5 reasons to study marine biology at James Cook University

Here’s a James Cook University Student Blog about studying marine biology, and why JCU is such a fantastic choice!

Before I came to university, I had a hard time deciding which university to choose. Making a list and weighing all the advantages and disadvantages helped me to make my decision and I surely do not regret it now. Coming to JCU was the best decision I made. Here is a small list of why I think JCU is the best place in the world to study marine biology.

5 reasons to study marine biology at James Cook University
JCU marine biology student Kessia Virah-Sawmy (Photo: JCU Connect)

1. So close to the iconic Great Barrier Reef

I come from an island found in the tropics and my country is surrounded by fringing reefs. I wanted to study somewhere where I could learn about corals and reef fishes and where best to do it than right on the Great Barrier Reef, the largest reef on the planet and a world heritage. The location of the GBR was the main reason why I chose JCU. With the reef right at their doorstep, researchers and students at JCU can work very closely on coral reefs.

Being in the tropics also means that Townsville has hot summers and nice (not-so-cold) winters. It is like summer all year round which is very similar to my tropical home. It was thus not a problem for me to adapt to this new environment.

2. Best facilities and lecturers

Studying marine biology at JCU means that you have access to a wide number of facilities from live specimens in practical classes to research facilities in both marine biology and aquaculture. JCU has a marine research station on Orpheus island which is located just off the coast of Ingham, about 2 hours North of Townsville. With accommodation and research facilities on the island, students can go on the island for specific classes to study the incredible marine life that surrounds the island.

James Cook University is highly recognised in terms of research done in the marine field including coral reef research, shark research or fisheries work. For the past years that I have been at JCU, I have had the great privilege of having lecturers who are experts in their field and who are eager and passionate to pass on their knowledge to the next generation. It is always great to hear about their experience and how they became who they are today. It gives us a sense of pride when we read a paper written by one of our lecturers or seeing them on the news. The JCU lecturers are world-known scientists who work with different research bodies such as the ARC (Australian Research Council) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies or the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

5 reasons to study marine biology at James Cook University
Diving is a given at JCU (Photo: JCU Connect)

3. Incredible field trips

As soon as I started first year, the lecturers were already getting us excited about field trips. Field trips are by far the most exciting part about studying marine biology. From going up Castle hill to look at rocks, to going down to the strand to count snails, or visiting fish farms, to snorkelling for hours around Orpheus island, I have been able to go on some incredible field trips so far.

Field trips makes the course even more interesting. You look forward to this one weekend where you get to spend 2 days on an island surrounded by the most beautiful coral reefs where you snorkel for hours and hours without getting tired of it. Or you get excited when you get to discover the breathtaking North Queensland while visiting fish farms. There are quite a few classes that have field trips to Orpheus island such as MB3160- Evolution and Ecology of Reef fishes, MB3190- Coral Reef Ecology, MB3210- Life History and Evolution of Reef Corals, MB3300- Coral Reef Ecosystems and EV3406- Coral Reef Geomorphology. I also enjoyed the AQ2002- Introduction to Tropical Aquaculture class where we got to visit different aquaculture farms in North Queensland.

4. Diving opportunities

The Great Barrier Reef offers amazing diving opportunities. From shallow reef diving off Cairns to the world-known shipwreck dive of Yongala, there is lots to see and discover. I had the chance to do get my Advanced PADI open water course on a liveaboard on the GBR. It was the best experience ever! We were able to dive with sharks, turtles and rays and see some amazing corals.

5 reasons to study marine biology at James Cook University
The iconic Great Barrier Reef (Photo: JCU Connect)

The JCU Dive Club also offers a number of trips throughout the semester ranging from day trips to 10-day trips on the reef. It is one of the most famous and active clubs on campus. They also offer courses such as Open divers, Advanced Divers, Rescue divers or CPR and First Aid courses.

5. Meeting people from all over the world

JCU is well known for marine studies and therefore attracts students from all over the world. I am not lying when I say that most of my classmates are international students. From Asia, to Europe, to the USA, to Africa, I have met people from all over the place. It is great to see how multicultural the campus is. As an international, this provides a welcoming environment where you learn to accept each other’s culture. I have developed close and strong friendships with different people and I can’t wait to travel the world and visit all of them.

I have also met some amazing Australian people who are always so eager to make us discover their culture which is mainly Barbies and a “cool” attitude. They are by far the most welcoming people I have ever met. A few months in the country and the Aussies will have already taught you how to speak Australian, which is basically just shortening every word.

There are so many more reasons to why I chose JCU but those are my top 5. JCU is recognised worldwide as one of the best in marine research, more specifically in Coral Reef research and Tropical Aquaculture. Many of my friends back home were sceptic as to why I would come all the way to far North Queensland to study Marine Biology. Well now I can tell them that it is the best decision I have made and I would not have chosen a different university.
Story by Kessia Virah-Sawmy via JCU Connect

Master of Science in Marine Biology and Ecology

JCU is the leading education and research institution for Marine Biology in the Tropics. JCU’s unique location enables students from Australia and overseas to study in a diverse physical environment unparalleled by any university in the world.

The postgraduate degree program in Marine Biology and Ecology is internationally recognised. We focus on developing career professionals who can address the grand challenges for marine and coastal ecosystems, particularly in the tropical Asia-Pacific region. You will be researching and tackling issues such as
  • Climate change, ecosystem resilience and adaptation
  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Environmental and ecological sustainability
  • Biodiversity and conservation challenges for marine organisms and ecosystems
  • Sustainable marine resource management
  • Global and regional food security
  • Sustainable livelihoods for coastal and island based societies.
Program: Master of Science (Marine Biology and Ecology)
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Duration: 1.5 years
Semester intakes: February and July
Application deadline: January 30 and June 29 each year
Entry requirements: Completion of a recognised, appropriate undergraduate degree attaining a minimum of 65% or equivalent prior learning including appropriate professional experience.

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