldives. Job involves diving to collect data and laboratory analysis; conservation & beach erosion monitoring and giving marine biology presentations and snorkel tours for the guests as part of public education.

Leigh says: "Without the excellent tutelage of academic staff in the department, I would not be where I am today. The modules and research opportunities provided me with the solid basis and expectations required for this position and I wholeheartedly recommend this excellent course."


  • Hydrographic Surveyor
  • Marine Conservation Officer
  • Marine Environmental Consultant
  • Oceanographic Surveyor

Fieldwork is an integral part of degrees at Cardiff's School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, giving our students hands on experience in real field situations. The fieldwork programme has been designed to give students the widest range of field experiences linked to classroom-based teaching. Specialist equipment for working in the field and at sea will be provided by the School and students will be issued with specialist equipment appropriate for their degree after enrolment.

You will be out in the field with us during the first week of teaching, taking part in a variety of induction events which will help embed you in Cardiff, meet other students on your programme in informal surroundings, meet some of your lecturers away from the constraints of the classroom and see some of our local field areas. As a Marine Geography student you will take part in induction activities with all our new first Years visiting such areas as the Glamorgan Heritage coast as well as a trip out on the School's research vessel, RV Guiding Light.

Throughout Year 1 you will undertake various local day trips as well as a residential fieldtrip to Pembrokeshire, learning field skills relating to coastal survey work and marine management. Fieldwork is a major component of all degree schemes in Year 2, as a Marine Geography student you will go on a residential trip to either Malta to study marine ecology and management or Jersey to look at beach processes and hydrographic surveying. You will also undertake various local day field trips including trawling and hydrographic survey work on the School's research vessel. We will train you how to accurately make and record field observations, take field measurements and produce professional reports. All skills highly sought after by employers.

Between Year 2 and Year 3 all students undertake a five week individual project, producing a substantial dissertation at the end of it worth a quarter of your final year's marks. As a Marine Geographer your dissertation will be on a topic and in an area of your choosing (some students gather data locally whilst others go Greece or even South East Asia to collect data). Every student will get supervision from a member of staff and depending where you are based you may also get a visit in the field.

In Year 3 the fieldwork programme is more research-led, focussing on interpretative skills, field techniques, teamwork projects and independent study. Again you will undertake field day trips to local areas and also a residential trip to Samos (a Greek island) looking at marine ecosystems and conservation. 

In your final year when you are all back in Cardiff your residential fieldtrip takes place in an area in the UK or abroad selected by the student cohort. In recent years the MESci fieldtrip has taken place in northern Pennines, Malta, Ibiza, Sicily, Naples and Southern Spain. Students carry out field-based projects designed by themselves, to explore their individual research interests with academic staff on hand to direct and help out.


4 Year(s)

Next intake

September 2016

Places available

Typical places available

The School admits 150 students each year to its undergraduate degree programmes, usually ~ 20 on the MESci programmes

Applications received

Typical applications received



QAA subject benchmark

QAA subject benchmark

Earth sciences, environmental sciences and environmental studies

Overview and aims of this course/programme

Earth Science sets out to investigate the origin and development of the Planet, the natural principles that govern it, the processes that act in it, on it, and around it, and the life that has evolved with it. The MESci programmes provide students with the opportunity to extend their knowledge and understanding of Earth Sciences beyond that normally possible within a 3-year degree scheme and to provide a systematic understanding in the relevant discipline to masters level. The MESci involves a combination of classroom, laboratory and field-based teaching and includes a substantial component of original research and the writing of a research dissertation under the supervision of a leading scientist. The MESci programmes are thus designed to provide students with the necessary skills to pursue a career in research in the earth sciences, whether at doctoral level or in industry. Graduates from these programmes will have a combination of advanced knowledge and skills, making them highly attractive both to potential employers and research establishments. In particular the MESci in Marine Geography follows this philosophy by researching the social and economic relationships between society, and the physical characteristics of the sea and coast and by recognising  that the world ocean may be regarded as the last frontier on Earth for the exploration and development of resources to sustain society for the future.

