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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.

Apply for the Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) through the Dunedin campus in 2022

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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 possibilities

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.

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.

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.


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

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Marine Science

Students will be able to enrol in this major subject for 2022 from late July.

Level Papers Points

EAOS 111  Earth and Ocean Science

MARI 112  Global Marine Systems (new title in 2022 - Marine Biology: The Living Ocean)

One of
COMO 101  Modelling and Computation
MATH 160  Mathematics 1
STAT 110  Statistical Methods
STAT 115  Introduction to Biostatistics






MARI 201  Oceanography: The Physical Ocean (will be the same content as OCEN 201)

MARI 202  Marine Invertebrate Ecology and Biology (new title in 2022 - Ecology and Biology of Marine Invertebrates)





AQFI 301  Field Methods for Assessment of Fisheries and Aquatic Habitats (new title in 2022 - Field Methods in Applied Marine Science)

Two of:
AQFI 352  Fisheries Ecology
MARI 301  Marine Ecology (new title in 2022 - Marine Ecology and Ecosystems)
MARI 302  Biology and Behaviour of Marine Vertebrates
MARI 322  Coastal and Shelf Seas Oceanography (will be the same content as OCEN 322)











198 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.


Total   360

Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) in Marine Science


Master of Science (MSc) in Marine Science

Papers and Thesis
  • MARI 495 Master's Thesis Preparation

  • MARI 401 Advanced Methods in Marine Science

  • And 400-level AQFI, MARI or OCEN papers to make a total of 120 points (one may be replaced with an approved 400-level paper in a Science subject).

  • Thesis: MARI 5

    Note: The papers are normally taken before undertaking the thesis.

Minor subject requirements

Marine Science 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

MARI 112  Global Marine Systems



Two of:
AQFI 251  Principles of Aquaculture
BTNY 203  Marine and Freshwater Botany
MARI 202  Marine Invertebrate Ecology and Biology
OCEN 201  Physical Oceanography
ZOOL 221  Animal Designs for Living




Two of:
AQFI 301  Field Methods for Assessment of Fisheries and Aquatic Habitats
AQFI 352  Fisheries Ecology
MARI 301  Marine Ecology
MARI 302  Biology and Behaviour of Marine Vertebrates
OCEN 322  Biological Oceanography



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

Total   90


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
MARI112 2021 Global Marine Systems 18 points Semester 2
MARI202 2021 Marine Invertebrate Ecology and Biology 18 points Semester 2
MARI301 2021 Marine Ecology 18 points Semester 1
MARI302 2021 Biology and Behaviour of Marine Vertebrates 18 points Semester 1
MARI401 2021 Advanced Methods in Marine Science 20 points Semester 1
MARI402 2021 Advanced Applied Field Methods in Marine Environmental Science 20 points Not offered in 2021
MARI403 2021 Critical Thinking for Environmental Scientists 20 points Semester 1
MARI429 2021 Coastal Marine Environment 20 points Full Year
MARI431 2021 Antarctic and Southern Ocean Science 20 points Semester 2
MARI450 2021 Special Topic: Applied Estuarine Ecology 20 points 1st Non standard period
MARI451 2021 Advanced Topics in Marine Science 20 points Semester 1
MARI480 2021 Independent Project 20 points Full Year, 2nd Non standard period
MARI490 2021 Dissertation 40 points Full Year, 2nd Non standard period
MARI495 2021 Master's Thesis Preparation 40 points 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

Key information for future students

Contact us

Department of Marine Science