Subject focus: Environmental studies in Australia and New Zealand

 The University of OtagoThis month's subject focus looks at the wide range of degree programmes available in Australia and New Zealand in the area of environmental studies. Australia and New Zealand are at the forefront of marine and environmental science study internationally. There are a large number of courses available at undergraduate and postgraduate level, all with different focuses or emphases.

Options include Biodiversity and Conservation, Environment, Marine Science and Environmental Management, giving students the skills to effect practical, positive change in areas including conservation, natural resource management, sustainability, development and planning, aquaculture science and technology, ecology, zoology, environmental and marine geosciences, marine biology and ecology, protected area management and environmental earth science.  At all levels these courses offer you amazing opportunities to access and study the natural environment, often using Australia and New Zealand’s incredible natural surroundings as living laboratories. 

One of the most significant environmental challenges all countries face is that of energy and resources management. This is a key area of research focus for many Australian and New Zealand universities and there are excellent Masters programmes available. Depending on the focus of the course, these might fall under a Master of Science or the Master of Engineering. Courses include Master of Science in Energy Studies and in Energy Management, Master of Engineering Science in Renewable Energy and Master of Science in Renewable Energy, and specialisms include solar energy (photovoltaics), tidal energy and wind energy. 

Marine, Environment and Renewable Energy

Bachelor of Science at James Cook University

Science students at James Cook University (JCU) enjoy exceptional opportunities to gain practical experiences through field trips, with easy access to the World Heritage regions of the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforests. Facilities at JCU include marine and freshwater field research facilities and field stations; JCU’s own research vessels and state-of-the-art wet/dry laboratories.

The Bachelor of Science programme is a broad and flexible degree where students gain a deeper understanding of scientific principles while focusing on a key study area. The Bachelor of Science can also be combined as a joint degree with Arts, Education, Engineering and Laws.

Students can choose from a wide range of study areas to suit their interests and careers goals. These include:

  • Aquaculture Science and Technology
  • Environmental Earth Science
  • Marine Biology
  • Zoology and Ecology

Advanced Majors

Advanced majors cater for high-achieving students who want to study science in more depth. You will study alongside postgraduate students, participate in internships and experience placements with research groups and organisations.

Aquaculture Science and Technology

The Bachelor of Science majoring in Aquaculture Science and Technology will prepare you for a future in one of the world’s fastest growing primary industries. JCU's strong links with aquaculture industries and research providers gives students valuable practical and research experience which is based on the latest developments in the industry. As well as teaching fundamental aquaculture principles, the programme has a strong emphasis on the sustainable aquaculture of tropical species, and you will examine such topics as species propagation, stock improvement, feeding and nutrition, and sustainable practices.

Outstanding facilities include JCU’s Marine and Aquaculture Research Facility in Townsville and the Orpheus Island Research Station. The Orpheus Island Research Station, located in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, allows students to work in the field with sponge, reef fish and mollusc culture, while having easy access to temperature controlled rooms, laboratories and lecture theatres.

Graduates can choose from a range of career options, ranging from technical positions in hatcheries and grow-out facilities, to managerial and research roles. Graduates can pursue careers as business managers, policy developers or government administrators in commercial fish farms; public and private hatcheries; aquaculture and aligned support industries (food production, pollution and disease control and specialist equipment); biotechnology companies; fisheries management; environmental protection; and conservation.

Environmental Earth Science

Shaped by many different systems and processes, our natural environments continue to change and evolve. Along with this is our constant demand for the Earth’s natural resources and the need to correctly manage the effects of those demands. Environmental Earth Scientists develop ways to minimize the impacts of humans on the natural environment and to effectively manage the earth’s sediment, soil, oceans, freshwater supplies and atmosphere and you will examine such topics as hydrology, sedimentology and geomorphology. You will learn to measure and record environmental features as well as study, assess and develop methods to control or minimise the harmful effects of human activity on the environment. This may include managing soil and contaminated land, ground water assessments, mine environment management, and waste planning.

