Ecology and Conservation – Bachelor of Science

From molecules to forests, ecology is a broad discipline that teaches you how to make sense of the interactions between organisms and their environment.

Where you can study

Manawatū campus (Palmerston North)

International students

International students are not New Zealand citizens or residents.

Definition of New Zealand citizens and residents

Open to international students on campus in New Zealand

Specialise in Ecology and Conservation for your Bachelor of Science at Massey

We now have a great deal of information about the natural world available to us – the problem is how to make sense of that information. Ecology attempts to do this. It is a broad discipline that teaches you how to make sense of the interactions between organisms and their environment.

The Bachelor of Science (Ecology and Conservation) at Massey offers some of the best courses on ecology in New Zealand - making it the number one choice if you want a broad knowledge in the discipline.

  • Our ecology staff are world-leading and their cutting edge research features heavily in the teaching.
  • You can expect to learn about the latest research findings in lectures.
  • Our ecology qualification is the longest running qualification of its kind in New Zealand (more than 20 years).

Hands-on experience

Practical labs and field trips are an important part of all the ecology courses. You might learn how to identify fish and invertebrates for monitoring water quality, how to build a computer model to predict the recovery of an endangered species or set a sustainable quota for a fishery, or how to survey biodiversity in a forest or the ocean.

Broad range of topics

The courses taught in the ecology and conservation major include:

  • biodiversity of New Zealand
  • ecology and conservation
  • biological evolution
  • ecosystem health
  • freshwater ecology
  • conservation science
  • plant-biotic interactions
  • molecular ecology

You might be interested in courses from related subjects; entomology, behavioural and evolutionary ecology, and ornithology.

Further study

Many of our students go onto postgraduate study in qualifications such as the Master of Science or a PhD in ecology or conservation biology.  This really helps get you into a career as a research scientist or higher level management and policy where you can make a real difference.

A Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Conservation is a good fit if you:

  • enjoy sciences, especially biology
  • would like to work outdoors with animals or plants
  • enjoy analysing data and solving problems.

Planning information

If you study full-time, in your first year, you’ll take eight 15-credit courses, making a total of 120 credits.

If you wish to study over two semesters, you should aim for 60 credits per semester. You may be able to take some courses at summer school. Make sure you include courses that are prerequisites for the next level of courses you wish to study.

You will pass at least 90 credits from the BSc Schedule A, including any compulsory courses, in your first 120 credits of study towards the Bachelor of Science.

Suggested structure

The first year structure is designed to provide you with a broad knowledge and skill set which will equip you to go on to more advanced courses in the second and third years.

100-level courses  (not necessarily in this order)
  • 247113 Science and Sustainability for Science
  • 161111 Applied Statistics or 161122 Statistics
  • 124103 Biophysical Principles or 160101 Calculus or 160102 Algebra or 160104 Introductory Mathematics for Science or 160105 Methods of Mathematics
  • 123103 Chemistry for Modern Sciences or 123104 Chemistry for Biological Systems
  • 162101 Cell Biology
  • 196101 Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour.

Recommended 100 level elective:

  • 199103 Animals and the Environment, or
  • 120101 Plant Biology, or
  • 233105 Our Dynamic Earth, or
  • 189151 Principles of Soil Science.
200-level courses in the major
  • 196201 Biodiversity of New Zealand
  • 196205 Ecology & Conservation
  • 196217 Evolutionary Biology
  • 196223 Freshwater Ecology.
300-level courses in the major
  • 196315 Conservation Science
  • 196317 Community and Ecosystem Ecology
  • 196318 Molecular Ecology
  • 196319 Terrestrial Ecology.


Completing a minor is optional. Minors increase the breadth of your degree. They give you extra knowledge, attributes and capabilities.

A minor must be in a different subject from your major.

A Bachelor of Science (Ecology and Conservation) with a minor

You may choose a minor from any University undergraduate degree that has recognised minors. If the minor is from another undergraduate degree, the regulations of that qualification will apply.

An Ecology and Conservation minor (for students who are studying a different degree)

If you are not studying a Bachelor of Science (Ecology and Conservation) and wish to complete a minor in Ecology see the BSc regulations for the requirements of this minor.  

Official regulations

To understand what you need to study and must complete to graduate read the official rules and regulations for this qualification.

You should read these together with all other relevant Statutes and Regulations of the University including the General Regulations for Undergraduate Degrees, Undergraduate Diplomas, Undergraduate Certificates, Graduate Diplomas and Graduate Certificates.

