School of Biological Sciences

Marine Conservation

Students encounter a school of fish near Palmyra Atoll, Central Pacific

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The School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University is pleased to offer New Zealand's first graduate programme in Marine Conservation. The programme educates students in marine conservation issues and practice using examples from New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific, which are applicable worldwide.

New Zealand is an ideal location to undertake study in this important field, with unparalleled access to a range of temperate marine environments, including rocky shores, estuaries, fiords and sea mounts. Wellington itself is within easy reach of two marine reserves – Kapiti and Taputeranga. The course also leverages New Zealand’s international reputation in marine conservation and fisheries management.

New Zealand is a world-leader in marine conservation. We produce graduates with the skills to conserve marine environments in New Zealand, the Pacific and worldwide. With the pressing need for scientists to advise on, implement and manage the growing number of Marine Protected Areas both in the South Pacific region and world wide, marine conservation graduates are highly sought after.

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Study Options

Two study options are available:

  • Master of Marine Conservation (MMarCon), a taught Master's with no thesis component. It is an 12 month programme that may be started in January or June.
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Marine Conservation (PGCertMarCon), involving 6 months of coursework. It may be started in January or June.

About the Master's Programme

The Master's programme (MMarCon) is the only taught marine conservation Master's degree in New Zealand. It focuses on developing the knowledge and skills required for a career in this field. The programme takes 12 months to complete. The programme is made up of core and elective papers and may be started in either January or June.

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Study in New Zealand

Dr James Bell conducting an invertebrate study with students, at Te Angi Angi Marine Reserve, Hawke's Bay.

New Zealand is a unique place to study marine conservation. Its extensive coastline reaches from sub-tropical climates in the far north to the remote and windswept Stewart Island, in southern latitudes. Home to numerous rare and endemic marine organisms, from the tiny phytoplankton to the formidable sealion, New Zealand’s unspoilt natural beauty is legendary.

Students will visit several world-renowned marine conservation sites as part of the course, with Kaikoura a particular highlight. Its unique location supports a profusion of wildlife, including sperm whales, dolphins, albatrosses, seals and penguins, which are easily accessible from land. The conservation management necessary for the growing tourism industry based on this accessibility is examined as a case study.

The programme also deals directly with marine conservation issues of cultural and socioeconomic significance to Māori and Pacific peoples, such as exploitation of coastal regions and ecotourism, seabed and foreshore rights, and community-led conservation strategies.

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White spotted puffer fish, Central Pacific

International Links

The programme includes a two-week field course to Australia, where students visit tropical mangroves, seagrass beds and Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Current hot issues such as shark and dugong conservation, coral bleaching and management of the Great Barrier Reef will be explored by University of Queensland staff, including world-leading coral reef biologists. Teaching contributions are also made by staff from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Note: In 2016, this field course will be held in Indonesia. Further information will be available later in 2015.

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Entry Requirements

Candidates should have completed a Bachelor's degree, or another relevant qualification in the biological sciences with approval from the Associate Dean (Students). An average grade of B+ or higher is required in the 300-level courses.

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Course Requirements


  • 90 points from the Master of Marine Conservation courses, including at least one from BIOL 424, 519 and 529.


Part 1 (January–June):

  • BIOL 424
  • 60 further points from the MMarCon Schedule (e.g. BIOL 416, 417, 420, 422–425, , ERES 526, ENVI 505, MAOR 411)

Part 2 (July–December):

  • BIOL 519 and 529, and 30 further points from the MMarCon Schedule (e.g. BIOL 403, 410, 426, 440, BMAR 580, ERES 526, ENVI 506, MAOR 409, PASI 402–403)

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Teaching Staff

The programme brings together staff in the School of Biological Sciences with existing strengths in marine biology and conservation biology.

Dr James Bell, the course coordinator, has extensive experience of marine conservation and management of temperate and tropical ecosystems from around the world. Other staff from the School involved in the programme include Dr Simon Davy, Prof Jonathan Gardner, Dr Ken Ryan, Dr Jeff Shima, Dr Nicole Phillips, Dr Joe Zucarello and Dr Nicky Nelson.

In addition to Victoria University staff, we also have teaching contributions from a large range of speakers from conservation groups and government agencies (see course information for details).

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Closing Dates and Applications

The closing date for study beginning in January is October 15, and March 15 for studies starting in June. Late applications may be possible by negotiation, depending on circumstances.

Please contact the Programme Director before making an official application.

For more information please contact the Programme Director, Dr James Bell.

Please note: There are additional field trip costs for this programme

All photographs ©Dr JJ Bell