Certificate in Marine Studies and Ecotourism

Learn to Work in Marine Ecotourism

  • Follow your passion
  • Explore opportunities to work in marine industries
  • Start studying anytime
  • Study from anywhere - home or away, or while you travel



There are 4 Core Modules as below.  

  • Marine Studies I

  • Marine Studies II

  • Ecotour Management

  • Ecotourism Tour Guide 


Students then choose 2 elective modules from the list below.

  • Business Operations

  • Bed and Breakfast Management

  • Hotel Management

  • Wildlife Management

  • Wildlife Conservation

  • Marketing Foundations

  • Event Management

  • Adventure tourism

Learn More about Marine Life

There are more things under the water than you might imagine. That fact alone is a big draw for marine ecotourism.

By learning more about marine life, you are laying a foundation to work in marine ecotourism or other sectors of the marine industry. 

How Much Do You Know about Sea Cows?

The taxonomic order "Sirenia" includes Manatees and Dugongs, often referred to collectively as Sea Cows.

Despite their aquatic habitat and seeming lack of hoofs, Sirenians are ungulates, or hoofed mammals. They share a common ancestor with other ungulates, and it is believed they evolved from a land-based mammal approximately 60 million years ago. Although the Order Cetacea (including Whales), is also aquatic, and likely shares a common ancestor with Sirenians and other ungulates, it is important to note it is a distinct order within Grandorder Ungulata and distinct from Sirenia. The aquatic orders are related but not below, within, or encompassing one another.

Sirenians display certain features similar to those of their land-based cousins. The most notable of these are their flippers, which function as a type of foreleg rather than a true flipper. Manatees, in Family Trichechidae, also have small hoofnails. Animals in this order are often referred to as “sea cows” because of their underwater grazing.

It is thought the name Sirenia is derived from the Greek myth of the Sirens, beautiful women who would call out or sing to passing ships, distracting the sailors. Some scientists and historians believe these animals are the origin of mermaid mythologies.

Characteristics of the order are:

  • Aquatic
  • Two front limbs formed into flippers, no hind limbs
  • Hairs only on the muzzle
  • Upper lip enlarged and adapted to grasping food plants
  • Nostrils on the top of the snout
  • Bones are very dense and mostly lack bone marrow; an adaptation to maintaining buoyancy.
  • Vestigial pelvis
  • Live in tropical waters

Families in this order include:

  • Dugongidae
  • Trichechidae

DUGONGS (Dugongidae)

This family has only one extant (living) species, Dugong dugon. The other, Hydrodamalis gigas, or Steller’s Sea Cow, was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. In the early 21st century, the extant Dugong dugon is considered vulnerable, per the IUCN Red List criteria.

Physical Characteristics
Like other ungulates, Dugongs are aquatic mammals. They are quite large, weighing up to 400kg (880lbs), and measuring up to 3.5m (11.5ft) long. Their tail flukes are reminiscent of a dolphin’s, notched like a fork. The upper lip is split, but not deeply so. Dugongs have incisors, which grow into tusks on the males; similarly, they have teeth, but once lost, they are not replaced. Older animals often have only two of the original 12 (six molars, six pre-molars) teeth remaining. 

Reproduction and Behaviour
Dugongs are coastal creatures, usually found only in shallow areas. They may form groups of three to six, but are more likely to be seen alone or in pairs. This is due to limited food supply – sea grass beds are rarely able to support more than a small number at a time. This is also likely affected by life span, as Dugongs are quite long-lived, with an average age of 50-60 years. They may migrate some distance in search of food, and this usually occurs in larger groups. They communicate via a series of chirps, whistles, and barks, most likely because such sounds are well-carried underwater. 

Dugongs reproduce infrequently; sexual maturity is reached between 8 and 18 years of age. In males, maturity is marked by the eruption of tusks (this is a result of high testosterone). There is no clear consensus on first birth age for females. Varying sources have listed births as early as 6 years and as late as 17 years.

Females engage in significant parental care, which likely affects the number of births during their lives. New births may occur between two and seven years after calving. Gestation is 13 to 15 months, and calves are singletons. Mothers suckle the young from birth until up to 18 months of age.

Diet and Feeding
Dugongs “walk” along the sea floor as they eat, using their pectoral fins as rudimentary legs. They graze as they move, pulling up sea grass and leaving trails in the substrate. They eat the entire plant where possible, uprooting it with their strong and surprisingly flexible upper lip. Poor eyesight means that they often detect food by scent, and by using the bristles along their upper lip for more tactile detection. When sea grass is scarce, Dugongs likely eat algae. Although they are usually thought to be herbivorous, they will sometimes eat jellyfish, sea squirts, shellfish, and other available invertebrate species. In some regions of Australia, evidence suggests Dugongs actively seek out invertebrates for feeding, while tropical groups appear to be entirely herbivorous. This suggests that environment has a tangible effect on feeding preferences and behaviours. 
Dugongs are found along the coasts of east Africa, the Red Sea, and across most of coastal Asia through the Philippines and Australia. 

Manatees (Trichechidae)

These animals are better known as Manatees. 

This family includes three species including the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), the Amazonian Manatee (Trichechus inunguis) and the West African Manatee (Trichechus seneglaensis). Also referred to as Sea Cows, Manatees are placid social marine mammals. They are found grazing in coastal areas such as estuaries, rivers and bays during the summer months. The Manatee has a prehensile upper lip and short front flippers. The lip and flippers are used together to help the Manatee consume large quantities of plants and algae.   

Manatees can live up to 60 years, but are slower breeders.  The females usually produce young every 2 to 5 years.  This has increased the vulnerability of the Manatee, which is compounded with the effects of human activity such as loss of habitat and mortality due to collisions with watercrafts.  All three species of Manatee are currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. 



If you are passionate about marine life; that may be the only reason you need to study this certificate.

People who undertake this course may find employment, perhaps in an aquarium, maybe in a dive shop or elsewhere in the tourism industry. A knowledge of marine life can also open opportunities for work in marine conservation, exploration, mariculture (fish farming), teaching, research, the media, the fishing industry, or other areas.

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Fee Information (CT)
Prices in Australian Dollars

PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $3,605.80  1 x $3,278.00
B 2 x $1,945.90  2 x $1,769.00
C 4 x $1,049.40  4 x $954.00

Note: Australian prices include GST. 
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