Returning students

For returning students, there may be changes to the majors and minors available and the courses you need to take. Go to the section called ‘Transitional Provisions’ in the Regulations to find out more.

In some cases the qualification or specialisation you enrolled in may no longer be taking new enrolments, so may not appear on these web pages. To find information on the regulations for these qualifications go to the Massey University Calendar.

Please contact us through the Get advice button on this page if you have any questions.

Courses you can enrol in

Course planning key

Courses that need to be completed before moving onto a course at the next level. For example, a lot of 200-level courses have 100-level prerequisite courses.
Courses that must be completed at the same time as another course are known as corequisite courses.
Some courses are restricted against each other because their content is similar. This means you can only choose one of the offered courses to study and credit to your qualification.

Core courses for the Bachelor of Science

As well as the specialisation courses listed below, this qualification has core courses that you will need to complete.

Bachelor of Science core courses

Ecology and Conservation courses

200 level courses

Compulsory courses

Choose 45 credits from
Course code: 196201 Biodiversity of New Zealand 15 credits

An introduction to the biodiversity of New Zealand in a world context. This course considers the origins and relationships of New Zealand biota, species’ distributions, adaptive features, behaviours and ecology, along with a consideration of characteristic New Zealand ecosystems. Practicals include compulsory field work.

Prerequisites: One of 196101, 199103, or 120101 Restrictions: 199206

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Course code: 196205 Ecology and Conservation 15 credits

Terrestrial ecology and the application to conservation biology, including evolutionary ecology, population biology, species interactions, community, ecosystem and landscape ecology. New Zealand and overseas case studies are considered throughout the course. An analytical approach is taken in the field trips and laboratory work including the use of statistics to test ecological hypotheses and to identify patterns in plant and animal distributions. There is one compulsory weekend field trip.

Prerequisites: 1611xx and one of (196101 or 199101 or 199103 or 120101 or 121103) Restrictions: 196206

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Course code: 196217 Evolutionary Biology 15 credits

Understanding the processes and patterns of evolution is central to developing insight into questions of how and why in biology. This course introduces students to the core concepts in evolution, including the geological, biological, phylogenetic and rational evidence for evolution by common descent. Core concepts - including the origins of genetic and phenotypic variation, and micro and macro-evolutionary processes and patterns - will be reinforced and explored in the lab via computer-based simulations and real evolution experiments with digital organisms. Students will be introduced to current theories of human evolution and topics of special interest including the evolution of cooperation and conflict; game theory; the origin of sex; and microbial experimental evolution. Theory will be illustrated, where appropriate, with examples from New Zealand’s native species.

Prerequisites: 162101 and (123103 or 123104) Restrictions: 196207

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Choose 15 credits from
Course code: 196223 Freshwater Ecology 15 credits

The study of freshwater ecosystems, including the physical and chemical processes that occur in streams, lakes, and their interactions with the biota. Ecological concepts are applied to problems of water quality, ecosystem health, monitoring and the restoration of freshwater systems.

Prerequisites: 196101 or 199103 or 199101 or 121103 Restrictions: 196313

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Course code: 196225 Introductory Marine Biology 15 credits

An introduction to Marine Biology - the scientific study of life in the sea. First principles of marine biology from history of Marine Biology to use of the sea as a fundamental resource. Studying the ocean as a habitat and examining the form and function of marine taxa within marine biomes, students will discover how the biology, behaviour and ecology of organisms differ between contrasting marine environments.

Prerequisites: 196101 and (199101 or 199103)

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300 level courses

Choose 60 credits from
Course code: 196315 Conservation Science 15 credits

The principles and practice of conservation and management of populations. Ecological principles are applied to the sustainable use of natural resources including conservation of threatened species and fisheries management. The practical component includes statistical analysis and modelling. There is a compulsory field trip day.

Prerequisites: 196205

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Course code: 196317 Community and Ecosystem Ecology 15 credits

A theoretical perspective to the study of community and ecosystem ecology examining the role of interactions between two or more species and their environment. Topics covered include techniques of community description, abiotic and biotic controls of community structure, the effects of disturbance, food web theory, ecosystem function and biodiversity. The emphasis will be on understanding the models and theories relating to this area of science, although examples of the application of these principles will also be given. Practical classes will involve a small research project emphasising the statistical and writing skills important in community and ecosystem ecology.

