Skip to main content


Oceans and Human Health (CSC2010M)

Module status - Active
Module description status - Active
Credits - 15
College code - EMS
Academic year - 2018/9

Module staff

Duration (weeks) - term 2


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Around 80% of people live in close proximity to the sea globally. Coasts, seas and the global Ocean provide a wealth of ecosystem services, from dietary protein to recreation, but also pose many dangers, from flooding to harmful algal blooms. Our seas are under increasing threat from overexploitation, climate change and pollution. This has important direct and indirect consequences for human health and wellbeing now and in the future. You will examine the wellbeing, resilience, and sustainability of coastal human populations and ecosystems in the face of rapid global environmental change. You will cover a range of pressing marine environmental issues (e.g. plastic pollution, sea level rise and ocean acidification) integrating insights from fields as diverse as Geography, Biology, Social Sciences, Public Health and Medicine.

Delivered in Penryn, this is a module is part of the Medical Science Program. However, the module is highly interdisciplinary in focus, and is open to students enrolled in different programs, for example Marine Biology or Environmental Sciences.

Module aims

The main aim of this course is to provide you with introductory knowledge of the broad field of Oceans and Human Health. The module covers a wide range of topics on the interface of marine sciences and health and wellbeing, specifically in the face of the rapid degradation of marine ecosystems. We will examine prevention-, mitigation-, and adaptation approaches to limit or counteract negative effects on the marine environment. Apart from negative effects on human health, you will also focus on how our interactions with the ocean can be beneficial, including potential positive effects on wellbeing and mental health.

The skills you gain from discussion and critique of cutting edge research, coupled with independent review of the scientific literature, will stand you in good stead for careers in the environmental and health sectors by developing or enhancing your employability. Transferable skills to other sectors include: problem solving, time management, collaboration and writing skills.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Appraise the variety of challenges and opportunities, and the ways in which they are interconnected, faced by humans interacting with marine ecosystems.
  • 2. Critically appraise the need for interdisciplinary approaches (biological, geographical, clinical, cultural) in exploring the ways in which the marine environment and human health and wellbeing are connected.
  • 3. Explore, debate and create possible mitigation, adaptation, and prevention approaches to these issues from the individual and community to the national and international level.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Review and critique literature and communicate effectively with peers and non-specialist audiences
  • 5. Confidently and capably apply qualitative and quantitative interdisciplinary approaches
  • 6. Develop a project in the discipline of Environment and Health in the form of an essay and a presentation

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Critically appraise evidence from diverse sources (scientific papers, books, and the internet).
  • 8. Communicate ideas effectively in writing and in person to specialist and non-specialist audiences

Syllabus plan

This module will cover some of the main positive and negative interactions between marine environments and human health and wellbeing (from harmful algae and marine plastics to Blue Carbon and Blue Gym), potential routes of exposure, impacts on ecosystems, and related issues such as natural resources. The module is based on a wide variety of (guest) lectures and in-class discussions.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Lectures (10 x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Small Group Discussions (10 x 1 hour)
Guided Independent Study75Guided reading, revision and exam revision
Guided Independent Study35Preparation of Press Release
Guided Independent Study20Preparation for Class Discussion

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Class interactions including in class discussions with guest lecturers and Module leads discussing challenges faced by humans interacting with marine ecosystems, the need for interdisciplinary approaches to solve problems based on readings and presentations10x11-8Verbal
Press Release preparationShort discussion in/after class1-8Verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Press Release40500 words1-8Written
Short Question Exam601 hour1-8Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Press Release (40%)Press Release (500 words)1-8Ref/Def Period
Short Question Exam (60%)Short Question Exam (1 hour)1-8Ref/Def Period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Walsh PJ, Smith SL, Fleming LE, Solo-Gabriele H, Gerwick WH (eds.). Oceans and Human Health: Risks and Remedies from the Sea, Elsevier Science Publishers, New York, 2008


  • Bowen R, Depledge M, Carlarne C, Fleming LE (eds). Seas, Society and Human Wellbeing. Wiley, Publishers, UK, 2014.


  • McGowan F, Thorndyke M, Solo Gabriele H, Fleming LE. (eds). Oceans and Human Health. Journal of the Marine Biological Association, 2016

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

An up to date reading list of journal articles will be provided on ELE.

Module ECTS


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date