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Study Ecology at Otago

It's all about connections.

Ecology is the study of how plants, animals and other organisims interact with each other and with their environment. We learn about species, populations, and communities in a wide range of habitats from alpine to marine, and from semi-arid grasslands to cloud- and rainforests.

Ecology is a multidisciplinary subject which links departments across the University: Botany, Geography, Geology, Information Science, Marine Science, Maths, Philosophy, Statistics, Surveying, and Zoology.

The Ecology Degree Programme at Otago is organised to allow you to build pathways as you discover your interests – for example, animal and plant ecophysiology, freshwater ecology, marine ecology, plant ecology, molecular and evolutionary ecology, as well as paleoecology, plant–animal interactions and information systems.

Apply for the Bachelor of Science (BSc) (2023 applications) through the Dunedin campus in 2023

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Apply for the Bachelor of Science (BSc) (2024 applications) through the Dunedin campus in 2024

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Why study Ecology?

Global citizens need to understand our planet's ecology. Ecological information can help us improve our environment, manage our natural resources, protect our biodiversity, and enhance human health.

There are few places equal to Otago when it comes to studying Ecology – the marine inlets, mountains, national parks (Fiordland, Mt Aspiring), and World Heritage Sites (Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand), on our doorstep provide unique and diverse outdoor laboratories in which to work.

Ecology provides broad and transferable training through a range of subjects relating to plants, animals, and the environment. Hands-on and research-based learning means that our graduates are well-placed to take advantage of the wide variety of job opportunities that exist both here and overseas, and that they are up-to-date with global ecological trends and developments.

Our degree programme allows you to maintain a high level of flexibility which allows your interests to evolve. This means you can keep your career options open because you are not required to specialise too early.

Ecological researchers are really active at Otago, so our students are taught be experienced people at the front lines of research in Ecology, evolution, conservation and biodiversity, as well as by researchers from overseas – so come and learn from the best!

Career opportunities

The career opportunities available to Ecology graduates reflect the breadth of training offered. Our graduates are spread far and wide in jobs as diverse as nature guides, resource management consultants, and information technologists.

The Department of Conservation, Crown Research Institutes, local and and regional councils, tourism operations, secondary and tertiary teaching institutions and a range of environmental non-governmental organisations all employ graduates – here in New Zealand and around the world.

Your background

You'll be enthusiastic, with a real interest in the world around you and have a willingness to learn as well as to find out. A broad background in science is advantageous but we may accept students without these subjects to our 100-level programme.

What will I learn?

A degree in ecology from Otago will give you a broad skill base from which to step into your chosen career.

As well as learning about ecology, we’ll help you develop your time management, statistical, and communication skills, and you’ll meet a wide range of people with varying interests, ideas, and perspectives in the course of your study.

How will I study?

The study of ecology is approached from all angles – through lectures, tutorials, field trips, indoor activities, and outdoor laboratories. The proximity of the campus to such a diversity of environments means students are uniquely placed to explore a wide range of ecosystems.

Further study

With a Bachelor of Science majoring in Ecology, the world is your oyster. Postgraduate programmes in ecology and related subjects open up to you, whether it’s a Diploma, Honours degree, Masters degree, or a PhD that you wish to pursue.

Some students change tack at postgraduate level and opt for Environmental Science, Law, Planning, or one of the specialist postgraduate programmes offered at Otago such as the Diploma of Wildlife Management or Natural History Filmmaking and Communication.

Can I combine my Ecology degree with other subjects?

A double major combining ecology with Zoology or Botany are the most common, but Geography, Geology, and Physics and Philosophy are also popular combinations.

If you’re interested in environmental law, then a double degree combining Ecology and Law is the way to go – something more and more students are opting to do.

You might choose to spend one or two semesters on exchange at an overseas university, where, through various teaching agreements, you can take approved papers which are cross-credited to your BSc Ecology at Otago.


Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Ecology

Level Papers Points

BIOL 112  Animal Biology

BIOL 123  Plants: How They Shape the World

ECOL 111  Ecology and Conservation of Diversity

STAT 110  Statistical Methods, or STAT 115  Introduction to Biostatistics

At least one of:
EAOS 111  Earth and Ocean Science
GEOG 101  Physical Geography
MARI 112  Global Marine Systems







ECOL 211  Ecology of Communities and Ecosystems

ECOL 212  Ecological Applications

STAT 210 Statistical Methods 2

One of BTNY 201, BTNY 202, BTNY 203, CHEM 201, CHEM 205, CHEM 206, GENE 222, GEOG 282, GEOG 284, GEOG 285, GEOG 286, GEOG 287, GEOG 288, GEOG 289, GEOG 290, GEOG 298, GEOG 299, GEOL 252, GEOL 263, GEOL 272, MARI 201, MARI 202, STAT 260, STAT 270, SURV 208, ZOOL 221, ZOOL 222, ZOOL 223






ECOL 313  Ecology Field Course  or  ECOL 314 Tropical Field Ecology

ECOL 321  Ecology of Species Introductions and Invasions

Two of AQFI 352, BTNY 301, BTNY 302, BTNY 303, ECOL 313, ECOL 314, GENE 312, GEOG 388, GEOG 389, GEOG 390, GEOG 392, GEOG 393, GEOG 394, GEOG 395, GEOG 397, GEOG 398, GEOG 399, GEOL 372, MARI 301, MARI 302, STAT 311, SURV 309, ZOOL 313, ZOOL 315, ZOOL 316, ZOOL 318, ZOOL 319 or another suitable 300-level paper approved by the Programme Director.





126 further points; must include 36 points at 200-level or above.

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Science

 Students majoring in Ecology must pass STAT 110 or STAT 115 and STAT 210 before taking ECOL 313 or ECOL 314.

Total   360

Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons)) in Ecology


Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) in Ecology


Master of Science (MSc) in Ecology

Papers and Thesis

Minor subject requirements

Ecology as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Level Papers Points
100-level ECOL 111  Ecology and Conservation of Diversity 18

ECOL 211  Ecology of Communities and Ecosystems

ECOL 212  Ecological Applications




Two of BTNY 301, BTNY 303, ECOL 313, ECOL 314, ECOL 321, GEOG 390, GEOG 397, GEOL 372, MARI 301, MARI 302, ZOOL 315, ZOOL 318, ZOOL 319


Total   90


Paper code Year Title Points Teaching period
ECOL111 2023 Ecology and Conservation of Diversity 18 points Semester 1
ECOL211 2023 Ecology of Communities and Ecosystems 18 points Semester 1
ECOL212 2023 Ecological Applications 18 points Semester 2
ECOL313 2023 Ecology Field Course 18 points Semester 1
ECOL314 2023 Pacific Field Ecology 18 points 1st Non standard period
ECOL321 2023 Ecology of Species Introductions and Invasions 18 points Semester 2
ECOL411 2023 Reading Ecology 20 points Semester 1
ECOL450 2023 Special Topic 20 points Not offered in 2023
ECOL480 2023 Research Project 40 points Full Year, 1st Non standard period
ECOL490 2023 Dissertation 60 points Full Year, 1st Non standard period
ECOL495 2023 Master's Thesis Preparation 40 points Full Year, 1st Non standard period

Key information for future students

Contact us

Ecology Programme