Graduate Diploma of Science, majoring in Marine Biology and Ecology

Courses and Study Australian courses Graduate Diploma of Science, majoring in Marine Biology and Ecology

James Cook University (JCU) is the premier research and education institution for Marine Biology in the Tropics. Our program is taught by leading experts in coral reef science, marine conservation, tropical fisheries science, reef and estuarine ecology, and marine and coastal resource management.

Studying at JCU will enable you to develop your professional skills to address the critical challenges facing marine and coastal ecosystems. Our Marine Biology and Ecology courses are designed around field experiences, including studying on location in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, and are informed by our world leading research findings.

Start dates
February, July
1 year full-time
Part time available
Study mode
On campus

Career opportunities

This course is ideal for students wanting to develop careers as research scientists, educators, environmental managers, consultants, biologists, ecologists, conservation agents, science communicators, or as field and laboratory technicians with a marine emphasis.

Our graduates are sought after by a broad range of employers, nationally and internationally, including high profile environmental management and consultant agencies, government departments, scientific research institutes, commercial ventures, education, tourism and media groups.

JCU's Graduate Diploma of Science in Marine Biology and Ecology graduates may find jobs in the following areas:

  • Scientific research institutes
  • Regional and national government bodies
  • Non-government and/or not for profit organisations locally, regionally and internationally.
  • Environmental consultancies
  • Fisheries and environmental management
  • Education organisations, ranging from tertiary institutes to community based organisations.
  • Commercial industry and resource developers
  • Environmental advocacy groups
  • Local, regional and international business and tourism operators.

The Asia-Pacific region is experiencing unprecedented economic and population growth. The demands on marine and coastal resources are similarly enormous. Equip yourself as a premier marine biologist, manager or scientist capable of addressing the grand challenges of the tropical world and beyond.

Course highlights

JCU is the leading education and research institution for Marine Biology in the Tropics. Our unique location enables students from Australia and overseas to study in a diverse physical environment unparalleled by any university in the world.

The postgraduate degree program in Marine Biology and Ecology is internationally recognised. We focus on developing career professionals who can address the grand challenges for marine and coastal ecosystems, particularly in the tropical Asia-Pacific region. You will be researching and tackling issues such as:

  • Climate change, ecosystem resilience and adaptation
  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Environmental and ecological sustainability
  • Biodiversity and conservation challenges for marine organisms and ecosystems
  • Sustainable marine resource management
  • Global and regional food security
  • Sustainable livelihoods for coastal and island based societies.

Our course integrates the latest research from our prestigious research groups in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Science, the Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER), and the Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture. Our students make the most of their opportunities to actively engage with our research programs and our global research leaders. Many of our graduates go on to develop their skills and become leading researchers in organisations around the world.

Here in tropical northern Australia we work in collaboration the world’s premier practitioners in marine research, reef, coastal and island management, Indigenous and traditional resource management, commercial and recreational fisheries, eco-tourism operations, marine educators, and coastal resource development industries. Throughout your degree you will be directly engaging with these partners to learn and apply skills relevant to the ‘real world’ and develop your own professional networks.

Course overview

The course enables graduates to develop their knowledge and skills in quantitative marine ecology, conservation biology, and the biology, life history and taxonomy of tropical marine organisms. You will study tropical marine systems with emphasis on coral reefs and surrounding waters, seagrass, mangrove assemblages and the adjacent sandy and rocky shores. There is an emphasis on whole organism biology, the ecology and biogeography of tropical marine organisms, and the evolutionary mechanisms that underlie their diversity.

In this diploma you will acquire the following core knowledge and skills:

  • Understanding of marine ecology and biology with a focus on tropical ecosystems and organisms
  • Quantitative analytical skills, including data management, quantitative statistics, ecological modelling and sampling design.
  • Practical laboratory and field skills for doing innovative research and biodiversity assessments in marine and coastal ecosystems.
  • Understanding and experience in best-practice marine conservation and management applications
  • Research innovation and project management
  • Interdisciplinary communication skills, with specialisations in scientific communication.

Our proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, and our location in the Asia-Pacific region provides students with unparalleled opportunities for investigating ecological and evolutionary questions for reef fish, corals, and other marine organisms. Our students regularly utilise these research facilities and locations during their studies:

This major is currently only offered in Townsville.

The course architecture is comprised of both intensive and semester-long subjects. Advanced research skills are embedded in all our subjects, and we include options for independent research projects and/or vocational placements with our research, management and industry partners.

For more information regarding this course, please contact Dr Naomi Gardiner.

How to apply

Complete an online application through our Online Application Portal.


GDipSc – Marine Biology and Ecology Major

Major code


Available in

Graduate Diploma of Science

Credit points

24 credit points

Major Structure


MB5004:03 Marine Conservation Biology or MB5260:03 Ecological Dynamics: An Introduction to Modelling

MB5160:03 Evolution and Ecology of Reef Fishes or MB5190:03 Coral Reef Ecology or MB5400:03 Life History and Evolution of Reef Corals

MB5300:03 Sampling and Experimental Design or MB5230:03 Design and Analyses in Ecological Studies

