Marine/Coastal Scientist

Marine/Coastal Scientist

Marine biologists study plants and animals that live in the sea, and their relationships with each other and their environment. They may study the impact of pollution on marine organisms, identify and classify new species or estimate the likely population size for commercially-harvested fish and shellfish species. Marine biologists can get to go scuba diving and on sea voyages to collect samples, but much of their time is spent analysing and writing up data or working in a laboratory.

Coastal scientists work on issues such as managing erosion, helping design facilities for recreational and commercial boat harbours, and helping to minimise the negative environmental impact of coastal developments. Coastal researchers may look at ways to manage the effects of rising sea-levels due to climate change or investigate how tsunami are generated by underwater earthquakes or landslides.

Most marine biologists and coastal scientists are employed by:

  • Universities and research institutes, such as NIWA (the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) and the Cawthron Institute (Nelson)
  • Regional and local councils
  • Government agencies such as the Ministry of Fisheries
  • Aquaculture and consultancy companies

Job opportunities for marine biologists are limited due to a lack of funding for research. Marine biologists with skills in population modelling, toxicology and aquaculture have the best chances of finding work.

Pay rates vary depending on qualifications and experience:

  • $55-75,000 with a Master’s degree
  • $75-95,000 with a PhD and several years’ experience

Key tertiary qualifications include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology or Science, Ecology, Zoology or Molecular Genetics
  • Bachelor of Science in Geography or Geophysics
  • A Master’s degree or PhD is generally required for work in a research role

Recommended school subjects:

  • Biology
  • Maths
  • Physics
  • Geography
  • Chemistry
  • English


Careers New Zealand: Marine Biologist


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Marine/Coastal Scientist: People who work in this role

  • Jamie Boyle

    Environmental Specialist, Jamie Boyle at work

    Kareen Schnabel

    Marine Biologist, Kareen Schnabel at work

    Warrick Lyon

    Fisheries technician, Warrick Lyon at work

    Laura Goudie

    Graduate Analyst, Laura Goudie at work
  • Kirstyn Goodger

    Coastal Scientist , Kirstyn Goodger at work

    Diana Macpherson

    Marine Biology Technician/Assistant Collections Manager, Diana Macpherson at work

    Chris Woods

    Marine Ecologist, Chris Woods at work

    Katie O'Dwyer

    PhD candidate (Zoology), Katie O'Dwyer at work
  • Colin Whittaker

    PhD student, Colin Whittaker at work

    Serena Cox

    Marine scientist, Serena Cox at work

    Caroline Chin

    Marine Ecology Technician, Caroline Chin at work

    Tom Osborn

    Strategy Analyst, Tom Osborn at work
  • Rei Ishikawa

    Coastal Scientist, Rei Ishikawa at work

Marine/Coastal Scientist: Companies that employ people in this job role

  • Ministry for Primary Industries
    Ministry for Primary Industries
    NIWA
    NIWA
    Tonkin & Taylor
    Tonkin & Taylor
    Hawke's Bay Regional Council
    Hawke's Bay Regional Council
  • Beca
    Beca

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