BIOS3081 - Ocean to Estuarine Ecosystems

Photo by Alex Milne-Muller.

BIOS3081 - Ocean to Estuarine Ecosystems shows students the practical application of theory in environmental marine science. Oceans occupy 75% of the planet’s surface and have the capacity to moderate our climate and supply our food, water and oxygen. The East Australian Current also has a substantial (and unappreciated) effect on our lives. This course outlines the dominant players and processes in pelagic marine ecosystems, from fine-scale ocean physics, to nutrients, phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish and sharks. We will study estuarine ecosystems, including the effects of catchments and nutrients on hydrography and estuarine habitats. The systematics and ecology of fish in particular, but also sharks and rays will be a feature of the course. The 5 day field trip to the UNSW field station at Smiths Lake replaces many of the labs later in session, where students may learn practical skills (boats, nets) and theoretical skills (statistics and modelling using and EcoPath spreadsheet) . Other topics may include human impacts and possible solutions through engineering of pelagic ecosystems such as bottom-up ecosystem regulation through nutrient supply, or top-down regulation of ecosystems by sharks and other predators; removal of mid-level planktivores, and some bio-engineering solutions to degraded ecosystems: re-stocking of fish; ocean fertilization; and artificial reefs.


Level of study: 

BIOS3081 - Undergraduate

BIOS3681 - Undergraduate (Advanced)

Session 1, 2017

6 units of credit

Hours per week: 5: 2 hours lectures, up to 3 hours practicals, plus a five-day field trip.

Number of weeks: 12.

BIOS3081 Current handbook entry

BIOS3081 Current timetable

Course outline

Who should I contact?

Coordinator: Iain Suthers

Photo by Alex Milne-Muller of Iain Suthers (left) and Lucas Kas (right).

What does this course cover?

The course emphasises the practical application of theory in environmental marine science. New fisheries and oceanographic technologies are discussed during lectures. Particular environmental concerns and examples from off Sydney's coast are given, along with international examples. The laboratories and field work are arranged to give you experience in the design and sampling of field research, and in the analysis and write-up of a report. The field trips are also designed to exhibit a large variety of field equipment. Skills in scientific writing are further developed with the essay, field-study report and laboratory reports. Computing skills are expected and will be enhanced during this course.

Major topics covered:

  1.  Review of biological oceanography concepts;
  2.   Phytoplankton diversity and ecology;
  3.   Zooplankton ecology and climate change;
  4.  Fish biology, ecology, age and growth;
  5.  Shark and ray biology, ecology, ecosystem theory;
  6.   Estuarine ecosystems, management;
  7.   Ecosystem engineering (fishing havens, artificial reefs);
  8.   Fisheries oceanography and prediction.

For more information, please see the course outline.

Photo by Alex Milne-Muller.

Where does this course fit into my degree?

Ocean to Estuarine Ecosystems is designed for senior undergraduates to provide broad experience in the science and management of coastal waters, estuaries and the organisms that live in the water (plankton, fish). We believe that after completing this course you should have the confidence and knowledge to commence your own research project in marine science (such as honours) or to commence employment with a water quality/fisheries authority. 

At the end of the course you can expect:

  1. to have a broad appreciation of biological oceanography and its application to environmental research;
  2. to appreciate and enjoy the diversity of phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish, and have a basic knowledge of their taxonomy;
  3. to have experience with a variety of field equipment, and the analysis of the data collected;
  4. experience with scientific writing skills, with critical reading of some scientific literature, and with computers, software and analysis; and
  5. experience in fisheries ecology, oceanography, and management.

The course is particularly related to others in the discipline:

  • BIOS2031 - Biology of Invertebrates (systematics, plankton, larval biology)
  • BEES2041 - Data analysis for Life and Earth Sciences
  • BIOS2011 - Evolutionary and Physiological Ecology (basics in ecology and genetics)
  • BIOS3071 - Conservation Biology & Biodiversity (marine conservation)
  • BIOS3111 - Population and Community Ecology (population dynamics, ecology)
  • BIOS3091 - Marine and Aquatic Ecology (benthic and estuarine marine ecology)
Photo by Alex Milne-Muller.

Is there assumed prior knowledge or a co-requisite?

BIOS2031 - Biology of Invertebrates and BEES2041- Data Analysis are prerequisites. MSCI2001 - Introductory Marine Science is also considered a pre-requisite, but may be taken concurrently.

Are there mandatory activities for this course?

This course includes a mandator, 5-day field trip, and will incur a personal cost to students of approximately $160 for food, transport, and lodging at Smiths Lake Field Station.

Photo by Alex Milne-Muller.

Is there anything else I should know?

Students enrolled in BIOS3681 (advanced level) will have additional assignments. See the course outline for more information.

A word cloud of the course manual. Created by Iain Suthers.

I took this course a while ago, and need proof of what was covered.

2015 Course Outline

2016 Course Outline

Student perspectives

Find out what alumni of BIOS3081 - Ocean to Estuarine Ecosystems thought about this course.


NB: All information provided on this page is superseded by information provided by the course coordinator or lecturer(s).