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M.S. Marine Biology

The M.S. in Marine Science program will replace the M.S. in Marine Biology, M.S. in Coastal Zone Management, and M.S. in Marine Environmental Science effective Fall 2017. Please see the curriculum updates here.

Program Description

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.

Learning Outcomes

Expected learning outcomes are:

  • Effective communication skills,
  • A full understanding of the scientific method,
  • A generalized knowledge in ecological, geological, chemical and biological concepts as they relate to the environment.
  • A generalized knowledge of the natural and human-driven problems currently, and anticipated to, impact the marine environment.
  • In-depth knowledge of a specific aspect of their major.

Delivery System

On campus graduate classes typically meet one evening per week in a three hour session. Exceptions are field courses which may entail several days of intensive study. On-line courses meet periodically at the convenience of faculty and students  

Degree Tracks

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

Capstone (45 credits)

All entering M.S. students are accepted under the Capstone degree track.

Curriculum Breakdown:

  • 5 core courses (15 credits)
  • 8 elective courses (24 credits)
  • 2 semesters of capstone (6 credits)

Defining a Capstone:

A capstone paper is a scholarly manuscript, based upon a comprehensive literature search, review, and synthesis of the chosen topic. It is similar to a thesis, inasmuch as data need to be acquired and analyzed within the framework of a scholarly article with the exception that these data can be acquired from the literature. Carrying out a Capstone paper takes place with guidance from a major professor.

Starting a Capstone:

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, and the Chair of the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences. 

Thesis (40 credits)

Curriculum Breakdown:

  • 5 core courses (15 credits)
  • 5 elective courses (15 credits)
  • 3 semesters of thesis (10 credits)

Defining a Thesis:

A thesis is an original contribution to knowledge resulting from the systematic study of a significant problem or issue.

Starting a Thesis:

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. 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 the Chair of the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences. The Thesis is typically a longer duration track and number of credit hours than the Capstone track.

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 Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography Student Information page

M.S. Credit Hour Requirements

The Capstone track requires a minimum of 45 credits. This includes five 3-credit core classes, eight 3-credit specialty courses and a minimum of two 3-credits of Capstone. Once a student starts registering for capstone course credits, they cannot stop registering for credits until the capstone is completed and defended. It is expected the Capstone can be completed within two terms or less.  The completed Capstone is presented in an open defense that includes the student's advisory committee.

The Thesis track requires a minimum of 39 credits. This includes five 3-credit core classes, five 3-credit specialty courses, and at least nine credits of master's thesis research. The number of thesis research credits above the minimum is dependent upon the length of time needed to complete the thesis research, which may be more than the typical minimum three terms. The final thesis is formally defended in an open defense that includes the student's advisory committee.

Elective Courses

Students in a single degree are allowed to take up to two elective courses outside their degree orientation and have them count towards their final credit count.

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

Joint M.S. Degrees

Also offered are Joint M.S. Degrees

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

The joint specialization M.S. degrees require a minimum of 57 course credits (19 courses) or 51 course credits (17 courses) (for Capstone or Thesis respectively) including nine credits minimum thesis research or the six credits minimum for the capstone. For the joint programs, students take approximately equal numbers of courses within each of the two specialties. The final thesis or capstone is formally defended in an open defense that includes the student's committee.


Core Courses - 15 Credit Hours

  • OCOR 5603 Biostatistics (3 credit hours)
  • OCOR 5601 Concepts of Physical Oceanography (3 credit hours)
  • OCOR 5605 Marine Chemistry (3 credit hours)
  • OCOR 5602 Marine Ecosystems (3 credit hours)
  • OCOR 5604 Marine Geology (3 credit hours)

Marine Biology Electives - 24 Credit Hours (Capstone Track) or 15 Credit Hours (Thesis Track)

  • OCMB 0998 Aquaculture (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6010 Bacterial Evolutionary Genetics (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6215 Biology of Sharks and Rays I: Form and Function (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6250 Biology of Sharks and Rays II: Ecology and Evolution (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6470 Coral Reef Ecology (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6460 Corals From the Inside Out: Comparative Histopathology (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6560 Deep Sea Biology (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 5700 Ecosystem Applications (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6090 Fertilization Ecology (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 4001 Geospatial Field Methods (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6100 GIS and Environmental Remote Sensing (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6510 Histology of Marine Organisms (3 credits)
  • OCMB 0999 Ichthyology (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 9911 Introduction to Bioinformatics (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 9901 Invasive Species (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6086 Invertebrate Zoology (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6001 Labratory q-PCR and Culture Techniques (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6315 Marine Biodiversity (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6365 Marine Fisheries (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 8020 Marine Genomics (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 0996 Marine Larval Ecology (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6341 Marine Mammalogy (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6095 Marine Physiology (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 9900 Professional Development (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 9700 Scientific Diving and Coral Reef Assessment (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 8550 Scientific Methods and Experimental Design (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 9904 Techniques in Invertebrate Identification (3 credit hours)
  • OCMB 6530 Ultrastructure of Marine Organisms 
  • OCMB 9910 U.S. Living Marine Resource Policy
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