Study Marine Biology

What is Marine Biology?

Marine biology is the scientific study of animals, plants and organisms within the ocean and other saltwater environments. It is also the study of how these elements interact with the marine environment as marine and coastal ecosystems.

Marine biology also involves studying the impact that humans have on the marine environment, and how oceans and the atmosphere interact. In other words, marine biology is also interconnected with climate science and the study of global warming, and with ocean conservation.

Marine biology is vital to our understanding and preservation of the planet and humanity.

Like all fields of science, marine biology incorporates theoretical and technical knowledge, alongside practical applications in the field, lab and research settings of every type, including oceans, wetlands and estuaries, and aquarium-based experiments.

The ocean covers approximately 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface and it remains largely uncharted^. This means there is vast potential to explore and learn about the ocean, and almost limitless opportunities for marine biology researchers and professional scientists to make new discoveries.

Marine biology also has a number of specialisations, including marine ecology; marine microbiology; biological oceanography; aquaculture; fisheries biology and management; marine population, community and ecosystem dynamics; coral reef science; marine conservation; zoology and more. Some of these specialisations may be studied alongside a Major in Marine Biology, as part of the Bachelor of Science at JCU. See the full list of JCU BSci Majors and electives.

^ National Geographic resource library, Oceans

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Bachelor of Science

The Marine Biology major in JCU's Bachelor of Science degree provides access to a unique tropical learning environment with research stations, state-of-the-art laboratories and the Great Barrier Reef right on our doorstep.

What does a marine biologist do?

Marine biologists are scientists who spend their life immersed – often literally – in oceans and other saltwater environments.

Ocean conservation is a passion for many marine biologists; however, there are a range of areas in which you might pursue research or focus your efforts.

Marine biologists may work as generalists, collecting and analysing data from diverse marine species in oceans, wetlands and estuaries to better understand marine biodiversity, and determine impacts of environmental change on marine ecosystems.

Or, marine biologists may become specialists, developing new knowledge through research into a particular type of marine organism, including animals, plants, and microorganisms.

As a marine biologist, you will apply scientific principles and processes across all of your work. Sampling and experimental design, statistical analysis, taxonomy and systematics, functional morphology, molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, behaviour, ecology and evolution will be among the skills you may use daily  as you study diverse marine ecosystems.

Increasingly, marine biologists will also use the latest technology, such as sophisticated arrays of data loggers, advanced analytical chemistry equipment, underwater drones  and mini-submarines, to gather data and study marine habitats among the ocean depths.

A marine biologist must be adept in the water and behind a computer, using custom software to analyse underwater images and video, to input and process data, conduct complex analyses including artificial intelligence methods, and to communicate findings.

Working as a marine biologist, you will develop diverse capabilities and experience. In addition to your marine biology qualifications, you may need to undertake practical training in areas such as scuba diving, boat driving, aquarium-based experiments, animal husbandry, and environmental health and safety.

What jobs are there in marine biology?

As a marine biologist, you could work in conservation biology and policy, environmental and resource management, fisheries biology, ecosystem restoration and marine impact assessments.

When you study marine biology at JCU, you might find marine biology jobs with not-for-profit organisations, universities and other research institutions, commercial organisations and governments.

Marine biologists may work in and around Australia’s many unique marine environments, including the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Reef, Montgomery Reef, Lord Howe Island, Hinchinbrook Island and many more. You may also work on diverse sites such as kelp forests, Ramsar wetlands, seagrass meadows, mangrove forests and so on.

Or, you may find may work as a marine biologist internationally, in a range of precious marine and coastal locations.

The kinds of jobs  you could hold with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Marine Biology from JCU include:

  • Marine biologist
  • Ocean conservationist
  • Marine policy advisor
  • Corporate relations
  • Commercial researcher
  • Academic researcher
  • Fisheries advisor
  • Environmental advisor
  • Environmental consultant
  • Environmental impact assessment work
  • Projects on coasts/wetlands/seagrass
  • Biological oceanographer.
test tubes
Man looking at large flask containing algae.

What is the difference between Marine Science and Marine Biology?

In addition to its Marine Biology Major through the Bachelor of Science, JCU also offers a Bachelor of Marine Science.

JCU’s Marine Science degree has a focus on the sustainability of oceans and is ideal for students interested in physical and chemical science, or an oceanography degree.

Marine science students are trained to work with developing oceanography technologies. They use seabed mapping technology, tagging and tracking equipment and high-precision sensors to track activity in the ocean. They will also cover ocean fundamentals such as understanding biological processes, the chemistry of the ocean, marine geography and fisheries science.

Similar to studying marine biology, marine science students learn how to collect data and assess the health of marine life populations; however, marine biologists may be more focused on the creatures and plants themselves – and their ecosystem interactions – rather than the geographical elements.

Why study Marine Biology at JCU?

When you study with us, you will be equipped to excel. JCU’s Marine Biology Major delivers well-developed practical experience alongside rigorous theoretical and technical knowledge.

If you have an existing qualification and want to take your Marine Biology studies further, JCU's Master of Marine Biology will advance your skills in the areas most sought after by marine sector employers.

JCU marine biology students have access to state-of-the-art research and teaching facilities, like the JCU Science Place and the JCU Orpheus Island Research Station.

As a marine biology student, you can also benefit from our researchers’ strong links with industry including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Museum of Tropical Queensland, TropWATER and CSIRO Townsville.

Townsville has been rated as the world's second most-prolific city for research related to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 'Life below water (SDG14)' by the Nature Index. The Nature Index is based on research published in 82 high-quality scientific research journals between 2015 and 2020, 52 per cent of the research conducted in the area came from JCU.

You will gain valuable employability skills through practical experiments and opportunities to acquire hands-on experience in diverse marine environments like reefs, mangroves, and intertidal zones.

You will also have the opportunity to undertake real-world marine biology research in unrivalled locations including the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.

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: Claire Barr, JCU Alumni, Bachelor of Science, majoring in Marine Biology.

Claire Barr


Bachelor of Science, majoring in Marine Biology

"I love the research teams and labs I have been involved in. Everything from swimming with minke whales in the northern Great Barrier Reef to working with baby seahorses, there have been so many cool opportunities. I also appreciate all of the connections I have made, from top researchers in this field to my cohort in the classes."

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