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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.

Why study Zoology?

You get to work in all sorts of spectacular environments. You will 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 profile for proof of that! 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 is a great place to study zoology and other environmental sciences.

Zoology is 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.

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.

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 Councils, Fish and Game Councils and Trust 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% 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.


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

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Zoology

Level Papers Points

BIOL 112  Animal Biology

CELS 191  Cell and Molecular Biology

STAT 110   Statistical Methods, or STAT 115  Introduction to Biostatistics





ZOOL 221  Animal Designs for Living

ZOOL 222  Evolutionary Biology

ZOOL 223  Animal Physiology





Three of:
ZOOL 313  Environmental Physiology
ZOOL 314  Neurobiology
ZOOL 315  Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology
ZOOL 316  Biological Data Analysis and Computing
ZOOL 318  Freshwater Ecology
ZOOL 319  Conservation Biology
GENE 312  Evolutionary Genetics

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









180 further points; must include 54 points at 200-level or above.

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Science

ZOOL 316  Biological Data Analysis and Computing, is strongly recommended for students intending to advance to PGDipSci or MSc in Zoology, PGDipWLM, or MWLM, and is required for students intending to advance to BSc(Hons) in Zoology.

Total   360

Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons)) in Zoology


Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) in Zoology


Master of Science (MSc) in Zoology

Papers and Thesis

Minor subject requirements

Zoology 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

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


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
ZOOL221 2022 Animal Designs for Living 18 points Semester 1
ZOOL222 2022 Evolutionary Biology 18 points Semester 2
ZOOL223 2022 Animal Physiology 18 points Semester 2
ZOOL313 2022 Animal Function and Environment 18 points Semester 1
ZOOL314 2022 Neurobiology 18 points Semester 2
ZOOL315 2022 Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology 18 points Semester 1
ZOOL316 2022 Biological Data Analysis and Computing 18 points Semester 1
ZOOL318 2022 Freshwater Ecology 18 points Semester 2
ZOOL319 2022 Conservation Biology 18 points Semester 2
ZOOL410 2022 Evolutionary Genetics 20 points Semester 2
ZOOL411 2022 Evaluating Trends and Controversies in Ecology and Evolution 20 points Semester 1
ZOOL412 2022 Neurobiology and Behaviour 20 points Semester 2
ZOOL414 2022 Comparative Physiology 20 points Semester 1
ZOOL415 2022 Disease Ecology 20 points Semester 2
ZOOL416 2022 Freshwater Ecology 20 points Semester 1
ZOOL417 2022 Harvest Management 20 points Semester 2
ZOOL418 2022 Conservation Biology of Marine Mammals 20 points Not offered in 2022
ZOOL419 2022 Special Topic 20 points Not offered in 2022
ZOOL420 2022 Advanced Topics in Zoology 20 points Semester 1, Semester 2
ZOOL421 2022 Essentials of Molecular Zoology 20 points Not offered in 2022
ZOOL422 2022 Advanced Topics in Animal Behaviour 20 points Semester 2
ZOOL423 2022 From Extinction to De-Extinction 20 points Semester 1
ZOOL424 2022 Special Topic: Conservation Genomics 20 points Semester 2
ZOOL480 2022 Research Project 40 points Full Year, 1st Non standard period
ZOOL490 2022 Dissertation 60 points Full Year, 1st Non standard period
ZOOL495 2022 Master's Thesis Preparation 40 points Full Year, 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

Key information for students

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