This major takes advantage of our strategic position, with access to a varied collection of tropical landscapes (including the Great Barrier Reef), hydrological and climate regimes, and proximal to a range of important industries (such as mining) in which graduates from this programme could seek employment. The course is focused on understanding and dealing with earth surface processes, deposits and landforms, including those in the marine and coastal realm.

Graduates from this programme work in a diverse range of occupations, including geomorphologists, soil scientists, hydrologists, research scientists, environmental geoscientists with remediation expertise, and marine geoscientists, with opportunities in industry, government departments, consultancies and research organisations.

Marine Biology

JCU is recognised around the world as a leading institution for studies of marine organisms, their biology, evolution and ecology. JCU has earned an international reputation for excellence in both teaching and research, and takes a field-oriented hands-on approach to its teaching endeavours. Our location gives students ready access to a wide variety of tropical marine systems including coral reefs, tropical estuaries, mangrove habitats and seagrass beds. Your studies will address topics such as coral reef ecology, fisheries science, marine conservation biology, and marine ecology and environmental assessment.

Outstanding facilities include our research station on Orpheus Island and numerous research vessels, providing easy access to the Great Barrier Reef’s coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves. Research aquarium and well-equipped laboratories support teaching at an advanced level. Students are exposed to real world projects and industry practice through JCU’s involvement with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, which plays a leading role in multinational research programmes and is based on JCU’s Townsville campus.

Marine biology graduates work around the world in private and public agencies, or as private consultants in fields such as conservation policy and environmental management, impact assessment, tourism and education. Graduates with higher qualifications and research experience can pursue research careers in universities or research organisations.

Zoology and Ecology

The tropical world is our classroom and Australia’s regions of the highest biodiversity and environmental complexity are at our doorstep. Easy access to rainforest, coral reefs, savannah woodlands and extensive estuarine systems provides a diversity of local habitats and environments to explore. You will gain an in-depth understanding of the evolution, behavior and ecology of animals and plants, including how ecosystems function and how animals and plants respond to environmental changes.

You will have numerous opportunities for field work starting from your first semester and finishing with an opportunity to spend 2 weeks doing research in the tropical forests of Borneo. Your studies will include topics such as adapting to environmental challenges, evolutionary biology, tropical flora and fauna of Australia, vertebrate and invertebrate fauna, animal behavior, plant and animal evolution, and the relationship between animals, plants, humans and the environment.

Zoologists and ecologists are sought after across a range of careers including wildlife education, environmental consulting, conservation consulting, quarantine and biosecurity, media presenters, ecological restoration and national part management.

Contact Study Options to discuss any of the above programme options or find out more about James Cook University. You can also watch videos about JCU's Daintree Rainforest Observatory and Orpheus Research Station facilites.

Programme details

Duration: 3 years

Start Date: February or July

2016 Fees: A$30,000 per year

James Cook University

Bachelor of Environmental Policy and Management at the University of Adelaide

Geography, Environment and Population is an interdisciplinary unit that focuses on the key question of our time: how do we live on the planet in ways that nurture people and place?  It is relevant to anyone interested in the relationship between human beings and the environments in which they live. 

Studying Geography, Environment and Population is about being an active part of global social and environmental change, and the creation of just and sustainable societies and environments. Our graduates develop skills in life-long learning and are employed in a wide range of industry, research and government contexts. 

The Geography, Environment and Population major is offered as part of the Bachelor of Social Sciences and Bachelor of Environmental Policy and Management at the University of Adelaide, but you can also study the modules as part of a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Social Sciences degree.  Contact Study Options if you would like to find out more about either of these programmes.

Bachelor of Environmental Policy and Management

In the first year of the degree you will complete compulsory Environmental Policy and Management courses on globalisation, the impact of humans on the planet, population-environment relationships and economy-environment interactions. These courses introduce the linked concepts of social and environmental sustainability at local to global scales.

Advanced Level courses are offered in coastal management, population and health, international migration, urban futures, housing policy and practice, biodiversity conservation, environment and development, food and agriculture, environmental change and climate change, resource scarcity, environmental impact assessment, geographical information systems, and social science research techniques.

Students also study a Minor in another discipline area from within The Faculty of Arts. The remainder of the degree is made up of free choice electives from within the Faculty of Arts or another faculty.

