Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

Study Marine Science at Otago

Take the plunge

Stretching over 30° of latitude, New Zealand’s coastline is more than 15,000km long, and its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is one of the largest in the world. And yet our understanding of our own big blue backyard, and our impact on it, is extremely limited.

The physical and biological processes that power the Earth system unite in the ocean, determining Earth’s climate, supporting life and sparking our curiosity. Whether it’s finding new species, protecting sensitive habitats or solving our climate change problems, the University of Otago is uniquely placed to study these interlinked processes, and their effects on our lives.

Understanding our ocean planet is essential for meeting the challenges of our collective future.

Ready to enrol?

Get Started

Why study Marine Science?

The world is waking up to just how important the marine environment is to the survival of our planet. And when your office extends to the seashore and beyond, every day is a new challenge! A qualification in Marine Science from the University of Otago is internationally recognised, and its multidisciplinary nature opens up an ocean of opportunities.

Career opportunities

Marine scientists are valued, not only in learning institutions, but also by governments and large corporations. Many organisations need people with analytical minds on their team. Over 90 per cent of Marine Science postgraduates from Otago go on to find marine-related jobs.

Graduates with a Marine Science qualification find employment in a wide variety of areas, including:

  • Academic/Research
  • Government agencies
  • Teaching/Community
  • Applied/Industry research
  • Consulting
  • NGO/Advocacy
  • Tourism

Marine research can take you from the poles to the tropics, Antarctica to Fiji and from regional councils to government agencies, such as the Department of Conservation, NIWA and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Careers have also been launched in private consultancy firms, within the IT industry, the media (e.g. Dunedin's Natural History New Zealand Ltd) and government science policy groups. Other graduates continue their marine science careers within the educational system, through teaching, community engagement, or research.

Marine Science at Otago

What will I learn?

Marine Science (MARI) is a highly flexible study option with a group of core papers that provide a solid background in the marine sciences, allowing students to add other science papers according to their interests (from subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Ecology and Geology).

You start by enrolling in:

  • EAOS 111 Earth and Ocean Science
  • MARI 112 The Living Ocean

Health Science students may enrol in MARI 112 as their optional eighth paper, allowing them to continue in Marine Science if they wish to do so.

Common pathways

Marine Biology

Study of marine animals and plants, conservation, and management strategies.

BSc in Marine Science, minor in Zoology, Botany, or Ecology.

Aquaculture and Fisheries

Study of marine farming and fishing, learning both how to conserve, manage and improve sustainable production and practices.

BAppSc in Aquaculture and Fisheries. A minor or second major is essential from an approved list.

Marine Physics and Modelling

Study the sea and how it moves: waves and tides, energy, climate, and global physical processes.

BSc in Marine Science, minor in Maths, Physics or Computational Modelling.

Marine Geology and/or Geography

Study the whole planet! Understanding the past helps us to plan for the future. This is where climate research really hits the road.

BSc in Marine Science, minor in Geology or Geography.

Marine Chemistry

Study the complex chemical soup of elements, nutrients, and compounds that is the sea.

BSc in Marine Science, minor in Chemistry.

How will I study?

Marine Science is very much a hands-on discipline. Apart from attending lectures and tutorials, you will also have practical laboratories and field trips at sea. The Department of Marine Science 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 in Doubtful Sound. A fleet of research vessels, including the expedition vessel RV Polaris II, provides access to all the local marine habitats.

Can I combine my Marine Science study with other subjects?

Students majoring in Marine Science can include a minor from a different subject. It is most easily combined with other sciences (e.g Ecology, Botany, Zoology, Chemistry and Geology) but adding it to other disciplines (e.g Education, Law, Geography or Tourism) would lead to interesting job opportunities.

Marine Science is also available as a minor in any undergraduate degree from Business, Humanities or Sciences.

What about further study?

The Department of Marine Science offers research opportunities in diverse fields, including: behavioural ecology, ocean physics, Antarctic science, coastal processes, ocean acidification, climate change, remote sensing, marine geology, and marine mammal biology and conservation.

You may also be interested in

Background required

Students from a wide range of backgrounds are welcome to study Marine Science. You will need an interest in the marine environment and a solid foundation in science to Year 13 level. We particularly recommend Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Statistics or Calculus.


“Over the summer Preston worked on a project which looked at the global state of involvement of indigenous knowledge in ecosystem restoration.”

Preston Maluafiti

Marine Science


Marine Science 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


EAOS 111 Earth and Ocean Science
MARI 112 Marine Biology: The Living Ocean
One of:
COMO 101 Modelling and Computation
MATH 120 Mathematics for Scientists
MATH 130 Fundamentals of Modern Mathematics 1            
MATH 140 Fundamentals of Modern Mathematics 2              
STAT 110 Statistical Methods
STAT 115 Introduction to Biostatistics



MARI 201 Oceanography: The Physical Ocean
MARI 202 Ecology and Biology of Marine Invertebrates



One 300-level paper in AQFI or MARI

Note: Students who have passed at least one of COMO 101, MATH 120, MATH 130, MATH 140, STAT 110 or STAT 115 as part of another subject's requirements do not need to pass another one of these papers to fulfil the Marine Science minor subject requirements.
Note: Students should check the prerequisites for 300-level papers when selecting 200-level papers.
Note: Students majoring in Aquaculture and Fisheries will not be permitted to take a Marine Science minor.


Total 108

MARI papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
MARI112 2024 Marine Biology: The Living Ocean 18 Semester 2
MARI201 2024 Oceanography: The Physical Ocean 18 Semester 1
MARI202 2024 Ecology and Biology of Marine Invertebrates 18 Semester 2
MARI250 2024 Special Topic 18 Not offered in 2024
MARI301 2024 Marine Ecology and Ecosystems 18 Semester 1
MARI302 2024 Biology and Behaviour of Marine Vertebrates 18 Semester 1
MARI322 2024 Coastal and Shelf Seas Oceanography 18 Semester 2
MARI350 2024 Specialist Topic 18 Not offered in 2024
MARI401 2024 Advanced Methods in Marine Science 20 Semester 1
MARI403 2024 Critical Thinking for Environmental Scientists 20 Semester 1
MARI429 2024 Coastal Marine Environment 20 Full Year
MARI431 2024 Antarctic and Southern Ocean Science 20 Semester 2
MARI450 2024 Special Topic: Applied Estuarine Ecology 20 Not offered in 2024
MARI451 2024 Advanced Topics in Marine Science 20 Not offered in 2024
MARI480 2024 Independent Project 40 1st Non standard period
MARI490 2024 Dissertation 60 2nd Non standard period
MARI495 2024 Master's Thesis Preparation 40 1st Non standard period

More information

Contact us

Department of Marine Science


Studying at Otago

This information must be read subject to the statement on our Copyright & Disclaimer page.

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

Back to top