Wananga landing Wananga landing
Academic school or department

School of Biological Sciences

Te Kura Pūtaiao Koiora

31 August 2023

Biology spans all types of organisms and all scales of biological systems, from molecules and ecosystems to energetics and evolution. Check out our School of Biological Sciences at UC.


With nearly 100 staff and several hundred students, UC's School of Biological Sciences is a large and dynamic school offering a diverse range of courses across undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Whitebait spawning on Heathcote River
Whitebait spawning on Heathcote River

Biology spans all types of organisms, all scales of biological systems - from molecules to ecosystems - and all research perspectives from energetics to evolution.

At undergraduate level we offer a diverse range of courses from which students mix and match to suit their needs and interests within our Biological Sciences and Biochemistry majors.The diversity continues at postgraduate level, where students choose from specialist subject majors.

Across the range of biology disciplines there are research opportunities that use gene technologies, electron microscopes and satellite images. Studying biology with UC can take you to field stations throughout New Zealand's South Island, to Antarctica or even the other side of the world.

We provide teaching and a curriculum that is internationally recognised.  Our researchers provide expertise to local and international communities and as scientists we aim always to push out the frontiers of knowledge as well as acting as a critic and conscience of society.

Biological Sciences graduates are in high demand in industries such as agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, oceanography, entomology, brewing and pharmaceuticals. Science graduates can also be found in upper levels of management utilising their superior analytical and innovative thinking.

Study in the School of Biological Sciences

Our national ranking

The Performance Based Research Fund ranks UC's School of Biological Sciences as the top biology department in New Zealand.

Our teaching staff are all active researchers and very passionate. Dynamic teams are leading research in a wide range of biology disciplines, from understanding nutrient flows and food webs across terrestrial-freshwater-marine ecosystems to investigating the amazingly good eyesight of jumping spiders.

Our state-of-the-art research building is packed full of equipment to help us measure, manipulate, visualise and quantify the living world. In one lab our analytical ultra-centrifuge allows us to study biomolecules and their interactions, with the team aiming to develop treatments for chronic inflammatory diseases such as Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

In another lab our confocal laser scanning microscope uses fluorescent markers, bound to chemicals in live cells, to understand how cells grow and communicate.

Biology students field research
Bird perched on a rock in the mountains

Our researchers

We have some of the brightest minds in biology including Rutherford Discovery Fellows.

Our cutting-edge research covers a broad range of biological fields and many of our teachers have University teaching awards and research medals. 

Biology student doing close up lab work
Our research in Biological Sciences

Our biological research is broad and covers disciplines such as Biotechnology, Biodiversity and Biosecurity. Our researchers work across a wide range of biological topics

Student examining petri dishes
Our facilities

UC has field stations across the country and offers a range of services to external clients.

  • To provide high quality education for undergraduate and postgraduate students from Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas. We strive to offer a nationally and internationally recognised integrative undergraduate curriculum that is taught by educators dedicated to using research to inform our teaching. We also work to provide a vibrant research environment led by researchers with international reputations and strong supervisory skills.
  • To provide excellent research and professional expertise to the Aotearoa New Zealand and international communities, through relevant research, consulting and community engagement activities.
  • To expand the frontiers of knowledge, serve as a repository for knowledge, and act as critic and conscience of society.
  • To deliver on our mission objectives with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability and a diverse and inclusive community.

Our culture is expressed through a strong sense of whanaungatanga, the behaviour of our staff and students, and the quality of our interactions with our community. Defining expected behaviour based on a set of core, shared values is important for the School. We challenge ourselves to become more collaborative, inclusive and culturally competent, as well as showing respect for our different areas of expertise (Tohungatanga).

The School’s profile and international recognition, and hence ability to attract high quality staff and postgraduate students, will be enhanced by a strong sense of belonging to a cohesive and inclusive whanau. A shared value in a purposeful, planned and sustainable future is an important feature of the School.

The following values are central to the School and its members:

Manaakitanga | Responsibility

  • We believe that the School is a team of individuals, with the whole greater than the sum of the parts. We are committed to a collective mission and common core values. We believe that all members of the School contribute to our mission and should be recognised.
  • We believe that all members of the School should have an opportunity to pursue their professional goals and aspirations across the teaching-research-service spectrum, within the framework of the School’s overall objectives and values.
  • We are committed to welcoming a diversity of students and staff into the School and supporting them in the development of their careers.

Tikanga | Integrity

  • We believe that our reputation and success are measured by the quality of our graduates, both undergraduate and postgraduate, by the quality of our research, the reputation of our staff members and the willingness of our staff and students to serve as the public critic and conscience of society. We believe that the success of our staff is inseparable from the success of the communities we serve, and the success and well-being of our students during their studies, are of primary importance to us.

Tohungatanga | Expertise/Professionalism

  • We defend the academic freedom of students and staff as it applies to our choice of research activities, our right to hold differing points of view, and our teaching methodology. We also believe that collective and collaborative contributions are a powerful way to advance the core mission of the School.

Kaitiakitanga | Stewardship

  • We are committed to working actively to protect people, environment, and knowledge.

BioSoc is a student-led group for all people with a fascination for biology. Members do not have to be studying Biological Sciences. 

Events include barbecues, quiz nights and an annual ball.  We also offer tutorials and facilitate closer links between staff and students.

The School of Biological Sciences and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens work closely together. Staff learn from each other, call on each other’s expertise, co-supervise students and take part in joint seminars.


Summer scholarships

As part of our partnership, joint summer scholarships are offered most years.

A UC Summer Research Scholarship involves working on a specific research project under the supervision of an academic staff member for approximately 10 weeks over the summer period. In addition summer scholarship students will complete a short research skills programme and will give a short presentation on their research project.


Past scholarship research projects
  • Understanding and enhancing mistletoe biodiversity around urban Christchurch (Juanita Miln, supervised by Dave Kelly)
  • Descent into the understorey: orchid pollination in the shadows
  • Pollination effectiveness and pollinator substitution in urban landscapes (Della Bennet supervised by Dave Kelly)
  • Urban pollinators: rare, distracted or redundant? (Christie Webber and Amanda Peterson supervised by Dave Kelly)
  • Botanic sentinels guard against biological invasions (supervised by Paula Jameson)
  • Botanic Gardens not all exotic (Matt Wallace)
  • Canterbury’s natural plant communities (Bronwyn Slack)
  • Earthquakes and freshwater wildlife (Matt Kippenberger)
  • Native or exotic? Which would you prefer if you were a pollinator? (Christie Webber and Amanda Peterson supervised by Dave Kelly)

Gain practical skills and degree points with our popular summer courses.

  • BIOL 305 is an intensive, field-based course at the Cass alpine field station. It is designed to meet the need for training in the collection, preparation, and identification of botanical specimens. The course is targeted at participants with various entry levels, from students with a limited plant knowledge to experienced career professionals.
  • WATR 203 This five-day course will be based primarily at UC but involve learning practical freshwater field sampling including hydrological, water chemistry, aquatic plant, invertebrate, fish and bird identification.

Our alumni can be found in a wide range of industries, reflecting the broad skill base a degree in science offers.

The School of Biological Sciences also offers an Inspirational Alumni award, bestowed on former students who have made a significant contribution in their fields.

Biological Sciences news and events

Privacy Preferences

By clicking "Accept All Cookies", you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.