Marine Biologist Kaimātai Koiora Moana

Marine biologists study plants and animals that live in sea water, and their relationships with each other and their environment.

Marine biologists may do some or all of the following:

  • observe marine plants and animals in their natural environment
  • identify, classify and preserve different types of marine life
  • estimate population growth and life expectancy
  • study the impact of pollution on marine life
  • plan and run field studies and experiments
  • use computer modelling techniques to predict future events in the marine environment
  • report the results of their studies in papers for science journals and in commercial reports.

Freshwater biologists do similar work, but they study plants and animals living in rivers, lakes and ponds.

Physical Requirements

Marine biologists need to have good hand-eye co-ordination.

They might also need to have a good level of fitness for doing fieldwork, such as diving.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for marine biologists includes:

  • technician placements during summer holidays
  • volunteer work in ecology and conservation
  • diving experience
  • work with plants and animals.

Personal Qualities

Marine biologists need to be:

  • enquiring and observant
  • motivated
  • persistent
  • patient
  • good at problem-solving
  • good at planning and organising
  • good at communicating.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for marine biologists includes:

  • technician placements during summer holidays
  • volunteer work in ecology and conservation
  • diving experience
  • work with plants and animals.

Subject Recommendations

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. NCEA Level 3 is preferred. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, physics, English and maths with statistics and/or calculus.

Marine Biologists can earn around $56-$66K per year per year.

Marine biologists with a PhD can apply for a postdoctoral fellowship at research organisations or universities. You may need to do two or three postdoctoral fellowships (usually lasting two or three years each) before getting a permanent scientist position.

After about 15 years' experience, marine biologists can progress to become a senior research scientist or into team leader or management roles.

Marine biologists can also choose to do research in specialised fields, such as:

  • toxicology (study of poisons)
  • fish reproduction
  • aquaculture.
Marine Biologist