Study Ecology

What is Ecology?

Ecology is the scientific study of plants and animals (including humans), and their interactions with the environment around them. It encompasses terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Ecology plays an essential role in the conservation and the management of threatened species and ecosystems around the world.

The fundamentals of ecology include a sound knowledge of evolution, and how evolutionary processes drive the diversity of life on earth. An understanding of how plants and animals adapt to their environments enables ecologists to predict how these populations might respond to the increasing pressures of environmental and climate change.

Biodiversity itself is also studied as part of ecology. The origins and organisation of life from tiny single-celled plants and animals, to massive fig trees and ancient oaks, to ants and whales, and everything in between are relevant.

Population and community ecology studies population growth, species interactions, community patterns and dynamics, food webs and the effects of disturbance and scaling on the biodiversity of habitats and regions.

Discover JCU's
Bachelor of Science

Develop your passion for conservation and make a genuine difference to your community and the environment by studying Ecology with the Bachelor of Science at JCU.

What does an ecologist do?

An ecologist studies plants, animals and their natural habitats.

Ecologists are usually passionate about conservation, and may focus on many of the different challenges facing life on today’s planet. For example, ecologists may study the effects of deforestation, infrastructure expansion, habitat fragmentation, over-hunting and invasive species.

Ecologists may also study evolutionary and biological processes to explain patterns of plant and animal diversity. They may investigate how these patterns and ecological principles can be proactively applied to sustain life and increase biodiversity.

Working as an ecologist, you will combine theoretical and scientific knowledge with practical application and field work.

Ecologists must understand the basic features of most animals and plants, as well as how to apply morphological, physiological and behavioural knowledge to understand the diversity of life and ecosystems.

Ecologists are adept at collecting field data, too, and may use a variety of modern data collection tools and techniques to collect samples from land, oceans or freshwater environments. Generating, recording and interpreting data from multiple primary sources is all in a day’s work for an ecologist.

As an ecological researcher, you may also employ a range of other research methods to address ecological questions or test new ecological hypotheses.

Ecologists may specialise in particular disciplines, or particular organisms, animals or types of ecosystems. For example, at JCU, budding ecologists may complete a subject in tropical entomology, focusing on a number of tropical insect systems, and their biological control and integrated pest management.

What jobs can you do by studying Ecology?

Ecology jobs may have many different names and can be found in many different types of organisations.

When you study ecology at JCU, you will graduate ready to work anywhere from global consulting giants to small, specialised firms, from conservation societies to research foundations, from private sector institutes to government departments.

Ecologists or ecology skills may be required in several kinds of industries including agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, biomedicine, infrastructure and development, resources and mining, tourism and more.

The kinds of ecology jobs you could hold with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Zoology and Ecology from JCU include:

  • Ecologist
  • Conservationist
  • Wildlife consultant
  • Ecological researcher
  • Environmental consultant
  • Sustainability officer
  • Environmental officer
  • Environmental project manager
  • Zoologist
  • Forestry manager
  • Botanist
  • Biosecurity or quarantine officer
  • Agricultural practitioner.
student taking measurements of a stream.
Student shaking net.

Why study Ecology at JCU?

Combining two related disciplines into a single Major, JCU’s Bachelor of Science majoring in Zoology and Ecology allows students to develop double skillsets, acquiring a deep and multifaceted understanding of the natural world and all living creatures within it. When you study Zoology and Ecology at JCU, you will learn from lecturers with global standing in the science community.

Offered at both JCU Townsville and JCU Cairns, the Bachelor of Science majoring in Zoology and Ecology integrates the unique environments of tropical north Queensland into hands-on ecology learning opportunities, with fieldwork undertaken at every year level.

Based in one of the most biodiverse regions in Australia, ecology students at JCU experience working in remote tropical rainforests, islands and savannas, to learn about biosecurity, behavioural ecology and conservation biology.

World-class field stations at Orpheus Island and Daintree provide unique opportunities and lifetime experiences. Marine ecology students may have an opportunity to undertake research on the Great Barrier Reef.

JCU prides itself on producing work-ready graduates who understand the fundamentals of scientific theory and principles, alongside their practical application. As a JCU student, you will have the opportunity to receive subject credit for a Work Integrated Learning experience.

When you study ecology at JCU, you will gain demonstrated experience in the design and analysis of field research and survey projects; an ability to work collaboratively; experience in tropical field studies; and a greater awareness of the in-situ study of behaviour, ecology and evolution.

5 Stars for full-time employment1
#1 in Australia for sustainable education2
5 Stars for student teacher ratio1
1 2024 Good Universities Guide  2 2023 QS Sustainability Rankings
Photo: Dale Perkins, JCU Student, Bachelor of Science, majoring in Zoology and Ecology.

Dale Perkins


Bachelor of Science, majoring in Zoology and Ecology

"My passion for gardening suggested to me that botany might be a great field of study, and as such, a degree in Zoology and Ecology made sense. I chose JCU because it employs some of the leading contributors to the ecological community, it has access to the Daintree Rainforest Observatory Research Station and Cairns is one of the most beautiful tropical places on earth."

Discover Ecology at JCU

Learn more, explore your options.