SC5055:03 Research and Communication Skills in the Natural Sciences


Select 6 credit points of specified level 5 science subjects

AQ5007:03 Aquatic Animal Ecophysiology

BZ5001:03 Quantitative Methods in Science

BZ5220:03 Population and Community Ecology

BZ5440:03 Ecology and Conservation

BZ5640:03 Marine Plants and Algae in their Environments

EV5203:03 Conserving Marine Wildlife: Sea Mammals, Birds, Reptiles

EV5505:03 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

MB5004:03 Marine Conservation Biology

MB5070:03 Marine Evolution and Biogeography

MB5160:03 Evolution and Ecology of Reef Fishes

MB5190:03 Coral Reef Ecology

MB5230:03 Design and Analyses in Ecological Studies

MB5260:03 Ecological Dynamics: An Introduction to Modelling

MB5300:03 Sampling and Experimental Design

MB5350:03 Current Issues in Coral Reef Ecology

MB5380:03 Invertebrate Biology

MB5400:03 Life History and Evolution of Reef Corals

MB5430:03 Behaviour of Marine Animals

MB5550:03 Biology of Reef Corals


Select 6 credit points of any level 5 AQ, BC, BZ, EV, MI, MB, SC, TO or TV subjects.

Pathway into course

For prerequisites and pathways into this course visit the admission requirements section in the Handbook


Graduate Diploma of Science

Course code


Course type

Graduate Diploma (AQF Level 8)


Tropical Environments and Societies

Award Requirements

Admission Requirements

Course pre-requisites

Completion of an AQF level 7 bachelor degree in Science or equivalent.

Minimum English language proficiency requirements

Applicants of non-English speaking backgrounds must meet the English language proficiency requirements of Band 1 – Schedule II of the JCU Admissions Policy.

Post Admission requirements

Some majors require attendance at block mode subjects on either the Townsville or Cairns campus.  Students may be required to attend block mode classes at a campus other than that at which they are enrolled, at their own expense.

Academic Requirements for Course Completion

Credit points

24 credit points

Course learning outcomes

The graduates of James Cook University are prepared and equipped to create a brighter future for life in the tropics world-wide.

JCU graduates are committed to lifelong learning, intellectual development, and to the display of exemplary personal, professional and ethical standards. They have a sense of their place in the tropics and are charged with professional, community, and environmental responsibility. JCU graduates appreciate the need to embrace and be acquainted with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of Australia. They are committed to reconciliation, diversity and sustainability. They exhibit a willingness to lead and to contribute to the intellectual, environmental, cultural, economic and social challenges of regional, national, and international communities of the tropics.

On successful completion of the Graduate Diploma of Science, graduates will be able to:

  • Integrate and apply advanced theoretical and technical knowledge in one or more science disciplines

  • Retrieve, analyse, synthesise and evaluate knowledge from a range of sources

  • Plan and conduct reliable, evidence-based laboratory and/or field experiments/practices by selecting and applying methods, techniques and tools, as appropriate to one or more science disciplines

  • Organise, analyse and interpret complex scientific data using mathematical, statistical and technological skills

  • Communicate complex scientific ideas, arguments and conclusions clearly and coherently to a variety of audiences through advanced written and oral English language skills and a variety of media

  • Identify, analyse and generate solutions to unpredictable or complex problems, especially related to tropical, rural, remote or Indigenous contexts, by applying scientific knowledge and skills with initiative and high level judgement

  • Explain and apply regulatory requirements, ethical principles and, where appropriate, cultural frameworks, to work effectively, responsibly and safely in diverse contexts

  • Reflect on current skills, knowledge and attitudes to manage their professional learning needs and performance, autonomously and in collaboration with others.

Course Structure


Select a major (discipline area)


Type of major



Credit points in major

24 credit points




Aquaculture Science and Technology


Mid-year entry is available

Environmental Earth Science



Mid-year entry is available

Environmental Marine Science

Townsville (Suspended 2015-2017)


Fisheries Biology and Management


Mid-year entry is available

Marine Biology and Ecology


Mid-year entry is available

Natural Resource Management


Cairns (Suspended 2017)

Mid-year entry is available

Protected Area Management


Cairns (Suspended 2017)

Mid-year entry is available

Tropical Biology and Conservation



Mid-year entry is available





Mid-year entry is available. Not all majors available in Cairns


Mid-year entry is available


Expected time to complete

1 year full-time or equivalent part-time

Maximum time to complete

4 years

Maximum leave of absence

1 year


Course progression requisites


Course includes mandatory professional placement(s)


Special assessment requirements


Professional accreditation requirements


Maximum allowed Pass Conceded (PC) grade


Supplementary exam for final subject

Not applicable

Advanced Standing


Students may apply for advanced standing for previous tertiary study in accordance with the Advanced Standing and Articulation policy and associated procedures.

Maximum allowed

6 credit points, unless part of an approved articulation process


Advanced standing will be granted only for studies completed in the 10 years prior to the commencement of this course.


Advanced standing gained for any subject shall be cancelled 14 years after the date of the examination upon which the advanced standing is based if, by then, the student has not completed the course of study prescribed for the degree.

Other restrictions


Award Details

Award title


Approved abbreviation


Inclusion of majors on testamur

The major studied shall appear on the testamur

Exit with lesser award

Students who exit the course prior to completion, and have completed 12 credit points of study, may, depending on the subjects studied, be eligible to receive the award of Graduate Certificate of Science.

Course articulation

Students who complete the Graduate Diploma of Science are eligible for entry to the Master of Science, and may be granted advanced standing for all subjects completed under the Graduate Diploma.

This website is intended as general guide. Prospective students should contact the university to confirm admission requirements and the availability of courses. James Cook University reserves the right to alter any course or admission requirement without prior notice.