Genetics- Course Advice - Biological Sciences - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Studying Freshwater Ecology at Canterbury

Freshwater is an important natural resource necessary for the survival of all ecosystems. From the glaciers of South Westland to the braided rivers of Canterbury, New Zealand has an abundance of freshwater systems.

Freshwater ecology is the understanding of the ecology of rivers, lakes and wetlands. Focussing on ecological concepts but also applied freshwater science, it includes the study of water chemistry, plant, invertebrate and fish diversity and communities.

With increasing land use pressures and climate change there is a need to better understand these freshwater systems to support management decisions regarding usage, conservation and rehabilitation.

Career paths

Increasing demand for freshwater scientists in NZ and internationally has resulted in a wide range of jobs including regional council water quality scientists, Crown Research Institute scientists, Department of Conservation scientists and technical officers, and private consultants.

A degree in freshwater ecology will give you the skills for the many ecological monitoring positions that exist within engineering and consulting firms as well as science policy jobs within government.

In addition, freshwater ecology is a great background field for teachers and environmentally aware citizens.


  • BSc (Hons) - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers and a research project.
  • PGDipSc - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers.
  • MSc - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers (part I), followed by a one year research project (part II), written up as a thesis.
  • PhD - Students complete a 3 year research project written up as a thesis. Entry is after successful completion of either BSc(Hons) or an MSc.

Planning Your Degree

Below is a guide to help you select courses that will give you a well rounded degree in freshwater ecology.

Year 1



  • BCHM 112 Structure and Reactivity in Chemistry and Biochemistry [1] (aka CHEM 112)
  • GEOG 106 Global Environmental Change
  • GEOG 109 Forces in Nature
  • GEOL 111 Planet Earth: An Introduction to Geology

Year 2



  • BIOL 212 Marine Biology and Ecology
  • BIOL 250 Principles of Animal Physiology
  • BIOL 271 Evolution
  • BIOL 273 New Zealand Biodiversity and Biosecurity
  • CHEM 244 Applied Analytical Chemistry for Environmental Sciences

Year 3


  • BIOL 309 Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Biologists [3]
  • BIOL 375 Freshwater Ecosystems
  • WATR 301 Water Resource Management


Additional complementary courses at all levels can be chosen from BIOL, BCHM, CHEM, GEOG, GEOL, ECON, FORE, LAWS, SOCI and SUST, to suit your interests. We recommend you consult with Profs Jon Harding or Angus McIntosh to ensure your degree plan is suitable.

[1] If you have fewer than 14 credits of NCEA level 3 chemistry take CHEM 114 before starting BCHM/CHEM 112.