Coral Reefs & Climate Change

The UNSW Coral Reefs and Climate Change (MSCI2060) course examines one of the world’s most diverse and important ecosystems: tropical coral reefs. With an increase in carbon dioxide levels over the last few decades, the planet has seen mass bleaching events and unprecedented levels of coral mortality. In this course, you’ll explore how our changing climate affects corals and what measures we can take to manage and conserve these coral reefs.

This course looks at the components that make up a functioning coral reef system. Including the animal/microbe symbiosis that forms the reef habitat, algae, invertebrates, fish and larger mammals and the oceanographic setting that controls the reef. You’ll also study global warming, ocean acidification, marine plastics and other stresses that threaten the coral environment.


Course Breakdown

The first half of the course includes a compulsory field trip to Lady Elliot Island - a spectacular coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll discover the local flora and fauna through guided reef walks and snorkels, learn about the reef ecosystem, environment and how they are changing from coral, marine and climate change experts. The trip will conclude with designing and running a field experiment.

The second half of the course combines online study, lectures and tutorials to deepen your understanding of the ecosystem, local environment and global climate change.

Throughout the course, you’ll study the following major topics:

  • Reef formation, environment and oceanography
  • Coral ecology and species interactions
  • Reef fish and megafauna
  • Climate change and ocean acidification
  • Marine plastics, pollution and other threats
  • Sustainably managing coral reefs


Career Opportunities

Marine Scientists have a deep understanding of the ocean and marine life. By observing the interactions of marine plants and animals with coastal areas and the atmosphere, Marine Scientists can help preserve ecosystems. Understanding the causes and impacts of climate change is key knowledge for scientists, environmental managers, coastal engineers and policymakers.

At UNSW Science, you can specialise in Marine Science through a major in your bachelor or a masters degree.

Relevant Roles

  • Meteorologist 
  • Geologist 
  • Geophysicist 
  • Hydrologist 
  • Ecologist 
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Natural Resource Manager 
  • Marine Scientist 
  • Marine Biologist 
  • Tourist Operators
  • Policymakers