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Dive into marine mammal biology and ecology with this introductory online course from marine conservation experts, ORCA. Develop your knowledge, learn something new and connect with experts.

Marine mammals are majestic animals that live and breed around UK coasts. Learn more about the several species of marine mammal the UK is home to, that you may be lucky to see.

During this online course, you will be introduced to marine mammals, with a particular focus on UK species. The course builds up from an introduction to these fascinating animals to beginning to explore marine mammals’ adaptations to life in the water, feeding and life cycles. All content has been created by ORCA, a marine conservation charity that is dedicated to studying and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises in the UK and European waters. You can be confident that you are getting information from leading experts working within this field. By the end of the course, you will be able to describe the range of UK species, explain their basic ecology and also have an understanding of how these animals have become adapted to their aquatic life.

This is a 3-week online course covering 3 topics, for which you will complete a variety of self-led online study content, activities, assignments and live Zoom sessions. Time commitment is approximately 2-3 hours a week and an E-certificate is provided upon completion. Understand how our online courses are delivered 

Who Should Attend?

Nature enthusiasts, Students, Rangers, Early career ecologists.

Knowledge Level

Introductory. Level descriptors can be found on the following webpage: Framework and Course Level Descriptors

Prior Knowledge

No existing knowledge or experience is needed for this course. Just a willingness to explore and learn.

Recommended Devices

It is recommended that you access your course through a PC or laptop. Please be aware that there will be reduced functionality if you decide to access the course through a tablet or smartphone. The Field Studies Council is unable to email content directly to you.

This course will cover:

    • Introduction to Marine Mammals
    • Adaptations to the Marine Environment
    • Marine Mammal Feeding and Life Cycles

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

    • Explain what a marine mammal is and the variety of species found in UK waters
    • Describe what adaptations marine mammals have to the marine environment, specifically in UK waters.
    • Learners will be able to explain marine mammals’ feeding techniques and life cycles.
    • Share your knowledge with friends, family and fellow volunteers.

This is a training course from the Field Studies Council, including online course materials, expert tuition and a flexible learning style. After attending this course, you may like to progress your learning about marine mammals with further relevant courses, or branch out into other areas of the animal kingdom. The Field Studies Council offers both online and in person courses, so you can choose the learning style that suits you best.

Please note that bookings will close at 9 am on 1st August to allow for all participants to be enrolled to the online platform – bookings will not be taken after this time.*

* Bookings will close sooner if course capacity is reached

The course gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new subject and acquire novel skills. Our online portal gives you time to study at your own pace and fit the lessons around your own schedule.

    • See the ‘Example Timetable’ and ‘What’s Included’ sections below for more information about this course.
    • Each individual needs to place their own order to ensure we can sign you up to the learning platform and give you access to resources.
    • Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.

Group Bookings Made Easy

If you have a group of 10 or more individuals wanting to complete one of our courses, our team are available to discuss your options – from discounts to private team courses.

    • Discounted rates
    • Privately run courses for your group
    • Bespoke courses developed specifically for your needs

Click here to find out more!

About our partner, ORCA

With their unique take on marine conservation, ORCA is a charity that is entirely dedicated to studying and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises in the UK and European waters. They work to identify and protect critical whale and dolphin habitats in UK waters and beyond. The identification of important whale and dolphin habitats is carried out by ORCA’s Marine Mammal Survey Teams, who are all volunteers. This is what makes them so unique. It is their own volunteer teams on board ferries and cruise ships in European waters that conduct the monthly scientific surveys, recording the species they see, where they are and what they are doing. Using the data these teams collect, ORCA can help create safer spaces and a safer future for whales and dolphins.

Tutor: Anna Bunney

Anna Bunney is the Head of Education for UK marine conservation charity ORCA, and manages the outreach and education parts of ORCA’s programmes. A geographer by training and wildlife conservationist by trade, Anna is particularly fascinated with marine mammals and has a particular soft spot for humpback whales! 

Tutor: Jess Owen

Jess is the Hebrides Wildlife Officer for the marine conservation charity ORCA. Since graduating with a degree in Wildlife and Media she has been working in environmental education roles with a particular focus on marine mammals and birds. She has been surveying marine mammals with ORCA since 2015 in the Bay of Biscay and the Hebrides as has a keen interest in citizen science and connecting people to their local landscapes and wildlife. 

Tutor: Ashleigh Kitchiner

Ashleigh completed the Wildlife Officer Placement programme with ORCA in September 2017, across the Bay of Biscay, and it was life-changing! She had always loved the ocean and felt a calling to the marine realm. Upon completing the ORCA placement and the marine mammal surveyor course many doors have opened creating opportunities that ignite that passion and allow Ashleigh to delve further into the fields of research to discover more about the marine environment!
After successfully completing her Masters of RESearch at the University of Chester, Ashleigh now works as an ORCA Cruise Conservationist and a Marine Mammal Observer in the oil and gas industry. Her Masters of Research project was looking at population structure and the genetic health of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) across the UK. To complete this work, she collaborated with a number of stranding schemes across the UK who kindly donated samples with which she completed genetic analysis to reveal genetic diversity, gene flow and population structuring (if any!).

Live Webinar Information

The webinars will take place on the following dates at 6:00 pm (BST):

    • Thursday 11th August at 6:00 - 6:45 pm
    • Thursday 18th August at 6:00 - 6:45 pm
    • Thursday 25th August at 6:00 - 6:45 pm

Please note - webinars will be recorded and uploaded to the virtual learning platform for learners unable to attend. 

Example Timetable


Week 1: Introduction to Marine Mammals
Self-study material available: 04/08/2022
Week 1 Live Webinar: 11/08/2022 at 6:00 pm

Week 2: Adaptations to the Marine Environment
Self-study material available: 11/08/2022
Week 2 Live Webinar: 18/08/2022 at 6:00 pm

Week 3: Marine Mammal Feeding and Life Cycles
Self-study material available: 18/08/2022
Week 3 Live Webinar: 25/08/2022 at 6:00 pm

The final deadline to complete any outstanding activities and self-study components is 08/09/2022.

Time commitment: This course will require approximately 2 - 3 hours of your time each week. This includes covering course materials on our Moodle learning platform and the zoom session

Accrediting Agency


What's Included

  • Expert Tuition

The course has been carefully created to help you continue to build on your knowledge as the course progresses. With content crafted to the online Moodle Platform and bespoke to the Field Studies Council.

The course includes:

    • 45-minute interactive Zoom workshops to connect with the tutor and other participants
    • Expert tuition for which the Field Studies Council is renowned
    • Activities to work on independently in advance of each Zoom workshop
    • Course completion certificate

Once registered, you will follow well-illustrated, user-friendly ’books’ to pick up knowledge. Quizzes and skill-checks will give you instant feedback on your learning. Forums give students the chance to interact with each other as well as a place to share work.

You can rest assured that the absolute best content from an expert in environmental education will be at your fingertips. In choosing a Field Studies Council course, you will be joining thousands of people who learn with us each year.

Before You Attend

Accessing Your Course

  • Once you sign up you’ll receive an email at least 24 hours in advance of the course opening with details of how to access our easy-to-use platform, Moodle.
  • Moodle can be accessed through a browser or an app.
  • Webinars are via Zoom so you won’t need any new software to attend

Recommended Devices

It is recommended that you access your course through a PC or laptop. Please be aware that there will be reduced functionality if you decide to access the course through a tablet or smartphone. The Field Studies Council is unable to email content directly to you.