Master of Science, majoring in Marine Biology

Future Students Australian courses Master of Science, majoring in Marine Biology

Master of Science, majoring in Marine Biology

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 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
1.5 years 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 Master of Science in Marine Biology 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 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 degree you will acquire the following core knowledge and skills:

  • Understanding of marine 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, contact Dr Naomi Gardiner.

How to apply

Complete an online application through our Online Application Portal.


MSc – Marine Biology Major

Major code


Credit point value

36 credit points

Major Structure


MB5004:03 Marine Conservation Biology

MB5055:03 Biological Oceanography

MB5190:03 Coral Reef Ecology

MB5270:03 Coastal, Estuarine and Mangrove Ecosystems

MB5300:03 Sampling and Experimental Design or SC5502:03 Design and Analyses in Ecological Studies


Select 3 credit points from:

BS5260:03 Modelling Ecological Dynamics or

BZ5450:03 Ecological and Conservation Genetics or

EV5110:03 Environmental and Social Impact Assessment or

EV5502:03 Advanced Geographic Information Systems or

EV5506:03 Remote Sensing


Select 6 credit points of subjects from List 1


Select 12 credit points of any level 5 AQ, BS, BZ, CH, EA, EV, MA, MB, MI, SC, or TV subjects.

List 1

AQ5004:03 Aquaculture: Stock Improvement

BC5203:03 Introduction to Bioinformatics

BS5260:03 Modelling Ecological Dynamics

BZ5450:03 Ecological and Conservation Genetics

BZ5990:03 Toolkit for the Field Biologist

CH5203:03 Analytical Chemistry (Advanced)

EA5018:03 Field Studies in Tropical Land and Water Science

EA5330:03 Field Techniques

EA5640:03 Advanced Marine Geoscience Technologies and Applications

EV5110:03 Environmental and Social Impact Assessment

EV5502:03 Advanced Geographic Information Systems

EV5505:03 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

EV5506:03 Remote Sensing

MA5405:03 Data Mining

MB5300:03 Sampling and Experimental Design

SC5202:03 Quantitative Methods in Science

SC5232:03 Marine Sensor Technologies and Applications

SC5502:03 Design and Analyses in Ecological Studies

Pathway into course

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


Master of Science

Course code


Course type

Masters Degree (Coursework) (AQF Level 9)


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

36 credit points as per course structure

Course learning outcomes

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

  • Integrate and apply an advanced body of theoretical and technical knowledge, including an understanding of recent developments, in one or more science disciplines.
  • Retrieve, analyse, synthesise and evaluate complex information, concepts and theories 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 advanced mathematical, statistical and technological skills.
  • Communicate theoretical propositions, methodologies, scientific data, arguments and conclusions clearly and coherently to specialist and non-specialist 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 expert judgement.
  • Critically review 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.
  • Apply knowledge of research principles, methods, techniques and tools to plan and execute a substantial research-based project, capstone experience and/or piece of scholarship.

Course Structure


Select a discipline area (major) from Table A


Type of major

Mandatory, Single

Credit points in major

36 credit points




Aquaculture Science and Technology



Environmental Earth Science



Environmental Management


Available from Admission Period 2 2018

Fisheries Science and Management





Available from Admission Period 2 2018

Marine Biology



Natural Resource Management

Cairns (Suspended 2017-2018)



Protected Area Management

Cairns (Suspended 2017-2018)



Tropical Biology and Conservation







Not all majors available at Cairns




Expected time to complete

18 months full-time or equivalent part-time

Maximum time to complete

5 years

Maximum leave of absence

2 years


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

12 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 15 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 abbreviations


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 24 credit points of appropriate subjects, may be eligible for the award of Graduate Diploma of Science.

Students who have completed 12 credit points of appropriate subjects may be eligible to receive the award of Graduate Certificate of Science.

Course articulation

Students who complete the requirements for the Master of Science are eligible for direct entry into the 48 credit point Master of Science (Professional) and may be granted advanced standing for all subjects completed under this course.

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.