What should I know about year five?

Students should attend lectures and are expected to attend all relevant seminars and timetabled laboratory and fieldwork sessions.  Students are expected to engage in independent study alongside the taught module programme and within module guidelines. In both Year 3 and 4 students are expected to work more independently than on BSc programmes. 

Students are expected to adhere to the Cardiff University policy on Dignity at Work and Study.

How is this course/programme structured?

The is a full time 4 year programme which follows the BSc route with the equivalent title for the first three years, but with additional small group teaching on the methodology and philosophy of research. In Year 4 students undertake a major research project as well as specialised optional modules. 

What should I know about year four?

No specific equipment required

What should I know about year three?

Students will have the opportunity to practise and develop a number of oral and written skills, including academic, subject-specific and more generic ‘employability’ skills. These include the ability to work constructively in small teams, find and synthesize relevant information from diverse sources, and to produce and interpret a wide range of quantitative and qualitative data. Particular skills include the keeping of a field or laboratory notebook, making and recording observations in the field or laboratory, making quantitative measurements in the field or laboratory, and making maps or recording spatial data. Students will be experienced in the planning and management of research projects to strict deadlines and in risk assessment in the field and in the laboratory. Students will develop and acquire a wide range of IT skills including use the internet, databases, spreadsheets, word processing, graphics packages as well as specialist software related to Geographic Information Systems.

What should I know about the preliminary year?

Core and advanced knowledge and understanding are acquired via a diverse range of teaching and learning styles including lectures, practicals, seminars, fieldwork, laboratory projects, guided study and small group tutorials with a research scientist. For the first three years the taught content parallels the relevant BSc degree schemes with, in addition, specialist research training including in Year 1 a Literature Review and Analysis; Year 2 a research poster; Year 3 a laboratory or field based research project and writing of a scientific paper to publishable standard; and in Year 4 an extended research  project. The fieldwork programme spans all four years and includes both residential and day trips in the UK and abroad. Year 2 posters and Year 4 oral presentations of research comprise the annual MESci Research Conference which is open to all staff and students.

What should I know about year one?


The taught modules within the MESci in Marine Geography are assessed by

  • Written examinations
  • Essays
  • Practical tests
  • Research posters
  • Research project reports
  • Oral presentations
  • A research dissertation (not more than 15,000 words)


Feedback is provided through pastoral tutorials, research seminars, field courses and laboratory exercises. Continual feedback is provided at practicals through all 4 years and by individual research project supervisors in Year 3 and 4.

Other information

Modules within the programme make extensive use of Cardiff University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Learning Central, on which students will find course materials and links to related materials. Students will be allocated a nominated supervisor when undertaking their Year 3 and Year 4 research projects, who will schedule regular meetings to discuss progress, provide advice and guidance. Opportunities for students to reflect on their abilities and performance are made available through the Learning Central ‘Personal Development Planning’ module and through scheduled meetings with personal tutors.

Distinctive features

Graduates from this programme will be able to:

·        Demonstrate systematic understanding of knowledge in Marine Geography to masters level and to a research level in many areas

·        Critically evaluate current research and methodologies in Marine Geography.

·        Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship.

·        Propose new hypotheses and suggest methods for testing them.

·        Demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional level.

·        Collect, evaluate, synthesise and interpret qualitative and quantitative data in a variety of ways, including preparing a research poster, writing a scientific paper in a form suitable for publication in a scientific journal.

·        Plan, conduct and manage an individual research project to professional standards and write an extended dissertation

Communicate scientific conclusions clearly by oral presentation

How will I be taught?

In consultation with staff, students may seek to publish the principal results of their research projects in the scientific literature

Admissions tutors

Dr Jennifer Pike, Admissions Tutor

Mr Simon Feeley, Course Administrator

Key Information Sets (KIS) make it easy for prospective students to compare information about full or part time undergraduate courses, and are available on the Unistats website.


Get information and advice about making an application, find out when the key dates are and learn more about our admissions criteria.

How to apply
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