Australia’s Rocky Shorelines: Exploring Marine and Microbial Ecology and Global Climate Change

Australia’s Rocky Shorelines: Exploring Marine and Microbial Ecology and Global Climate Change

Group of students in front of Sydney Harbor Bridge

This program is not being offered Summer 2019.

2018: Dates:  June 10 – 23, 2018, Price $3,421.

Apply Here

Promo poster for Marine Bio Course


Sydney Opera House - VIVID

The art and music celebration VIVID will once again light up Sydney nights while we are there in 2018!


 Student Areas of Research:

  • Biology
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Sustainability
  • Marine Ecology
  • BioInformatics.

tidepools students boots


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Course description

We will be based in the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) located right on Sydney Harbor.  We will examine a wide range of temperate coastal marine species from the southern hemisphere.

  • Conduct ecological surveys and conduct a range of marine sampling techniques.
  • Use metagenomic data to describe the taxonomic make-up, functional potential and ecological process of microbial communities from two marine locations.


    The Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS)  is ideally located right on the waters edge, in a bay just minutes from the Sydney Harbor bridge

    SIMS from the air

    Sydney Institute of Marine Science, (SIMS) where we will be conducting our research

  • Extract DNA, sequence DNA and analyze results.
  • Record  data in lab books. Students will keep careful records describing the ecology, of the macro and microbial populations. The lab book is a working document for the students to describe the steps  taken, observations made, and accurate accounts of processes.
  • Presentations:  Students will present their findings from their organism on the rocky shore and describe the associated microbes.
  • A final written report will emulate a scientific paper in journal format, requiring abstract, introductions, methods, results and discussion.
Dr. Elizabeth Dinsdale

Dr. Elizabeth Dinsdale, Biology

Dr. Rob Edwards pointing at computer monitor

Dr. Rob Edwards, Computer Science


An Excerpt from the syllabus: We will integrate measurements of the microbes and macrobes of the rocky shore of the Australian coastline, comparing and contrasting a heavily populated location in a major city with a protected site adjacent to a national park.  The students will use next generation DNA sequencing to describe the microbial communities in marine environments. Student-generated data will include a description of how the metabolic functions, taxonomic distribution, diversity, evenness and species richness of microbial communities varies across environments. The microbial communities will be obtained from the rocky shore after the completion of an analysis of the macro-organisms that reside there. The ecological assessments will be conducted at two locations with contrasting human activity. The students will compare and contrast the microbial community associated with each organism and analyze whether the community reflects the composition of the water column or whether there are distinctions in the microbial community from each organism across the two locations.

Students will conduct a survey of the organisms living on the rocky shore, analyze their distribution using some basic statistics, collect microbes using culturing and the sequences the microbes, using the same tools as people now use in the medical industry, for example, to analyze cancer.  You will learn how to analyze the data, and write the data up in a scientific fashion. These are things you will need to learn for you future career and you get to do it in a different country!

Faculty Dr. Elizabeth Dinsdale from Biology and Dr. Rob Edwards from Computer Science will lead a new Faculty Led Program .

Faculty Background:  This is the 3rd time Drs. Dinsdale and Edwards have taken students Down Under to study Marine Ecology. Previously, they took students to Brazil to  studying metagenomics.  They have also taken students to Indonesia, in Semarang, Java and Hasanuddin University Makassar in Sulawesi.  SDSU  students learned about cultures of the countries, discovered unique ecosystems,  conducted research and formed friendships.

Accommodations/ Facilities: Shared dormitory accommodations at the beautiful Lands Edge in Sydney. Land’s Edge is conveniently located across the street from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, and has its own bus stop.

Meals. All meals included at Lands Edge.  That’s five meals, really: Breakfast and dinner will be served; morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea will be packed in take-away boxes to go.


  • Indigenous native Australian art and culture experience
  • Sea Kayaking trip
  • Australian Bush Assessment session with New South Wales National Parks guide
  • Entrance to Sea Life Aquarium
  • Entrance to Wildlife Sydney Zoo
  • (new this year by popular demand) 2 consecutive days off mid session for students to travel

Why Sydney Harbor for rocky shore research?

Native aboriginal blowing diggereedoo

Indigenous Australian playing didgeridoo

Sydney Harbour is Australia’s largest, and most iconic, urbanized estuary. This makes SIMS (Sydney Institute of Marine Science) an ideal place from which to understand, and help manage the pressures of urbanization on the harbor and coastal ecosystems.

  • Biodiversity. Sydney Harbor is one of the most biologically diverse harbors in the world. SIMS scientists are using both traditional and modern molecular techniques to expand our knowledge of this immense biodiversity.
  • Microbial/macrobial diversity.  We will collect samples of marine life from heavily populated areas and compare them to samples from less populated areas; the effect of human activity on shoreline organisms will be compared.
  • Climate Change  The oceanography of the east coast of Australia is dominated by the East Australian Current. This current is increasing in strength making South-East Australia a global hot spot for climate change. SIMS is ideally placed for studying the causes and impacts of climate change in marine systems

Excursions in Sydney

  • Sea Life Aquarium
  • Wild Life Sydney Zoo
  • Indigenous Culture session with native Australian
  •  Sea Kayaking on Sydney Harbor
  • National Parks Officer discussion of Australian conservation, flora and fauna

Nearby sites/Free time: The Sydney Harbor bridge, Opera House, and city center.   “The Rocks”  is an iconic area, part of the earliest convict settlement of Australia by the English and Irish.  Other sites include the world famous Taronga Zoo, Australia Zoo (Indigenous Australian terrestrial and aquatic animals), Aquarium, and the Ferry to Paramatta.

Transport:    a city bus comes right to Lands Edge on the hour; it’s a quick trip to downtown Sydney, to explore the nearby sites noted above.  Once the program begins you will receive an “Opal” pass for transportation.

For more information  please email Maureen Crawford, International Coordinator,

Apply here

  • Student in rock pool with testtube
  • 2 students kayaking
  • playing native australian game
  • blowing didgereedoo
  • using quadrat at rockpool
  • girl looking at rock pool organisms
  • lowering quadrat into place
  • SIMS lab, students working
  • working in lab
  • measuring device in tidepool
  • 2 students in distant rock pool
  • sydney harbor bridge night
  • Group of students in front of Sydney Harbor Bridge
  • kayaks on lawn
  • 2 girls in kayak
  • 2 girls with nets at tidepools
  • small group on cliff through trees