Unit description

Introduces students to the major types of coastal marine habitat, from estuaries, intertidal shores, rocky and coral reefs, to show their basic structure and the processes that maintain them as recognisable entities. In addition, this unit builds on the basic knowledge acquired in the Biology and Ecology units of the first year to survey the major groups of marine animals and plants and show their roles in the maintenance of marine habitats. The practical work includes field trips to mangroves, seagrass, rocky shore and sediment habitats. It includes boat work to sample plankton and benthos. This unit includes a Masters Tutorial component in which students critically analyse advanced issues in the field.

Unit content

The following topics will be covered by the study guide, textbook and Internet readings and lectures and are assessed by two online quizzes and a final exam:

  • ocean systems
  • estuaries 
  • seagrasses 
  • mangroves and saltmarshes 
  • the pelagic environment: plankton 
  • the pelagic environment: fish and other nekton 
  • sedimentary habitats 
  • rocky habitats 
  • coral reefs 
  • the deep ocean and polar seas.

The following marine taxonomy topics are for self-directed study and are covered by the Practical Handbook and accompanying CD, supported by recommended reference books. They will be assessed in the online quizzes and final exam and reinforced by field exercises:

  • polychaetes and other worms
  • molluscs
  • crustaceans
  • echinoderms
  • cnidarians and ctenophores 
  • sessile phyla: sponges, ascidians and bryozoans
  • algae, mangroves and seagrasses.

All internal students will be expected to contribute to a group seminar presentation (external students may present individually or in pairs) on a species of concern to Australian marine resource managers: details of this assessment item are contained in the Practical Handbook.

Field trips

  • Plankton collection, Richmond River
  • Estuarine habitats, Mobbs Bay, Ballina
  • Subtidal benthos sampling, Ballina
  • Open coast beaches and rocky shore zonation.

Learning outcomes

Unit Learning Outcomes express learning achievement in terms of what a student should know, understand and be able to do on completion of a unit. These outcomes are aligned with the graduate attributes. The unit learning outcomes and graduate attributes are also the basis of evaluating prior learning.

Learning outcomes and graduate attributes

Teaching and assessment


Intensive offerings may or may not be scheduled in every session. Please refer to the timetable for further details.

Southern Cross University employs different teaching methods within units to provide students with the flexibility to choose the mode of learning that best suits them. SCU academics strive to use the latest approaches and, as a result, the learning modes and materials may change. The most current information regarding a unit will be provided to enrolled students at the beginning of the study session.

Fee information


Commonwealth Supported courses
For information regarding Student Contribution Amounts please visit the Student Contribution Amounts.
Commencing 2015 Commonwealth Supported only. Student contribution band: 2

Fee paying courses
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Please check the international course and fee list to determine the relevant fees.