The UNSW Marine and Aquatic Ecology (BIOS3091) course examines the ecology of aquatic habitats with a major focus on marine coastal systems such as kelp forests, coral reefs and seagrass meadows. Throughout the course, you’ll study the experimental approaches to ecological research and the importance of ecological processes structuring marine and freshwater communities.

Marine Scientists who work in marine ecosystems and aquatic environments often research a group of organisms and analyse how they interact with other species and with abiotic factors such as temperature or nutrients. Marine ecologists often need to collaborate with other specialists such as physical and chemical oceanographers or microbiologists to understand the factors that control marine communities.

During this course, you’ll focus your study on three main topics:

  1. Understanding the ecological processes that govern marine habitats, such as predation, herbivory and competition
  2. Understanding how individual marine communities such as kelp forests, coral reefs or seagrass meadows function
  3. Understanding the management and conservation of major human impacts and solutions that can mitigate them

You’ll also have the opportunity to undertake fieldwork, both as a class and independently in small groups, to explore and understand local marine ecosystems in the Sydney region. This fieldwork can be in the inter-tidal or underwater, following an induction with UNSW’s diving officer.


Course Breakdown

This course is typically taken during the third year of a Biological Sciences degree. As it includes an independent field project and training on report writing, Marine and Aquatic Ecology gives you excellent preparation to further your study with honours.

The course covers the following topics:

  • The scientific method and experimental design
  • Larval and supply-side ecology
  • Species interactions (facilitation, competition, herbivory and predation)
  • Disturbance ecology
  • Marine communities (including rocky shores, coral reefs, kelp forests and seagrass meadows)
  • Microbial ecology
  • Invasion ecology
  • Desert rivers
  • Human impacts and conservation


Conditions for Enrolment

Before enrolling in this course, you must have completed the following courses:

Assumed knowledge includes some experimental design and statistics.


Career Opportunities

Marine Scientists develop a holistic understanding of the biological and physical components of our oceans and how they interact with other components of our planet. They develop skills in analytical thinking, project management, evidence-based decision making, statistics and writing. By observing the interactions between marine and aquatic organisms and their environment, Marine Scientists can help preserve species and ecosystems. At UNSW Science, you can specialise in Marine Science through The Marine Environment course and the Master of Marine Science and Management.

Relevant Roles

  • Meteorologist
  • Geologist
  • Geophysicist
  • Hydrologist
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Natural Resource Manager
  • Marine Scientist
  • Marine Biologist
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Science Communicator
  • Conservationist
  • Science Advocate

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