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Study Marine Science at Otago

Stretching over 30° of latitude, New Zealand’s coastline is more than 15,000 km long, and its exclusive economic zone is one of the largest in the world.

And yet our understanding of our own big blue backyard is extremely limited.

Whether it’s finding new species, protecting sensitive habitats, or solving our energy problems, there are countless opportunities for ocean explorers. Study Marine Science and you could be part of the discoveries to come.

Found only around New Zealand’s South Island, Hector’s dolphins are a symbol of just how unique our marine environment is. Facing many challenges in a fragile habitat, these dolphins are teetering on the brink of existence. The watery world surrounding us is a special place that needs you to help understand its complexity, and to find answers for important questions about its future.

Apply for the Master of Science (MSc) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Apply for the Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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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!

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% of Marine Science postgraduates from Otago University go on to find marine related jobs.

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 (for example, Dunedin’s Natural History New Zealand Ltd) and government science policy groups. Other graduates continue their marine science careers in museums and aquariums, within the educational system, through science teaching and community engagement, or university research and teaching positions.

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.

Teaching style

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.


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

Programme requirements

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 Second Semester
MARI202 2021 Marine Invertebrate Ecology and Biology 18 points Second Semester
MARI301 2021 Marine Ecology 18 points First Semester
MARI302 2021 Biology and Behaviour of Marine Vertebrates 18 points First Semester
MARI401 2021 Advanced Methods in Marine Science 20 points First Semester
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 First Semester
MARI429 2021 Coastal Marine Environment 20 points Full Year
MARI431 2021 Antarctic and Southern Ocean Science 20 points Second Semester
MARI450 2021 Special Topic: Applied Estuarine Ecology 20 points 1st Non standard period
MARI451 2021 Advanced Topics in Marine Science 20 points First Semester
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