Prerequisites: 196205

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Course code: 196318 Molecular Ecology 15 credits

This course explores the application and analysis of molecular markers to address questions within basic and applied ecology. The diversity of genetic techniques, metrics, and analyses used in molecular ecology will be demonstrated. Examples will address how molecular approaches can be applied to gain insights into ecology, demography, behaviour, biodiversity, and conservation.

Prerequisites: One of 196207, 196217, 203210 or 203212 Restrictions: 199317

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Course code: 196319 Terrestrial Ecology 15 credits

The course explores the diversity of plant interactions with other organisms, their ecological relevance to communities and ecosystems, and the impacts of human activities and the role of restoration ecology.

Prerequisites: One of (196205, 196207, 196217, 203210)

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Course code: 196329 Marine Ecology 15 credits

Students will develop an in-depth understanding of the life histories of marine organisms and the mechanisms that determine the distribution and abundance of biodiversity in our oceans. Topics include: marine organism life histories, connectivity and dispersal, community ecology, trophic ecology, and anthropogenic impacts including climate change.

Prerequisites: 196225 Restrictions: 196350

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Entry requirements

Admission to Massey

All students must meet university entrance requirements to be admitted to the University.

Specific requirements

There are no specific entry requirements for this qualification, outside of university admission regulations. However there is some expected background knowledge.

Expected high school preparation

Knowledge gained in the following NCEA subjects (or the equivalent in Cambridge International Examinations, International Baccalaureate, or similar) will give you the expected background knowledge to take this major.

  • At least 14 credits in NCEA Level 3 Biology

English language requirements

To study this qualification you must meet Massey University's English language standards.

English language skills

If you need help with your English language skills before you start university, see our English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses.

Can't meet the entry requirements?

Haven’t studied the right subjects at high school?

The following pathways will get you prepared to study this major. If you have not studied NCEA Level 3 Biology (or equivalent) take the following course first:

This course is available in the summer semester and will count towards credits in your degree.

Fees and scholarships

Fees, student loans and free fees scheme

Your tuition fees may be different depending on the courses you choose. Your exact fees will show once you have chosen your courses.

There will also be some compulsory non-tuition fees and for some courses, there may also be charges for things such as study resources, software, trips and contact workshops.

Already know which courses you're going to choose?

You can view fees for the courses that make up your qualification on the course details pages.

Student loans (StudyLink) and Fees Free scheme

You may be eligible for a student loan to help towards paying your fees.

The New Zealand Government offers fees-free tertiary study for eligible domestic students. Find out more about the scheme and your eligibility on the Fees Free website. To use the site's eligibility checking tool, you will need your National Student Number.

Current and returning Massey students can find their National Student Number in the student portal.

Scholarship and award opportunities

Search our scholarships and awards

Fees disclaimer

This information is for estimation purposes only. Actual fees payable will be finalised on confirmation of enrolment. Unless otherwise stated, all fees shown are quoted in New Zealand dollars and include Goods and Services Tax, if any. Before relying on any information on these pages you should also read the University's Disclaimer Notice.

Careers and job opportunities

Many of our graduates work with the Department of Conservation or other government agencies. There are great opportunities for graduates in ecology and conservation to work with managed ecosystems (e.g. farming, forestry, fisheries). The interactions between scientists interested in managed and natural ecosystems is a particular focus at Massey University.

Many of our graduates go on to positions with central and local government or their agencies (such as regional and district councils), Crown Research Institutes, environmental or conservation organisations, ecological consultancy, school teaching, or technical and advisory work.

A postgraduate qualification in ecology will allow you to approach many environmental research and management issues from a strong theoretical and practical base. You might work:

  • with an interdisciplinary team in a private environmental consulting firm
  • in a government research laboratory
  • working with a regional council managing water quality
  • with a fish and game council concerned with the impacts of water quality on trout.

Other possible career areas include forestry, fisheries, eco-tourism and education.

Earn more

A 2017 Ministry of Education publication The post-study earnings and destinations of young domestic graduates showed that those who complete a qualification in a science, agriculture, technology, computer science, engineering or mathematics field of study have high relative earnings after they complete their study compared to the national median. Earnings can be substantially more than other graduates.

International students

New Zealand is a great place to study. Massey University’s reputation is supported by our international rankings, accreditations and associations. We are rated five star plus by the QS World University Rankings.

Massey University has small class sizes, and our lecturers and staff are friendly and approachable.

As an international student, there are entry requirements that will apply to you. We recommend that you apply at least three months before your anticipated start date so your application can be processed in time. There are additional steps you will need to take. These include obtaining a visa and travel bookings if your study is to be in New Zealand.

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