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Study Oceanography at Otago

Though oceans cover 70% of Earth’s surface, their depths are truly our “last frontier”.

This watery world is so challenging to explore, that we have more detailed maps for the surfaces of the Moon, Mars, and Venus.

Yet understanding our ocean planet is essential for meeting the challenges of our collective future. The physical, biological, chemical, and geological processes that power the Earth system unite in the ocean, determining Earth’s climate, regulating the composition of our atmosphere, supporting human civilisation, and sparking our curiosity.

Otago is uniquely placed to study these interlinked processes and their effects on our lives. The Southern Ocean is on our doorstep, with a wide range of marine environments easily accessible to our research fleet. We work from shallow harbours to the deep ocean, around sub-Antarctic islands and in majestic fiords, alongside temperate coastlines and floating over tropical reefs.

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Why study Oceanography?

Dive into the complex network of physical processes at work in the sea and you will never see Earth the same way again!

Studying Oceanography from the University of Otago will open your eyes to the dynamic chemistry of seawater; the nature of currents, waves and tides; the history of oceans preserved in underwater geology and sediments; the invisible underpinnings of marine life; and the way that all of these processes and systems interact.

We are the only university in New Zealand to offer undergraduate study in Oceanography, and our truly interdisciplinary approach leads to an ocean of opportunities.

Career opportunities

Oceanography will open doors to a diverse array of careers. Oceanography students at Otago develop a broad foundation in all areas of oceanography, with opportunities to concentrate in physical oceanography, biological oceanography, marine geology or marine chemistry. Throughout your programme, you will work with classmates to plan and execute field expeditions, collecting, evaluating, and presenting real-world data.

As an Oceanography graduate, your career path may lead you to:

  • Assess effects of tsunami for a regional council
  • Develop tidal turbines for an alternative energy company
  • Advocate for responsible policy through an NGO
  • Pursue a teaching career at any level
  • Conduct oceanographic and Antarctic research at a university or government agency
  • Explore for petroleum or minerals in the resource industry
  • Track trace metals to see where shellfish come from

Oceanographic research can take you from the poles to the tropics, Antarctica to Rarotonga, from regional councils to government agencies, such as NIWA, GNS, and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Otago graduates have launched their careers in private consultancy firms, within the IT industry, in science communication media (for example, Dunedin’s Natural History New Zealand Ltd), and government science policy groups.

Others continue their Marine Science careers within the educational system, through science teaching and community engagement, or university research and teaching positions. Those interested in pursuing postgraduate study may end up working as a research scientist for an oceanographic institute or university anywhere in the world.

Background required

Students with a passion for the marine environment who enjoy the physical sciences and maths will find a natural home in Oceanography. A solid foundation in Physics, Chemistry, and Calculus through Year 13 will prepare you to dive right in to our BSc programme. Earth and Space Science and Geography will also set the stage for your Oceanography degree.

Teaching style

Oceanography is a hands-on discipline.

Apart from attending lectures and tutorials, you will also have practical laboratories and field trips at sea.

The Marine Science department, which offers the Oceanography degree, has research and teaching facilities on the main campus in Dunedin, a major research laboratory at Portobello on the Otago Peninsula, and field stations on Stewart Island and at Doubtful Sound.

A fleet of research vessels, including the expedition vessel RV Polaris II, provides access to coastal and off-shore environments.

Qualifications

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

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Oceanography

Level Papers Points
100-level

MARI 112  Global Marine Systems

Three 100-level BIOL, CELS, CHEM, COMO, EAOS, ECOL, GEOL, MATH, PHIL or PHSI papers

18

54

200-level

OCEN 201  Physical Oceanography

Three of AQFI 251, BTNY 203, CHEM 201, CHEM 206, COMO 204, ECOL 211, GEOG 283, GEOG 298, GEOL 263, GEOL 272, GEOL 273, MARI 202, MATH 202, MATH 203, PHIL 225, PHSI 243, ZOOL 221

18

54

300-level

OCEN 301  Practical and Field Oceanography

One of:
OCEN 321  Ocean Physics and Modelling
OCEN 322  Biological Oceanography
OCEN 323  Marine Geology and Geophysics
CHEM 304  Environmental Chemistry

Two of AQFI 352, CHEM 304, COMO 303, GEOG 389, GEOG 398, GEOL 363, GEOL 372, GEOL 373, MARI 301, MARI 302, MATH 304, OCEN 321, OCEN 322, OCEN 323, PHSI 336, PHSI 365, ZOOL 316, ZOOL 319

18

18

 

 
36

Plus

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

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Science

Note: Students should check the prerequisites for 300-level papers when selecting 200-level papers.

144

Total   360

Minor subject requirements

Oceanography as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, 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 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

MARI 112  Global Marine Systems

One of:
COMO 101  Modelling and Computation
MATH 160  Mathematics 1
MATH 170  Mathematics 2

18

 

18

200-level OCEN 201  Physical Oceanography

18

300-level

OCEN 301  Practical and Field Oceanography

One of:
OCEN 321  Ocean Physics and Modelling
OCEN 322  Biological Oceanography
OCEN 323  Marine Geology and Geophysics
CHEM 304  Environmental Chemistry

18

 

18

 

Note: Students should check the prerequisites for 300-level papers when selecting 200-level papers.

 
Total   90

Papers

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a selection of on-campus papers will be made available via distance and online learning for eligible students.
Find out which papers are available and how to apply on our COVID-19 website

Paper code Year Title Points Teaching period
OCEN201 2021 Physical Oceanography 18 points First Semester
OCEN301 2021 Practical and Field Oceanography 18 points First Semester
OCEN321 2021 Ocean Physics and Modelling 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
OCEN322 2021 Biological Oceanography 18 points Second Semester
OCEN323 2021 Marine Geology and Geophysics 18 points Second Semester
OCEN450 2021 Special Topic: Data Analysis Methods in Marine Science 20 points Second Semester

Key information for future students

Contact us

Department of Marine Science

Email marine.science@otago.ac.nz
Website otago.ac.nz/marinescience