Marine ecology and protection

General information on the programme

Sea is an important resource for every maritime country as it can improve commercial prosperity of the country and standard of the citizens in a variety of ways, such as though exploitation of living and non-living resources, aquaculture, tourism, navigation, etc. Some of the above mentioned activities are not compatible and can potentially be harmful to each other. Because of that, specially trained experts, that would know how to sustainably exploit marine environment to the benefit of people and marine ecosystems, are necessary for creating and implementing developing strategy of the country. That task can be completed through systematic education that has following goals: (1) understand and explain physical, chemical and biological processes in the sea; (2) be able to predict changes in marine ecosystems that develop under different influences, and (3) to sustainably exploit marine resources.

Main purpose of Marine biology and ecology (MBE) study is a systematic education of personnel for work in area of marine biology and ecology, which includes a wide range of biological investigations from diversity of marine organisms to their distribution, characteristics, mutual relations and interactions with marine environment. Further on, due to increasing threat of marine pollution caused by dumping of various toxic and dangerous substances into the sea, and irrational use of marine resources, special attention throughout the study will be given to protection of endangered species and ecologically endangered areas. From all of the above, it is evident that work in the area of biological oceanography, besides strong biology background requires a wide knowledge of chemistry and physics, physical and chemical oceanography, as well as meteorology (physics of the atmosphere). Generally speaking, understanding of biological processes in the sea requires good understanding of functioning of the marine ecosystems, what requires high degree of multidisciplinary study that can be gained though this program. Practice of organizing studies that educate personnel in the science of the sea is well known in all developed maritime countries, and many such studies have a long tradition.

Estimate of purpose-serving regarding the labour market needs

Nature of different jobs related to investigation, control and protection of marine ecosystems and management and exploitation of marine resources, requires hierarchical structure of personnel with respect to their knowledge and skills. Graduate study has the objective of educating personnel with higher competencies and higher level of independent decision making.

Connection of study with contemporary scientific findings

Marine biology and ecology graduate study is a highly multidisciplinary. At this level, knowledge from specific areas related to biology, ecology and marine protection are added to fundamental knowledge in natural history gained in previous years of study. Interaction between course contents and contemporary scientific findings, which was already established at undergraduate level, is further developed. Number of enrolled students is even smaller (maximum 12 students) than at undergraduate level, what give high possibilities for direct involvement of students in scientific work.

Majority of elective courses, which make up 70% of total courses are not taught in a classical ex cathedra way, but are conducted through practical work in specialized laboratories. At this level of education process high importance is placed on consultations and individual approach to learning. Due to multidisciplinary problematic, some courses are jointly taught by few professors. For example: Methods in marine biology, Selected issues in benthic ecology, Biological invasions and Endangered species in the Adriatic Sea. Small number of students enables organisation of advisor system where one advisor will be responsible for four to five students.

Program comparability with other international universities

Programs of undergraduate and graduate study have been developed after comparison of various similar studies in Europe and the world (for example: Marine biology, The University of Rhode Island; Marine biology, University of California, Los Angeles; Marine biology, Florida Tech; Facultao de Ciencias del Mar, Universidad de Cádiz, etc.) and with incorporation of some specificities related to the Adriatic Sea.

Above mentioned programs are focused on delivering basic biological and other natural history knowledge during first two to three years of study. On 4th and 5th year of study, programs diverge, since each one of them specialises in problematic that is of special importance for given country or region (for example: focusing on tropical marine ecology and coral reefs, or on polar marine biology). Our Marine biology and ecology study has a similar structure, in which proportion of specialised courses related to biology, ecology and marine protection increases at this level. This is especially evident for elective courses whose high diversity gives a possibility to students to create their own programs of study and to direct it according to their interests and needs.

Previous experience in the field

Marine biology and ecology study started in Academic year 1998/99. Experiences gained so far are graded with high marks both by professors and their students. Analysis of past eight year, since study was initiated, shows trend in increase of quality of lectures as well as improvement in study conditions. Interest of high school students for this study has been constantly high (ratio between received student applications and accepted students is around 3:1). Structure of accepted students, in relation to their grades and achievements in high school is more than good – around 95% of all accepted students were either excellent or very good students while in high school. We are especially proud that this study grew out of the local framework, since students, besides from entire Dalmatia area, are coming from Pula, Rijeka, Zagreb, Osijek, as well as from other countries (Slovenia, Macedonia).

Results of pool conducted among last year students have shown that 13% of students think that entire study is excellent, 73% graded study as very good and 14% of students thought that study was good. So far, eight students have graduated from the program (out of which 4 are already employed). Average length of study is 5.2 years.

Student mobility scheme

Student mobility will be enabled using following ways:

  • All courses at graduate level are one term courses
  • Fast passing of exams (year by year study)
  • Mobility will be encouraged within the University of Split (elective courses from other Departments and Faculties), between Universities in Croatia (first such case is an example of student from Marine biology and ecology that is in Academic year 2004/2005 taking courses at Department of Geology, University of Zagreb), and between University of Split and other Universities in Europe (contacts for cooperation have been established with similar studies in Italy, Sweden, and Poland).

One of the important elements in stimulating student mobility, as well for implementation of entire Bologna process, is speed of study (study year by year) what will be encouraged in several ways:

  • Appropriate student course load
  • Increased efforts of professors and students in relation to mandatory class attendance and participation, frequent checkups of student knowledge by exams, quizzes and other methods. Student will be encouraged to engage in constant study during the term and will have possibility to pass the exam immediately after they took the course.

Student mobility will be additionally stimulated though wide selection of elective courses (70% of courses are elective). We believe that a wide range of elective courses that is offered at graduate level will attract students from other studies, since contents of some courses can be geared to their specific interests.

Other elements

Scientific institution involved in research related to marine environment, such as Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries in Split and Dubrovnik, and Centre for Marine Research – Institute Ruđer Bošković, are showing interest in employing students that have finished Marine biology and ecology program. Some of our students are already employed at the above mentioned institutions. Interest was also expressed by Split-Dalmatian County, where one of our students is employed at job related to environmental protection. We expect that in future this personnel will be interesting for creating actions and programs related to environmental protection from municipal to national level, as well as in the companies that are involved in environmental management and protection (Counties, Ministries, Croatian waters, Institutes for public health, National parks, spatial planning offices, urbanism and energetics).