In your third year you may take part in an internship with an organisation from within the arts, media, parliament or environment. These include State Parliament and a range of public and business sector agencies, where you can use the knowledge from your university study in a practical way, building valuable networks and gaining experience that counts towards your degree programme and prepares you for your future career.

Programme details

Duration: 3 years

Start: February (semester 1) or July (semester 2)

Fees: A$33,500 per year.

The University of Adelaide

Master of Environment at Griffith University

Australian first, Australia’s largest

Griffith University was Australia’s first University to offer environmental sciences when it was founded in 1971. At the time, the School of Environment was considered revolutionary, and as the environment and sustainable practice has evolved from a fringe issue to a mainstream challenge – Griffith is now considered a leading university in this field. Environmental Sciences at Griffith University is ranked in the world’s Top 200* and the programmes are preparing tomorrow's environmental experts, problem solvers and visionaries - those who will meet the challenges of a sustainable future by balancing economic, social and environmental impact.

Griffith has the largest group of environmental professionals of any university in Australia, and amongst the largest in the world. Griffith is a leader in the training of environmental professionals and related natural and social science research. The environmental research programmes have always been defined by Griffith’s integration of social and industrial issues with the biological and physical understanding.

*2015 QS World University Rankings

Master of Environment (2 years), with specialisations in:

  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • Economics and Policy
  • Education for Sustainability
  • Environmental Planning
  • Environmental Protection
  • Sustainable Business
  • Water Resources

Work experience during your programme

Griffith’s Industry Affiliates Program (IAP) is designed to bridge the gap between being a student and entering the workplace and is an integral part of Griffith environmental science degrees.  The IAP program has been running for over 20 years and offers students the opportunity to practice the skills of their profession and gain experience in a work environment while they are studying.

During the IAP students are focused on a substantial project that consists of a series of planned experiences with clearly defined goals and pre-determined assessment strategies. This means students are meeting course outcomes, building a professional skill-set and contributing to a professional workplace.

Career outcomes

Environmental science graduates are highly sought after by employers in a range of industries due to the broad range of skills they develop and enhance during their studies. Griffith graduates with environment backgrounds have progressed to successful careers in business, industry, management, city, state and federal government. These are roles in which you can satisfy your own career ambitions – as well as making a positive contribution to our environmental future. Our degrees prepare graduates for work in almost any industry.

Jane Nichols, Industry Affiliates Program student

Completing her project with Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Jane Nichols presented her project findings and took out first place at the 13th Annual Environmental Students Project Awards. Personal achievement aside, Jane found her placement with EWB such a welcome link in her career plan. With a smile, Jane said, “completing my IAP project was so rewarding.  It gave me the opportunity to gain experience in an area that is of great interest to me; and inspired my career direction”.

An inspiration herself, Jane has taken her IAP experience to new heights, developing professional skills in a hands-on environment in Nepal.  “The IAP allowed me to complete a project on rainwater harvesting systems in Nepal, which helped me realise which areas of environmental engineering I was passionate about”.

Entry Requirements

Campus: Nathan

Start dates: Semester 1 (Feb) or Semester 2 (July)

Entry requirements:

  • a Bachelor degree from a recognised University with applicants normally having achieved a minimum GPA of 5.0 (using a 7.0 scale)
  • OR a Bachelor degree in Environmental Science from a recognised University with applicants normally having achieved a minimum GPA of 5.0 (using a 7.0 scale) (these students will be eligible for 40 credit points of advanced standing towards the program)
  • OR the Graduate Certificate in Environment (these students will be eligible for 40 credit points of advanced standing towards the program)
  • OR a Bachelor Honours degree in Environmental Science (these students will be eligible for 80 credit points of advanced standing towards the program).

