Biological and life sciences


Ecology and Conservation Biology

Ecology and conservation biology

The escalating global crisis in biodiversity loss is regarded by many as the most critical and pressing issue ever to face humanity.

Ecology is the scientific study of interactions between organisms and their environments. This is central to understanding the diversity and organisation of life at the main recognised levels of genes, species and ecosystems. Conservation biology seeks to understand human impact on these natural patterns and processes. It also devises practical solutions to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem functions, such as how nutrients move through nature.

There is a strong emphasis in this major on applying the principles of ecology and conservation biology to real-life management issues, particularly in the conservation field.

You will engage with the key principles of the discipline, which will underpin the exploration of the broad range of fascinating and vitally important biological questions that can be addressed by the study of biodiversity. You will be taught by high-quality researchers in advanced laboratory and field settings, using the latest methodologies, technologies and analyses.

In addition to the principles of ecology and conservation biology, you will develop your understanding of the role and relevance of ecology in society, in particularly in connection with the significant role of biodiversity in sustaining life on our planet.

You will apply analytical and practical ecological skills in diverse environments, encompassing working with plants and animals, designing and implementing laboratory and field methods for their study, and conducting analyses concerned with testing ideas at ecological levels from genes, to species, to ecosystems.

A major in Ecology and conservation biology will equip you with intellectual, practical and communication skills to gain employment in diverse and highly rewarding areas. You may find yourself developing conservation policy for government environment agencies, in an environmental consultancy, in science communication, or helping mining and engineering companies limit their environmental footprint.



Genetics is the study of genes, their structure, function, transmission and evolution. Encompassing a rich and diverse range of research topics, it lies at the centre of biology because the same basic genetic principles apply to microbes, plants, animals and humans.

This major covers a broad range of genetic and genomic topics, including conservation and medical and developmental genetics. It will expose you to the most recent advances in the various genetics disciplines and will prepare you for a successful career in this exciting and fast-moving field.

A major in Genetics will equip you with advanced practical skills in contemporary experimental methods such as recombinant DNA techniques, gene expression analysis, genetic breeding experiments, analysis of transgenic organisms and genotyping methods.

As a graduate, you may find employment in medical and agricultural research institutes, hospitals, government departments, schools and universities, patent firms, genetic-counselling services, forensics laboratories, and biotechnology companies.

Plant Sciences

Plant sciences

Plant science is the study of plants, their diversity and structure, and how they function. It involves studying plants living on land, in the sea and in freshwater environments, from the scale of genes and molecules to ecology.

In this major you will investigate how plants function, how they obtain water and nutrients, and how they use energy from sunlight to produce carbohydrates by photosynthesis. You will also study how plants adapt to particular environments, and the factors that influence the distribution and diversity of plant species, and the plant communities in which they grow.

This is particularly important for understanding the impact of human activities – including global climate change – on plant communities, so that we can provide better management in the future.

In Plant sciences you will investigate how plants function and study the diversity of plant groups, from algae and mosses through to gymnosperms and angiosperms. In learning how plants are adapted to particular environments, you will study the exciting biology and ecology of terrestrial and aquatic plants and plant communities in their natural environment.

Learning about the factors that influence the distribution and diversity of plant species, and the plant communities in which they grow, is particularly important in understanding the impact of human activities – including global climate change – on plant communities, so that we can provide better management into the future.

You can complement these studies with electives that expand your knowledge of ecological management, the biology and ecology of aquatic organisms, or plant biotechnology, to take a few examples.

As a graduate with a major in Plant sciences you will be equipped to seek a career in environmental management and consulting, biotechnology, a range of careers in government departments (for example, related to environmental issues, park management, primary industry and sustainability), crop science, research and teaching.



Zoology is the study of the diversity of animals – their evolution, form, function, behaviour and ecology. Animals are an integral part of natural systems and they also have a major impact on humans as parasites and as pests competing for our food.

Zoologists investigate the interactions of animals with plants – which ultimately are the source of nutrients and shelter – and with microbes, which enable many animals to effectively utilise plants as food. Zoological study can be undertaken at the level of the whole animal, down to the level of cell biology and biochemical processes and their genetic control.

Your studies in Zoology will take place in state-of-the-art research and teaching labs, and in the semi-rural setting of the on-campus outdoor classroom – the Jock Marshall Reserve. You'll also take insightful field trips.

You will learn the basics of animal evolution, diversity, structure and function, along with animal behaviour and the biology of Australian vertebrate animals. Further study on evolution, ecology, marine biology and environmental management will provide a broader understanding of the role and importance of animals in our world.

As a graduate with a major in Zoology you will be equipped for a career in the management, protection and conservation of animals. You may find yourself working in the following areas: government agencies or industry – for example, helping develop or enforce environmental regulations; ecological/environmental consultancy; as educators in museums or parks services; or in research at universities, zoos and other organisations.