Back to: Zoology major Zoology major

Did you know that certain female lizards are able to clone themselves; a baby bandicoot is born after only 12 days of pregnancy; that some baby spiders practise ‘matriphagy’ – eating their mothers after birth?

This major will introduce you to the complexities of animal systems by integrating knowledge from the biology of cells to the behaviour of whole organisms. You can choose to specialise in Behavioural Ecology, Reproductive Physiology or Wildlife and Conservation, and combine this with subjects from a wide range of biological disciplines. Practical experience in zoological research will provide valuable skills for the workplace.

Careers

Zoology is an amazingly broad discipline. You can enter careers or research in many areas including:

  • Animal biology
  • Biomedical and bioinformatics research
  • Conservation
  • Wildlife management.

The generic skills gained in zoology can also provide opportunities in many other industries such as education and business.

Subjects you could take in this major

  • This subject explores how natural and sexual selection have shaped the intriguing and often bizarre behaviours of animals. Topics include resource competition, predator avoidance, communication, mate choice, parental care, cooperation, sexual conflict, and the role of genes, hormones and learning in shaping behavioural diversity. Lectures draw on examples from across the animal kingdom to illustrate the complex mechanisms underlying adaptations, and are complemented with natural history videos that highlight key concepts. We evaluate the scientific rigour of studies used to test theory, and highlight the often ingenious methods adopted by researchers to understand animal behaviour.

  • The subject describes and evaluates the applications of ecological concepts for the conservation and management of natural and man-made ecosystems. In particular, it identifies the implications of global and local changes for ecological communities and habitats, especially within the Australian environment. It examines approaches to management of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, including the role of genetics, the effects of habitat fragmentation; the control of pest species, and restoration of damaged habitats

  • In this subject students will gain a detailed understanding of the molecular, biochemical and cellular events that regulate the development of specialised cells, tissues and organs during embryonic development. In particular, cell signalling pathways that regulate embryonic induction, tissue interactions and pattern formation, and expression of regulatory genes. A particular focus is the experimental strategies and techniques that are used to identify molecular and cellular mechanisms of development.

  • This subject explores the relevance of ecological and evolutionary theory for understanding the distributions of species, their interactions, their life history characteristics and how these traits are impacted by changing environmental conditions. Topics include spatial ecology and metapopulations, climatic impacts on distribution and abundance, life history evolution and ecosystem stability and resilience. The skills developed in this subject provide an essential grounding for careers in ecology.

  • How human are humans? Is Darwin’s extraordinary idea relevant for our species? This subject examines the role of evolution in shaping human biology, by examining our past origins, our current behavior and life-histories, and our future relationships with other organisms. Topics include the evolutionary history of hominids, patterns of migration and variation in skin colour; human reproductive strategies and sex ratios; why language makes us different; how genes and environment shape sexual and cooperative behavior; antagonistic co-evolutionary processes and antimicrobial resistance, pathogen virulence, and management of natural resources. Lectures draw on contemporary examples from the primary literature, complemented with TV documentaries. There is a strong emphasis on distinguishing between unsubstantiated conjecture and concepts that are supported by rigorous science.

  • The emphasis of this subject is on understanding how evolutionary forces shape the gene pool, on the use of molecular markers in genome mapping, in dissecting polygenic traits by mapping quantitative trait loci, and in other applications such as phylogenetics and conservation biology. The topics covered will be classical population genetics, the impact of natural selection, processes of speciation, conservation genetics, evolution of development, phylogenetic reconstruction, development of saturated linkage maps, physical mapping of genomes, mapping quantitative trait loci, comparative genomics, functional genomics and high-throughout methods of scoring genetic polymorphisms.

  • In this subject you will conduct group-based, hands-on, original research into animal behaviour. Over the semester you will be immersed in the entire process of scientific research - from hypothesis development and experimental design, through to data collection and statistical analysis. You will report your findings in spoken and written formats, and critically review the work of other students. Study animals range from insects and spiders, to fish, birds and mammals – in the lab, zoo or wild. You will emerge with an authentic experience of scientific research – complete with its challenges, frustrations and the thrill of scientific discovery.

  • This subject explores the techniques and methods of undertaking marine biological research, including experimental and sampling design, data collection, statistical analysis of data, presentation of the research results and peer review. Students will participate in a group project, in which they will design, execute, analyse and interpret observational and experimental studies of marine animals in field and laboratory settings.


  • The program will provide students with the opportunity to gain a first-hand laboratory experience of the structure, function, and development of the reproductive organs, including selected aspects of the endocrine, neuroendocrine and environmental control of reproduction, fertilisation, pregnancy, parturition and lactation in mammals. Student will gain experience in experimental design, cutting-edge research techniques, data analysis, and scientific report writing and will be introduced to the practicalities of reproductive manipulation and assisted reproductive technologies.

  • This field work subject provides an overall perspective on the biology of Australian terrestrial vertebrates: marsupials, monotremes, eutherians, birds, reptiles and amphibians. A key aim is for students to gain experience in designing and conducting a research project on wild animal populations and then preparing a journal style manuscript reporting their findings. Thus they should develop skills in analysing, interpreting and evaluating data and integrating their findings with existing literature and knowledge. Students should also develop skills in detection, population survey, capture, handling, collection of standard morphometric data and identification of wildlife, and assessment of behaviour, reproductive status etc. They will apply these research methods to animals in the wild, and integrate this with knowledge of the biology of these taxa.

  • The oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface and are vital to the well being of humans in many ways. This subject covers our current understanding of the biology of marine organisms and how marine scientists assess environmental impacts, manage exploited species and conserve biodiversity.

  • Topics will include structure, function, and development of the reproductive organs; endocrine and neuroendocrine and environmental control of reproduction, fertilisation, pregnancy, parturition and lactation in humans and other animals; reproductive diseases and disorders; assisted reproductive technologies; and reproduction in a community and global perspective.

  • An individual program of supervised research in which the student designs a research project, in consultation with the supervisor, carries out and presents the results of the project. Detailed requirements are to be negotiated with the supervisor and the Science Research Project Coordinator(s).

    Each student will receive feedback on their progress through ongoing consultation with their supervisor.

Entry requirements & Prerequisites

This major is available through more than one course, both of which have their own separate entry requirements.

You can read more on the the Bachelor of Science & Bachelor of Science Extended pages.