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Study Zoology at Otago

Animals, how they live and interact.

Did you know that New Zealand’s only mammals were bats and seals, until about 1000 years ago? Animals are fascinating and there is so much to learn about them – the Zoology courses at Otago will blow your mind.

Zoology is the study of animals, their behaviour, their physiology and evolution, as well as their interactions with each other and with their environment. Zoologists also study how animals evolved and the impact of environmental change on their survival. They search for ways to manage wildlife populations and to conserve rare and endangered species, such as takahe, frogs and tuatara. They study costs and benefits of conservation and ways to enhance species survival.

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Why study Zoology?

You get to work in all sorts of spectacular environments and have the opportunity to explore all sorts of places where there is animal life, like mountains, grasslands, oceans, fiords and wetlands. There are lots of travel opportunities with Zoology – check out our graduate profiles! Zoology is a global science that will take you to all corners of the world.

New Zealand has its own unique animal life and it's a great place to study zoology and other environmental sciences. It's also one of the most interdisciplinary subjects. Staff in Zoology include ecologists, physiologists, developmental biologists, geneticists, evolutionary biologists, mathematicians, and even film makers. In our modern world, it is more important than ever that we restore and manage our environment. Zoologists can help to do that.

Career opportunities

A degree in Zoology opens the door to a wide variety of jobs and career options. There are opportunities in government departments and ministries, such as the Department of Conservation, and the Ministries of Fisheries, Agriculture and Forestry, and Environment. In these areas, Zoology graduates are involved with research, harvest management and pest control, as well as writing reports and developing and monitoring policy. Graduates can find careers where they are responsible for the use and care of our natural resources and environment with Regional and District Boards. There are also jobs for Zoology graduates with Crown Research Institutes (e.g. Landcare, NIWA) and private research organisations (e.g. Cawthron Institute). Zoology graduates are also employed in medical, veterinary and biotechnology laboratories.

There are increasing opportunities to develop careers in eco-tourism as advisers, guides and managers. Some Zoology graduates are working in fisheries and aquaculture with private companies, while others have found jobs as environmental consultants. You may decide that you want to share your interest and knowledge of animals and their environments in a position as a curator, an information officer, or a guide for a museum, nature park or zoo. There are also teaching opportunities for graduates and Zoology is an important major subject for those wishing to become secondary school biology teachers.

Zoology at Otago

Zoology is a modern science set not only in the mountains, grasslands, oceans, fiords and wetlands of the world, but also in the controlled environment of the laboratory. The Department of Zoology has an international reputation for research in freshwater ecology, wildlife and conservation biology, neurobiology and animal behaviour, parasitology, genetics, environmental physiology and evolutionary studies.

What will I learn?

In your first year you will learn about the biology of cells, the biology of animals and the basics of statistics. You will cover topics such as molecular biology, cell ultrastructure and function, genetics, bacteria and viruses and theories of evolution. The courses have a strong New Zealand flavour with an emphasis on the unique nature of the animals of New Zealand and their conservation problems. In your second and third years, you will continue your study of animal diversity, physiology and evolution, with the option of including papers from subjects such as Ecology, Genetics, Statistics and Computer Modelling, and Marine Science.

How will I study?

In your first year your CELS 191 and BIOL 112 lectures and laboratory classes will be supplemented with student study groups, computer-based self-assessment tests, CAL (computer-aided learning) laboratories, and many in-house designed computer exercises. Your lectures will be accompanied by a set of notes (often interactive) and other course materials that are accessible via the internet. Laboratory classes and field trips will complement your lectures in Zoology in your second and third years. Internal assessment forms 40–50 per cent of the final grade for papers in Zoology, and the rest is derived from final examinations.

Can I combine my Zoology study with other subjects?

Many Zoology students also major in another subject such as botany, ecology and genetics. Other students complete a double degree in areas like Law, Commerce and Arts.

What about further study?

A Zoology major can lead on to a further degree, including an MSc, PhD or Postgraduate Diplomas in Natural History Filmmaking and Communication, Environmental Science or Wildlife Management.

Background required

There is no first-year course in Zoology. Students who intend to major in Zoology should enrol in Biology (CELS 191, BIOL 112) and Statistics (STAT 110) in their first year. There are no special requirements, but it is recommended that you take NCEA Level 3 biology or its equivalent.


Zoology 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


BIOL 112 Animal Biology

CELS 191 Cell and Molecular Biology




At least two of:
ZOOL 221 Animal Designs for Living
ZOOL 222 Evolutionary Biology
ZOOL 223 Animal Physiology



At least one of ZOOL 313, ZOOL 314, ZOOL 315, ZOOL 316, ZOOL 318, ZOOL 319, GENE 312

One further paper from ZOOL 313, ZOOL 314, ZOOL 315, ZOOL 316, ZOOL 318, ZOOL 319, GENE 312, GENE 314, MARI 301, MARI 302



Total 108

ZOOL papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
ZOOL221 2024 Animal Designs for Living 18 Semester 1
ZOOL222 2024 Evolutionary Biology 18 Semester 2
ZOOL223 2024 Animal Physiology 18 Semester 2
ZOOL313 2024 Animal Function and Environment 18 Semester 1
ZOOL314 2024 Neurobiology 18 Semester 2
ZOOL315 2024 Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology 18 Semester 1
ZOOL316 2024 Biological Data Analysis and Computing 18 Semester 1
ZOOL318 2024 Freshwater Ecology 18 Semester 2
ZOOL319 2024 Conservation Biology 18 Semester 2
ZOOL410 2024 Evolutionary Genetics 20 Semester 2
ZOOL411 2024 Evaluating Trends and Controversies in Ecology and Evolution 20 Semester 1
ZOOL412 2024 Neurobiology and Behaviour 20 Semester 2
ZOOL414 2024 Comparative Physiology 20 Not offered, expected to be offered in 2026
ZOOL415 2024 Disease Ecology 20 Semester 2
ZOOL416 2024 Freshwater Ecology 20 Semester 1
ZOOL417 2024 Harvest Management 20 Not offered in 2024
ZOOL418 2024 Conservation Biology of Marine Mammals 20 Not offered in 2024
ZOOL419 2024 Special Topic 20 Not offered in 2024
ZOOL420 2024 Advanced Topics in Zoology 20 Not offered in 2024
ZOOL422 2024 Advanced Topics in Animal Behaviour 20 Semester 2
ZOOL423 2024 From Extinction to De-Extinction 20 Semester 1
ZOOL424 2024 Special Topic 20 Not offered in 2024
ZOOL425 2024 Conservation Genomics 20 Semester 2
ZOOL480 2024 Research Project 40 Full Year, 1st Non standard period
ZOOL490 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year, 1st Non standard period
ZOOL495 2024 Master's Thesis Preparation 40 Full Year, 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

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Studying at Otago

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