Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

Unit Overview


This unit provides an introduction to the biology of marine megafauna, with an emphasis on dolphins and whales, but including other mammals, large sharks and turtles. It will cover the zoogeography of marine megafauna, including the morphological, physiological and behavioural adaptations that have enabled them to colonize the world's oceans and some freshwater systems. The unit discusses the physiological and behavioural complexity behind their movement, foraging, reproduction and social dynamics; and the life-history strategies adapted by different species to challenging environments.

The unit then explores four topical issues within the fields of ecology, behaviour and conservation: (1) fisheries and marine megafauna—discuss the historical to contemporary contexts of fishery-megafauna interactions, commercial sealing and whaling, through current issues of incidental capture in fisheries and ongoing hunting; (2) tourism and marine megafauna—discuss the rise of nature-based tourism and the current discourse on marine mammals in captivity; (3) anthropogenic sound and marine mammals—focuses on wildlife management and discuss current environmentally and politically focused issues, such as the effects of coastal development and military sonar on protected marine mammal species, and the tools and techniques we can use to quantify impacts, and; (4) social learning and culture in marine mammals—evaluatea the definitions of culture, accumulated evidence for culture in animals, from fish to birds, primates and cetaceans, what evolutionary factors contribute to cetacean culture, and how the cultural lives of complex societies might affect conservation policy.

6 points

Students are able to (1) have a good understanding of the latest research and management issues around marine megafauna, particularly the mitigation of human impacts on endangered, threatened and protected species; (2) process information on challenging human-wildlife conflicts and present this (orally) to their peers; (3) critically evaluate one of four topical issues pertinent to marine megafauna based on scientific evidence and industry needs, then present management recommendations in a report to regulators; and (4) succinctly summarise a topical issue in the form of an opinion piece for a scientific paper.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) oral presentation in the form of a student-led seminar; (2) scientific report with management recommendations (approximately 4000 words); and (3) opinion piece for a scientific paper (approximately 2500 words). Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Simon Allen and Dr Stephanie King
Unit rules
enrolled in the Master of Biological Science
Advisable prior study
This unit assumes a strong background/understanding in biology and/or ecology and/or conservation.
Contact hours
40 hours (lectures: 16 x 1 hour
workshops (student-led seminar series): 8 x 3 hours. Preparation times for each workshop, presentations and student learning time devoted to preparing the two written assessment pieces will equate to approximately 150 hours in total.
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.