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Study Botany at Otago

Connecting plants and people for a sustainable future.

Because plants provide us with food, fibres and medicines, knowledge about plants is fundamental to our survival.

It’s also vital to the health of the planet, as plants influence the Earth’s climate, and most life forms on Earth depend directly on plants for oxygen, food, or habitat. Plants also include some of the strangest and most beautiful living things on Earth.

Modern Botany includes research into the biochemistry, ecology, genetics and physiology of plants, plant evolution, the role plants play in ecosystems and plant biotechnology. It covers topics from the breeding of crop plants using the most modern molecular techniques, through to modelling the effects of climate change on plants.

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Why study Botany?

Botany is an exciting and challenging degree taught by a team of excellent plant scientists.

You will learn about important, topical issues such as biotechnology, genetic modification, ecosystem services, sustainability and the ecological impacts of environmental change.

Studying Botany at Otago will enable you to examine New Zealand's unique flora on land and in the sea. You will study its diversity and evolutionary history, as well as how this flora may be affected by changing climatic conditions, ocean acidification, and invasive organisms. Botany courses will cover a wide range of topics from how photosynthetic organisms function, to understanding their role in ecosystem processes. This will include the importance of plants in addressing some of the challenges and problems that face society in the 21st century.

Botany courses have great field trips that focus on various aspects of plant ecology and allow you to participate in hands-on study of our exciting natural environment.

Career opportunities

The wide range of topics and skills learnt in Botany can lead to many different careers. There will always be jobs for plant scientists because plants are so fundamental to life on earth.

The world's economies are highly dependent on plants and their associated habitats, not only for food production but also for timber, for the fibres and chemical compounds plants produce and for the ecological services they provide, such as removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Plant scientists are employed around the world in industry, governmental and non-governmental organisations that seek to understand and conserve the natural environment, and to educate people about it.

Botany graduates are in high demand in industries such as biotechnology, horticulture, tourism and agriculture.

A Botany degree can also lead to a career in conservation, biosecurity, environmental education, environmental consultancy or academic research.

Our graduates take up positions in local and national government, for instance at the Department of Conservation, and Ministry of Primary Industries and Crown Research Institutes.

Botany at Otago

What will I learn?

A Botany degree will provide you with basic training in plant biology and evolution, ecology and physiology, marine botany, mycology, plant diseases and biotechnology.

You will also gain important skills that are transferable to any career: critical thinking, written and oral communication, information analysis and interpretation, time management, problem solving, and lateral thinking.

Combine Botany with other subjects

You can include papers from almost any other area in the University in your Botany degree.

For students doing a double degree or double major, Botany is most often combined with Ecology, Plant Biotechnology, Genetics, Law, Zoology, or Marine Science.

Botany is also offered as a degree minor alongside other degree subject majors.

How will I study?

Botany lecturers have an interactive style and work closely with undergraduates. In laboratory classes, you will gain hands-on experience of fundamental botanical techniques ranging from plant genetics, structure and function, to tissue culture and ecological surveys.

Botany courses also include field trips to native forests, grasslands, mountains and beaches.

The Department of Botany provides a friendly and supportive learning environment – it produces independent and informed graduates who make a positive contribution to society and the economy – nationally and internationally.

Further studies

A degree in Botany allows you to enter into higher degrees at Otago and other tertiary institutions. Many MSc and PhD graduates in Botany are employed as research scientists around the world, including New Zealand.

Background required

While an understanding of basic biology would be useful, it is not essential – you will be taught everything you need to know once you start your course.

The basics of cells, plants and their environments are covered in the  first year Biology and Ecology papers. All you need is enthusiasm and curiosity!


Botany as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, 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 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

100-levelBIOL 123 Plants: How They Shape the World, or PTWY 132* Introduction to Plant Life18

Two of:
BTNY 201 Plant Functional Biology and Biotechnology
BTNY 202 Plant and Fungal Diversity
BTNY 203 Marine and Freshwater Botany



Two of:
BTNY 301 Plant Ecology
BTNY 302 Plant Interactions
BTNY 303 Topics in Field Botany
BTNY 365 Research Skills
BTNY 370 Special Topic
One of BTNY 301, BTNY 302, BTNY 303, BTNY 365, BTNY 370;
one of PLBI 301, PLBI 302



* PTWY 132 is only available to students enrolled in the Diploma in Science.

Total 90

BTNY papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
BTNY201 2024 Plant Functional Biology and Biotechnology 18 Semester 1
BTNY202 2024 Plant and Fungal Diversity 18 Semester 2
BTNY203 2024 Marine and Freshwater Botany 18 Semester 2
BTNY301 2024 Plant Ecology 18 Semester 1
BTNY302 2024 Plant Interactions 18 Semester 2
BTNY303 2024 Topics in Field Botany 18 1st Non standard period
BTNY365 2024 Research Skills 18 Not offered in 2024
BTNY370 2024 Special Topic 18 Not offered in 2024
BTNY461 2024 Plant Physiology and Biotechnology 20 Semester 1
BTNY465 2024 Plant and Environment 20 Semester 2
BTNY467 2024 New Zealand Plant Ecology and Evolution 20 Semester 2
BTNY469 2024 Principles of Nature Conservation 20 Semester 1
BTNY470 2024 Special Topic 20 Not offered in 2024
BTNY480 2024 Research Project 40 Full Year, 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period
BTNY490 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year, 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period
BTNY495 2024 Master's Thesis Preparation 40 Full Year, 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

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Department of Botany

Studying at Otago

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Regulations on this page are taken from the 2024 Calendar and supplementary material.

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