The UKZNâ€™s position within the African continent has led to the development of a unique Marine Biology Stream/Programme able to service requirements from the southern African eastern seaboard and neighbouring Indian Ocean Rim countries. The University's linkage with the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI-SAAMBR), the CSIR and EKZN Wildlife (all of them in Durban), plus close working relations with other institutes involved in marine research and management outside the province, have led to a suite of academic programmes developed to attract both national and international students/scientists and place the UKZN as a center of expertise in tropical and sub-tropical marine biology.
On the research side, the largest component of the marine research initiative has historically comprised the Estuarine Research Programme. Estuaries are arguably the most threatened of all South African marine ecosystems, as they cover a small surface area but are subject to extreme levels of utilization. The current focus area is the St Lucia Estuary, one of South Africaâ€™s World Heritage Sites. The research programme is multidisciplinary, involving biology, fluid mechanics, sedimentology and aquatic chemistry. The UKZN group has extensive links with American, European and other African scientists and currently enjoys funding from a variety of sources, including NRF, Marine & Coastal Management (DEAT) and WWF.