Biological Sciences


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Biological Sciences student


‌Biology means the study of living things. Biologists investigate animals, plants and microbes in many different ways and on a huge range of scales from molecules and cells to individual organisms, populations and ecosystems.

During the past few decades the study of biology has undergone rapid change and has had a significant impact on the way we live. We are now able to produce antibiotics and vaccines, grow disease resistant crops, transplant organs and manipulate genes. Biologists today are actively researching solutions to vital concerns such as increasing world food supply, improving and protecting our environment and conquering disease. We need to know how micro-organisms, plants and animals work and how they interact on land and in the sea and freshwaters. Of increasing importance to us is global climate change and how this affects the living world.

Why study Biological Sciences at UC?

Our courses will help prepare you for a career in biology, be it in biodiversity, biosecurity or biotechnology. Our lecturers are all actively engaged in research in some aspect of Biological Sciences.

UC has New Zealand's top-ranked department for research in molecular, cellular and whole organism biology (Tertiary Education Commission 2012 PBRF Assessment).The School of Biological Sciences has modern, well-equipped teaching and research laboratories with excellent technical support. The full suite of molecular biology and biochemistry equipment includes:

  • a real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction machine (or DNA amplifier)
  • an automatic DNA sequencer
  • a confocal microscope
  • tissue culture and image processing facilities
  • controlled plant growth chambers
  • an experimental garden and glasshouse complex
  • and an extensive computer network.

Teaching and research activities are greatly enhanced by access to field stations. Many undergraduate courses involve a fieldwork component based either at Cass in the Southern Alps, or the Edward Percival Field Station at Kaikōura. Field trips allow students to apply techniques and hypotheses they have learnt in lectures and to interact with staff in a more informal setting.

Recommended preparation

Year 13 biology, statistics and chemistry are strongly recommended. Students who have not completed Year 13 chemistry may find the Headstart summer preparatory course very useful.

For certain disciplines, some knowledge of physics is helpful.

All students should have adequate English skills.


See all Biological Sciences courses

100-level courses

The following first year courses are compulsory courses required to major in Biological Sciences:

Some of these courses also form part of the Intermediate requirements for Forestry Science. Students who have not taken chemistry to Year 13 level are strongly advised to take one Chemistry course, such as CHEM114 Foundations of Chemistry.

200-level and beyond

The first-year Biological Sciences courses provide an overview of all the sciences relating to plants, animals and micro-organisms. You can then choose to follow a specialised life science stream, honours major or endorsement such as Animal Behaviour, Animal Physiology, Biochemistry, Biosecurity, Biotechnology, Cell Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science, Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Microbiology and Plant Biology.

All biology majors must take BIOL209 Introduction to Biological Data Analysis.

Career opportunities

Our graduates have gone on to positions as teachers, technicians, researchers, managers and diverse other careers in agriculture, horticulture, veterinary and medical science, freshwater and marine fisheries, aquaculture, oceanography, entomology, soil biology, and food, brewing and pharmaceutical industries.

Government agencies frequently target Biological Sciences graduates. Regular employers of our graduates include Crown Research Institutes, government ministries concerned with conservation, the environment, agriculture, forestry and health, and regional and local councils.

A Biological Sciences degree indicates you have the ability to access, understand, analyse and communicate complex information. This is attractive to many employers.

Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Biological Sciences.

More information

School of Biological Sciences

Phone +64 3 364 2500

Physical location

See the School website for up-to-date location details.

Postal address
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand

Annabelle Kerr

Annabelle Kerr

'It is exciting to be in a field that will challenge me for the rest of my career...'

Charlotte Austin

Charlotte Austin

'Working hands on with animals and learning new skills is definitely a highlight...'