BIOL384-24S2 (C) Semester Two 2024

Marine Ecosystems

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 15 July 2024
End Date: Sunday, 10 November 2024
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 28 July 2024
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 29 September 2024


Advanced theories, concepts and applications of marine ecology to current issues.

This course advances the concepts of how marine species interact with each other and the environment to form functional populations and communities. The oceans cover 71% of earth’s surface and span estuaries, nearshore rocky reefs, deep-water benthic communities, and the surface and deeper waters of the open ocean. They are interconnected through ocean currents, tides and an increasingly changing physical environment. This course uses a mixed platform of lectures, tutorials, computer labs and field-based exercises to explore and understand current issues and processes affecting marine ecosystems, using New Zealand and worldwide examples. Students are taught hands-on field sampling techniques for monitoring biodiversity in nearshore marine benthic communities, and give oral presentations and written reports that analyse problems, avenues to solutions and results of experimental testing. This course is intended for those wishing to pursue a deeper understanding of how marine ecosystems function, and the natural and human-induced changes affecting them. It is particularly useful for those who wish to have a good grounding for applied research and future employment, and who intend to pursue careers involving biodiversity, environmental monitoring, report-writing and oral presentations.

Course aims
‘Marine Ecosystems’ has two main aims: to provide students with up-to-date knowledge and understanding of key concepts, processes and factual information in marine ecology, and to enhance skills of students in the laboratory and field procedures used by marine ecologists. This includes sampling and experimental design, analyses, interpretation and communication of ecological data and results..

These aims are achieved through lectures, laboratories, tutorials and a field trip. There is a variable course format discussing concepts, hypotheses and illustrative case histories of a wide range of marine ecosystems. Field-based exercises integrate concepts and techniques from lectures and laboratories, and apply them in a field setting. Skill development is in deeper knowledge, data acquisition, hypothesis testing, data analysis and presentation, and report writing.

Course Goals
The goals of this course are to discuss methods, fundamental principles, issues and case histories of ecological studies across a wide range of marine ecosystems. By including interactions of ecological processes with the many spatial and temporal scales of physical processes affecting them, this course will provide the necessary skills for understanding marine ecosystems and advancement in ecological disciplines.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students should have achieved the following:
1. Have a good working knowledge of key marine species and ecological drivers of species diversity and community processes within a range of marine ecosystems, including hard and soft shores, and the open ocean (assessment: field trip and final exam);
2. Develop advanced knowledge of the physical and ecological processes affecting marine populations (assessment: lab/tutorial exercises);
3. Understand the role of key marine species in food webs, primary production and other community processes (assessment: field trip, lab exercises and final exam);
4. An ability to apply ecological theory to the management of current issues in marine ecosystems (assessment: internal discussion and final exam);
5. Develop practical skills in experimental design, data analysis and scientific communication (assessment: field trip and estuary exercise).

Transferable Skills Register
Students in this course will develop the following skills:
1. Synthesising information from background lectures, tutorials and the primary literature. This skill underpins the advancement of science and the development of understanding. In lectures, lab- and field-based exercises, we will discuss research in a group environment to aid your ability to understand core issues across the marine domain and use as background for assessment tasks.
2. Collecting field data. Important for research and in scientific organisations. This will be developed in the field and will provide hands-on and model-based contexts for data acquisition.
3. Analysing data. Important for research, and in some non-scientific organisations. This skill will be developed as we help you work with data collected in the field and will involve modern analytical and graphical techniques for visualising, interpreting and presenting results.
4. Writing a report on findings. Communication of science is fundamental to its use and advancement. We will have discussions to provide instruction on the elements of successful reports and help you identify these elements with clear marking rubrics.

Students will develop the ability to:
1. Understand ecological drivers creating and maintaining structure and diversity within a range of marine ecosystems, including hard and soft shores, and the open ocean (assessment task: final exam)
2. Understand advanced theory and principles relating to marine ecosystems (assessment task: laboratory projects);
3. Understand NZ marine ecosystems and how they compare to other areas of the world (assessment task: final exam);
4. Apply ecological theory to the mitigation and management of current issues in marine ecosystems (assessment task: final exam);
5. Develop practical skills in field sampling techniques (assessment task: research project and field trip exercises);
6. Develop practical skills in analysing data and writing a scientific report (assessment tasks: laboratory and research project report).

Course requirements
This course has pre-requisites and suggested courses as background. It is assumed that all students in this course have a fundamental knowledge of marine biology on which we will build. Students are also expected to have taken a course in statistical analyses.


(1) BIOL209, (2) BIOL212, and (3) BIOL274



Timetable 2024

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Tuesday 10:00 - 11:00 Link 309 Lecture Theatre
15 Jul - 28 Jul
Lecture B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 14:00 - 15:00 A9 Lecture Theatre
15 Jul - 28 Jul
Computer Lab A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 09:00 - 13:00 Rehua 008 Computer Lab
22 Jul - 4 Aug
12 Aug - 18 Aug
9 Sep - 29 Sep
Field Trip A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01-P1 Monday 08:00 - 23:55 Living Springs
2 Sep - 8 Sep
01-P2 Tuesday 00:00 - 23:55 Living Springs
2 Sep - 8 Sep
01-P3 Wednesday 00:00 - 23:55 Living Springs
2 Sep - 8 Sep
01-P4 Thursday 00:00 - 13:00 Living Springs
2 Sep - 8 Sep
Lab A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 09:00 - 13:00 West 433
5 Aug - 11 Aug
19 Aug - 25 Aug

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

David Schiel


Mads Thomsen

Lab Coordinator

Jan McKenzie

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,134.00

International fee $5,144.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 10 people apply to enrol.

Limited Entry Course

Maximum enrolment is 40

For further information see School of Biological Sciences .

All BIOL384 Occurrences

  • BIOL384-24S2 (C) Semester Two 2024