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Marine Science

M.S. in Marine Science

As a graduate student at the Oceanographic Campus, you will be exposed to a wide variety of special topics with experienced and highly-skilled faculty members in our high-end facilities that allow the conduct of advanced research in your area of interest. We provide a balance between field, laboratory, classroom and online experience that allows convenient customizing of the curriculum. You can concentrate your studies in Marine Biology, Marine Environmental Science and Coastal Zone Management, or a combination of the three! 

Marine Biology Concentration:

This course of study is designed to equip students with a substantial understanding of the nature and ecology of marine life and grounding in the other overlapping areas of marine science. Program flexibility provides preparation for further graduate study, secondary education career enhancement, or employment in technical research institutions, government agencies, or environmental consulting firms. Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree in biology, oceanography, or a closely related field, including science education.

Coastal Zone Management Concentration:

This course of study focuses on contemporary problems and conflicts arising from increased use of coastal areas and emphasizes the evaluation of alternative policy management solutions. It is intended for employees of government and industry seeking career enhancement, as well as for recent college graduates seeking careers in planning and management with government agencies, industries, and other activities depending on or affecting the coastal zone or its resources. The program can also be of value for enhancement of careers in education.

Marine Environmental Science Concentration:

Graduates can find employment in environmentally oriented agencies/organizations and the program is of value for prospective or actual employees of government and industry seeking to advance careers in marine-related areas. Applicants are required to have a degree in the natural sciences.

On campus graduate classes are held in both morning and evening format and typically meet one to two times per week. Exceptions are field courses which may entail several days of intensive study or weekend field trips. On-line courses meet periodically at the convenience of faculty and students.

There are two tracks for completing an M.S. degree:

  • Capstone
    All entering M.S. students are accepted in the Capstone. Students take a minimum of 6 core courses and 4 regular courses in their selected concentration for 30 credits. Students must take Capstone courses totaling a minimum of 8 credits. This is typically done at or near the completion of formal coursework. The Capstone is a scholarly review, based upon a comprehensive literature search, review, data analysis, and synthesis of the chosen topic. Carrying out a Capstone takes place with guidance from a major professor. Typically, Capstone students find a major professor by approaching faculty in the student's area of interest. Students will be assigned a Capstone advisor if they have difficulty in identifying a major professor. Prior to beginning a Capstone and registering for Capstone credits, the student must write a proposal which must be approved by the student's major professor, committee (define how committee is formed), and chair of the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences and be submitted to the Program Office.
  • Thesis Track
    The thesis track requires an extra step. A thesis is an original contribution to knowledge resulting from the systematic study of a significant problem or issue. A thesis track requires a minimum of 6 core courses and 4 regular courses for 30 credits.  In addition, a minimum of 8 Thesis credits is required. To be allowed entry into the Thesis track the student must secure agreement from a faculty member to be the student's major professor. There must be adequate funding to carry out the proposed research. Students are not provided with a thesis advisor. Prior to beginning thesis research and registering for thesis credits, the student must write a proposal which must be approved by the student's major professor, committee, and the chair of the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences and be submitted to the Program Office. The Thesis option is typically a longer duration track and may require additional thesis credits to complete the research project. 

Curriculum Breakdown:

  • 6 core courses (18 credits)
  • 4 electives (12 credits)
  • 2 semesters of capstone or thesis (minimum of 8 credits)

For further details, students are referred to section 3.8 of this catalog and to the online guidelines for the capstone or thesis track found on the Student Information page under Master's Student Guide to Thesis and Capstone

Both the Capstone and Thesis track require a minimum of 38 credit hours. This includes six 3-credit core courses, four 3-credit electives, and a minimum of two 4-credit capstone or thesis credits.

Once a student starts registering for capstone or thesis course credits, they cannot stop registering for credits until the project is completed and defended. The number of research credits above the minimum is dependent upon the length of time needed to complete the research, which may be more than the typical minimum of two terms. The completed research project is presented in an open defense that includes the student's advisory committee.

Students are allowed to take one elective outside their concentration and have them count towards their final credit count. 

For both the Capstone and Thesis degree tracks, once the proposal has been accepted, enrollment in the chosen track must continue until completion of the degree.


Also offered are Joint concentrations

  • M.S. in Marine Science
    • Marine Biology/Coastal Zone Management
    • Marine Biology/Marine Environmental Science
    • Marine Environmental Science/Coastal Zone Management

The joint concentration M.S. degrees require a minimum of 50 course credits (14 courses) including eight credits minimum research credits. See the course breakdown below.

  • 6 Core Courses
  • 4 electives in concentration #1
  • 4 electives in concentration #2
  • at least 8 credits of capstone or thesis credits

Core Courses (18 credits)

  • MSMS 5010 Biostatistics – 3 credits
  • MSMS 5020 Marine Ecosystems – 3 credits
  • MSMS 5030 Marine Geology – 3 credits
  • MSMS 5040 Marine Chemistry – 3 credits
  • MSMS 5050 Physical Oceanography – 3 credits
  • MSMS 5060 Scientific Communication – 3 credits

Electives (12 credits)

Marine Biology Concentration

  • MSMS 6001 Marine Physiology – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6002 Coral Reef Ecology – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6003 Deep Sea Biology – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6004 Marine Fisheries – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6005 Invertebrate Zoology – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6006 Taxonomy of Marine Invertebrates – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6007 Marine Mammalogy – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6008 Biology of Sharks and Rays I – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6009 Biology of Sharks and Rays II – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6010 Marine Apex Predators – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6011 Marine Avian Ecology – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6012 Corals from the Inside Out – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6014 Marine Larval Ecology – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6015 Fertilization Ecology – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6016 Ichthyology – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6017 Tropical Fish Biology – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6018 Coral Reef Assessment – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6019 Marine Biodiversity and Speciation – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6020 Histology & Ultrastructure of Marine Organisms – 3 credits

Coastal Zone Management Concentration

  • MSMS 6101 Coastal Policy of U.S. Living Marine Resources – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6102 Ocean and Coastal Law – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6103 Invasive Species – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6104 Communication Dynamics in Dispute Resolution: Human Factor – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6105 Effective Environmental Communication – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6106 Leadership in the Public Sector – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6107 Environmental Law – 3 credits

Marine Environmental Science Concentration

  • MSMS 6201 GIS & Environmental Remote Sensing – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6202 Coastal Processes and Hazards – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6203 Climate Change – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6204 Anthropogenic Impacts in Marine Environments – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6205 Toxicology and Laboratory q-PCR – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6208 Aquaculture – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6209 Biodiversity – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6210 Scientific Method and Experimental Design – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6211 Genomics – 3 credits
  • MSMS 6212 Population Ecology – 3 credits

*Curriculum update effective Fall 2017. Curriculum may be subject to change, please refer to the 2017-2018 student catalog for more information.