2016 Fees: A$28,000 per year

Griffith University

Master of Science at James Cook University

This prestigious, interdisciplinary coursework degree enjoys worldwide recognition, and offers a comprehensive range of specialist disciplines which reflect the tropical location of JCU, through the University’s proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest. State-of-the-art teaching and research facilities give students unparalleled opportunities to gain real-world experiences within their field of interest. Majors are offered in a range of specialist disciplines such as:

  • Aquaculture Science and Technology
  • Environmental Earth Science
  • Fisheries Biology and Management
  • Marine Biology and Ecology
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Protected Area Management
  • Tropical Biology and Conservation
  • Zoology and Ecology

Coursework programmes are flexible, with electives available across the above majors. A research option is available by invitation for high achieving students following the first two semesters of study.  A Graduate Certificate (0.5 years) and Graduate Diploma of Science (1 year) are also available in the above majors.

Aquaculture Science and Technology

This course focuses on tropical aquaculture of fish, shellfish and pearls. Research programmes in nutrition and diet, reproduction, larval development and culture, growth regulation, and husbandry for fish, molluscs and crustaceans present a range of study options. This major provides training in the principles and techniques in Aquaculture Science and Technology, as well as hands-on experience. Students devise a study programme to meet their professional needs in consultation with relevant staff. Research components may be included under special circumstances.

This major is available at our Townsville campus only.

Environmental Earth Science

This course is designed for graduates from other disciplines who wish to seek skills and training in resource and environmental impact assessment, mine site rehabilitation, as well as soil and water science.

This major is available at either our Townsville or Cairns campus.

Fisheries Biology and Management

JCU offers world renowned programmes in marine and fisheries biology. This major enables students to develop advanced knowledge and skills in; quantitative assessments of marine environments, experimental design, fisheries theory and case histories, approaches to fisheries management, techniques used in fisheries, and in understanding life cycles of exploited organisms.

Proximity to the Great Barrier Reef provides unparalleled opportunities for investigating whole organism biology and ecosystem management practices. This degree focuses on tropical and shallow water marine systems, and equips students with the skills and knowledge relevant to other marine regions.

This major is available at our Townsville campus only.

Marine Biology and Ecology

This course places emphasis on whole-organism biology, the ecology and biogeography of tropical marine organisms, and the evolutionary mechanisms that underlie their diversity. Students benefit from JCU’s national and international recognition for its teaching and research in marine biology. Proximity to the Great Barrier Reef provides unparalleled opportunities for investigating ecological and evolutionary questions for reef fish, corals, and other marine organisms. Students develop their knowledge and skills in quantitative marine ecology, conservation biology, life history and taxonomy of tropical marine organisms.

This major is available at our Townsville campus only.

Natural Resource Management

JCU has an established reputation for research in tropical environments and natural resource management. This course provides professional development for students wishing to obtain expertise in managing interactions between humans and their environment.

This major is available at either our Townsville or Cairns campus.

Protected Area Management

There are over 120,000 protected areas worldwide, and their success depends on how well they are managed. JCU has an established reputation for research in tropical environments and protected area management. This course provides specialist training for science graduates already working in a relevant area, or for people wanting to work in this field.

This major is available at either our Townsville or Cairns campus.

Tropical Biology and Conservation

This course considers all aspects of theoretical and applied ecology, zoology and botany. The course makes full use of the wide variety of natural tropical environments surrounding JCU; including savannahs, rainforests, wetlands and coastal marine habitats. Students can structure their course to specialize in the biology of rainforests, savannahs, tropical freshwater systems, tropical wildlife, or tropical insects.

This major is available at our Townsville campus only.

Zoology and Ecology

Students have access to new and unique research facilities, including the Tropical Sustainable Futures Complex on the Cairns campus, and the Daintree Rainforest Observatory. Modern facilities provide direct and ready access to field locations and are designed for students to engage in practical field activities and long-term monitoring projects. Both facilities present exciting teaching opportunities, providing students with much greater real-world experience and engagement with field biology. This course allows students to specialise in the study of; animals and ecology of rainforests, savannahs, tropical freshwater systems, tropical wildlife, or tropical insects.

This major is available at our Cairns campus only.

Contact Study Options to discuss programme options or find out more about James Cook University. You can also watch videos about JCU's Daintree Rainforest Observatory and Orpheus Research Station facilites.

