Marine Mammal Biology and Research

Course content

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 and research, including topics including origin, evolution, taxonomy, distribution, abundance, anatomy, sensory biology, ecology and behaviour. Further, the course will address impacts caused by pathogens, human activities and climate change, as well as marine mammal management and conservation. Each topic will be covered at a general introductory level, and selected topics will additionally be presented and discussed by guest lectures with expertise in marine mammal research, conservation and management. 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 mammal biology and wildlife biology in general. 


BSc Programme in Biology - restricted elective

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 and mating behaviour
  • Impacts of human activities, pathogens and climate change
  • Principles of marine mammal management and conservation
  • Knowledge of marine mammal research methods, including acoustics, DNA analyses, abundance estimation, diet determination and satellite tagging
  • 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
  • Evaluation and reporting of scientific results in oral presentations, posters and reports



  • Evaluate the appropriate use of research methods used to study, manage, and conserve marine mammals and wildlife in general
  • Explain how human activities, pathogens and climate change may impact marine mammals
  • Explain the evolution, ecology, anatomy and physiology of the main groups of marine mammals

Lectures, case studies, hands-on exercises and excursion (8 hours a week for 8 weeks).

Marine Mammals - Evolutionary Biology (3rd edition) by Annalisa Berta, James Sumich and Kit Kovacs, Academic Press

Scientific literaturer provided by the course responsible

Exercise guides provided by the course responsible

This course is aimed at students with no or little 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.

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.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

Feedback will be given by lecturer and students (peer) on short assignments that are made by the students during the hands-on exercises. 

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 min. (and 20 min. preparation time)
Type of assessment details
The oral exam weighs 100 pct. of the final grade. The exam questions are based on the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) of the course, presented separately for each overall theme.
Exam registration requirements

Although not mandatory, active course participation is a strongly recommended as preparation for the exam

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
Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcomes

Single subject courses (day)

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


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level

1 block

Block 3
Study Board for the Biological Area
Contracting department
  • Globe
  • The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Morten Tange Olsen   (12-76787b7d6e773778757c6e77497c7e776d37747e376d74)

Globe, SNM, AU, DTU-Aqua

Saved on the 22-03-2023

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