Habitats of the Mediterranean Sea


Habitats of the Mediterranean Sea


Please note: There will be no courses offered in 2017 due to restructuring measures.



The course “Habitats of the Mediterranean Sea“ has been part of the well-received standard program at our field station on Elba since its beginning in the year 1996. It provides a hands-on experience for students exploring the coastal habitats of the Mediterranean Sea, and also serves as a complement to our Marine Zoology course.

Course director is the biologist Matthias Schneider

Matthias studied zoology and biological oceanography in Kiel, Germany. He has a sound knowledge of marine biology and is fascinated by the Mediterranean Sea. He is a certified German Research Diver, diving instructor and currently finishing his PhD on deep sea fishes at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt a.M., Germany. His expeditions have led him to the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.







Contents of the course

This course introduces the typical habitats of coastal shallow waters in the Mediterranean Sea. It focuses on the field observation of characteristic animals and plants and their relationships amongst each other and within the specific habitat.


The immense variety of one of the most important habitats of the Mediterranean Sea is made accessible by means of SCUBA diving: the seagrass meadows of Posidonia oceanica.

The classification of organisms in the laboratory and the study of their specific adaptations lead to a sound understanding of their ecological interrelations.

The course focuses on field observations and the characterization of key structures of sediment bottoms, primary and secondary hard bottoms, and on their characteristic inhabitants.


Environmental issues are explained and discussed using case examples.



Field observations by SCUBA divers are complemented by aquarium studies in detail.

(time series of the cuttlefish Sepia officinalis hunting)



Main topics

  • Coastal habitats, such as seagrass meadows, sandy and hard substrates, and plankton
  • The “killer alga” Caulerpa taxiofila and other invasive species
  • Key characteristics of the habitats
  • Characteristic organisms of the major habitats
  • Means of colonisation and ecological principles
  • Adaptation of the organisms to their habitat
  • Anthropogenic threats and environmental problems



  • Underwater observation, documentation and sampling of different faunal groups.
  • Boat-based sampling of plankton.
  • Introduction to underwater sampling techniques (sampling box, corers, air-lift).
  • Classification of organisms under water, on the shore, and in the lab with microscopes (ZEISS) and special literature.
  • External analyses and observations of selected organisms (own samples and by-catch).
  • Oral, photo and video presentations about systematics, morphology, zoogeography and ecology of all important groups of marine animals.
  • Documentation (drawings, photos and video).
  • Discussions based on video and photo documentation.


  • Current dive medical certificate, not older than 3 years (one year for under 18 and over 40 year old, respectively).
  • Recognized SCUBA diving certificate, at least 1 star (VDTL*, VDST*, CMAS* or similar, PADI OWD or comparable) or booking for the integrated SCUBA diving course.


  • After successful completion of the course a graded certificate will be issued, given the participants fullfilment of the following requirements:
  • Regular attendance of all course hours, successful completion and examns for practical and theoretical units of the SCUBA diving course (if applicable), or preparation of a report of underwater observations, a short presentation during the course, and a written report on the course.

  • Each course is recommended to be rated with 3 ETCS credit points. With additional work (e.g. more detailled course report, presentation at home university) some universities give up to 5 credit points for the participation in the course.



EUR 735,-
additional EUR 30,- examination fees only for diving course participants

Included services

10 overnight stays in shared accommodation, dormitory-style (self-catering), eight days of biology class including accompanied diving or SCUBA diving course. Rental of complete diving equipment included.


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