Programme Details

Duration: 1.5 years

Start Date: February or July

2016 Fees: A$32,000 per year

James Cook University

Master of Environment at Macquarie University

The Master of Environment at Macquarie University is a multidisciplinary programme oriented towards understanding and responding to issues emerging around human-environment interactions. You will gain skills and knowledge regarding the social and bio-physical drivers of environmental change and be trained to seek solutions.

Two mandatory units ensure Macquarie graduates gain critical thinking skills by engaging the core philosophies underlying environmental concerns as well as practical research skills through a week-long field trip out of Sydney.

You are able to choose one of the following three specialisations:

Environmental Management

In the environmental management specialisation you will learn how to address environmental issues from technical, political and managerial perspectives, to equip them to act astutely in professional settings.

This specialisation develops skills in integration and synthesis, drawing on disciplinary and non-disciplinary insights (e.g. from environmental science and environmental law). It also develops specific skills in a number disciplines of environmental management, including wildlife management, heritage management, water management, coastal management, and corporate environmental.

During your studies, you can undertake an environmental consultancy in small teams for a corporate or government client, so you gain significant experience and real professional practice.

Environmental Management graduates work for consultancies, government, corporations and NGOs. Their responsibilities span project management, organisational management, ecosystem management, and social change.

Environmental Science

In this major you are able to study in depth the core environmental science discipline areas of ecology and physical environmental sciences, including a range of specific units of applied interdisciplinary environmental study.

Environmental science is the application of all fields of natural science towards solving environmental problems. It seeks to understand processes occurring in the natural world and how human population affect those processes, and to apply this knowledge to developing solutions that will achieve long term environmental sustainability.

Our graduates can build successful careers across all levels of the government sector, non-government organisations, community organisations, consultancies and the corporate sector.

Environmental Studies

With environmental challenges becoming increasingly prominent, and the development of green growth economies, graduates from our programmes can expect to pursue careers in a wide range of fields.

The specialisation develops interdisciplinary understandings by giving students the chance to take units within the fields of environmental management, sustainable development, and environmental science.

Environmental specialists find employment at all levels of government (local, state and federal), within the private sector and natural resource industries, amongst civil society organisations and multilateral agencies, and as professional consultants.

You will be trained in how to synthesise knowledge from the physical and social sciences so you can bridge disciplinary boundaries. You will develop professional communication styles; environmental decision-making skills; and group work techniques. You will also have the opportunity to specialise in areas that most interest you. High performing students also have opportunities to work on professional consultancies researching current environmental issues.

The Master of Environment at Macquarie University

Our facilities

One of the big drawcards of environmental teaching and research at Macquarie University is that it is taught within our unique North Ryde campus location. Set in its own diverse ecosystem, our green parkland campus enables many of our students and researchers to participate and experience natural processes and observations within our campus bounds.

Some of these include:

  • Environmental Quality Laboratory, where we assist research programmes for our stuff, students and collaborators
  • ‘Traps’ MQ Luminescence Dating Facility, which represents the only luminescence dating facility in Sydney
  • Automatic Weather Station

The department of Environmental Sciences is committed to excellence in research, learning and teaching, and professional and community engagement.  In 2011, Macquarie University was ranked the top institution in Australia and New Zealand for research in environmental sciences and ecology, and 14th in the world.  Environmental Sciences was one of three disciplines at Macquarie to achieve the maximum rating (5 out of 5 'well above world standard') in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) analysis.

The department hosts the Risk Frontiers Research Centre and the Australian Research Institute for Environment and Sustainability (ARIES), and contributes to Climate Futures, the Genes to Geoscience Research Centre, and the Macquarie University Centre for Marine Research.  The department has:

  • Cutting-edge analytical equipment and facilities;
  • External funding to support environmental research;
  • Partnerships with government and non-government organisations for applied environmental research

What Students Think About It: Akshay Vishwanath, Master of Environmental Studies

"When people ask me why I chose Macquarie, I always tell them I didn’t," says Akshay Vishwanath from Kenya. "Macquarie chose me."

"After having worked in Kenya and working for a year and a half, I knew what skills I had and what I was lacking. I wanted to find a Masters degree that filled all those gaps," says Akshay.

