Marine Ecologist

South Africa’s marine environment is rich in biodiversity, with over 10 000 recorded marine plant and animal species and over 150 distinct ecosystem types with habitats ranging from cool-water kelp forests to subtropical coral reefs. However, overfishing, unsustainable fishing practices and pollution exacerbated by the effects of climate change, threaten these ecological systems and their capacity to support livelihoods. Investigation of marine habitats, populations and interactions within marine ecosystems assists us in rehabilitation and sustainability actions within the marine environment.

Marine ecologists research marine ecosystems, focusing on the interactions of organisms within their surrounding environment. They study the biochemical, cellular, individual and community characteristics of marine organisms and their connection to the ecosystem and biosphere. They also observe, collect and test samples from marine ecosystems to identify conservation opportunities and challenges. Some can also develop environmental education programmes to build ecological knowledge in local communities.

Marine ecologists can work within open, deep-sea or coastal marine ecosystems and may work underwater using scuba diving gear. They can analyse collected data in laboratories, returning to an office environment to write up reports and findings.


Marine ecologists require an extensive knowledge of marine biodiversity and ecosystems and will further benefit from:

  • Strong methodological ability in the field and laboratory
  • Extensive research capability
  • Critical analytical thinking and problem-solving ability
  • Ability to develop and interpret mathematical modelling


Conduct field, laboratory and theoretical research

Provide models and analysis to establish influencing factors on the marine ecosystem

Develop conservation strategies and projects for ecosystems under threat

Advise stakeholders and publish findings for sustainable ecosystem management


B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Marine Biology at UCT and UKZN

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Biological Sciences specialising in Botany or Zoology at all universities

Diploma, Advanced Diploma, M.Tech in Oceanography at CPUT


National, provincial and local government.

NGOs and private consultancies.

Research institutions.

Aquariums, museums and zoos.

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