NNMB15001U  Marine Mammal Biology and Research

Volume 2016/2017

BSc Programme in Biology


Marine mammals (whales, seals, sea cows, polar bears and sea otters) comprise a diverse group of species characterized by living in and obtaining food from the sea. This course aims at providing the students with a broad introduction to marine mammal biology, including topics ranging from origin, evolution, taxonomy, distribution, abundance, anatomy, sensory system, ecology and behaviour, to diseases, human impacts, climate change, politics, management and conservation. Each topic will be covered at a general introductory level, as well as by multiple guest lectures presenting and discussing the background, methods and results of marine mammal research projects carried out at the Natural History Museum and other institutes. The course goal is to provide the students with an overview of marine mammal biology and research practices, forming a solid basis upon which to build their future study, research and career interests in marine mammals and wildlife in general. 

Learning Outcome


  • Marine mammal origin, evolution and systematics
  • Diversity, distribution and abundance patterns
  • Anatomical and physiological adaptations
  • Acoustics, diving and foraging in selected marine mammals
  • Life history, reproduction, diseases and pathogens
  • Human impacts and principles of management and conservation
  • Knowledge of methods for studying marine mammals, including acoustics, DNA analyses, abundance estimation, diet determination and satellite tagging
  • Structure and contents of scientific reports
  • Introduction to marine mammal research institutes, research areas and career opportunities in Denmark and abroad



  • Apply the most common methods used in marine mammal research
  • Obtain, analyse and evaluate information about marine mammals
  • Reporting of scientific results



  • Evaluate the appropriate use of methods used to study, manage, and conserve marine mammals and wildlife in general
  • Explain how human activities may impact marine mammals
  • Explain the evolution, ecology, anatomy and physiology of the main groups of marine mammals
This course is aimed at students with no prior knowledge of marine mammals, at an introductory level that should be useful for students from Biology, as well as Biology-Biotechnology-IT, Natural Resources, and Veterinary Sciences.
Lectures, case studies, hands-on exercises and excursion (8 hours a week for 8 weeks).
This is recommended as an optional course during the second or third year of the BSc program, aiming to provide a foundation for relevant BSc and MSc thesis research in marine mammals.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 min. (and 20 min. preparation time)
The oral exam weighs 100 pct. of the final grade.
Only certain aids allowed

The teacher will provide aids at the exam. No other aids are allowed.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

As ordinary exam

Criteria for exam assesment

See learning outcomes

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 1
  • Preparation
  • 135
  • Lectures
  • 32
  • Exercises
  • 32
  • Excursions
  • 6
  • Total
  • 206