"The Master of Environmental Studies course at Macquarie perfectly fit." As part of his degree Akshay completed a research component that spread over two semesters. "There were two reasons for doing the research project. Firstly, I want to go on to do a PhD so it has given me a background in research, and secondly, it was a chance to explore a topic I really like in depth."

Akshay’s research was based on experiences and lessons learned from community-based wildlife conservation in Kenya. Akshay spent two months in Kenya’s South Rift region conducting his research. "Essentially I looked at how to work with rural communities to protect wildlife and how communities can benefit from conservation, with a focus on governance and policy implementation."

"My final report made recommendations for non-government organisations and wildlife conservation practitioners on topics such as the establishment of proper institutions and transparency and accountability in areas such as money or decision-making."

"What I had previously learnt at Macquarie really came into play during my fieldwork. I learnt new ways of looking at things. Before I came to Macquarie my background was purely science-based. Macquarie allowed me to understand the political nature of wildlife conservation and other environmental issues. I studied things like social impact assessments and cross-cultural negotiation.”Akshay also mentions Professor Richie Howitt from Human Geography as a particularly positive influence on his studies. “He really taught from a philosophical point of view, emphasizing the importance of learning to not only be good, but to be excellent, at what we do. He was inspirational - that’s for sure.”"

"The degree has really lived up to the expectations I had. Being here with students from all over the world and professors at the top of their game has added up to an awesome experience."

Programme Details

Duration: 2 years

Start: February (semester 1) or July (semester 2)

Fees: A$30,740 per year

Macquarie University

Master of Applied Science at the University of Otago

The University of Otago’s Master of Applied Science (MAppSc) can be completed within 12 months of study (two semesters + a 4 month internship or research project). Each third of the programme can be credited as its own discrete qualification, thus allowing exit and re-entry points to the qualification after each 4 months of successfully completed study.

Eligibility is typically limited to graduates of science degrees, but applicants with other relevant qualifications and experience may also be considered.

The MAppSc is designed for students who wish to pursue an interdisciplinary programme of study underpinned by science that delivers versatile skills relevant to multiple end-users. Optional paths are available that emphasize commercialisation, workplace-based projects or independent study.

Majors Available:

  • Applied Geology
  • Bioengineering
  • Clothing and Textile Sciences
  • Computational Modelling
  • Computer Science
  • Consumer Food Science
  • Creative Non-Fiction Writing in Science
  • Electronics
  • Environmental Management
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biotechnology
  • Plant Biotechnology
  • Science and Natural History Filmmaking
  • Science Communication
  • Science in Society
  • Science Innovation and Enterprise
  • Software Engineering
  • Sport and Exercise Nutrition
  • Telecommunications

Many of the majors within the Master of Applied Science qualification take advantage of the fantastic diversity of natural environments on the doorstep of the University of Otago’s campus (see majors listed in bold above). Within these majors you will have the opportunity to get outside of the classroom and learn in the natural laboratory of the South Island of New Zealand.

Of particular interest to students looking to work in environmental consultancy, policy or management is the major in Environmental Management, in which you will learn about coordinating environmental efforts - investigating problems, developing solutions, and working in multi-disciplinary teams - to address the environmental crises that are plaguing the world. This includes numerous areas, from global warming to deforestation, soil erosion to landfills.

In addition, the University of Otago is home to New Zealand’s national centre for science communication, which delivers the world’s leading natural history filmmaking programme - the Master of Science Communication (MSciComm) endorsed in Science and Natural History Filmmaking.

If you prefer to complete a two year research Master’s degree at Otago, there is a Master of Science degree available. Many of the same majors are available within this degree, as well as a number of others for example, the Master of Wildlife Management programme. This degree will also interest those students who would like to study the management strategies used for some of the unique wildlife in the Dunedin region (including the world’s most endangered penguin which resides on local city beaches!). Contact Study Options for more information about this programme at the University of Otago.

Programme details

Duration: 12 months (coursework) / 2 years (research)

Start: February (semester 1) or July (semester 2)

Fees (2016 indicative): 12 Month Coursework Masters costs NZ$44,700 for the entire degree. 2 Year Research Masters costs around NZ$29,800 per year

The University of Otago

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