Dec 10, 2022  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Marine Science, Ph.D.

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Priority Admission Application Deadlines:


Biological Oceanography
Chemical Oceanography
Geological Oceanography
Marine Resource Assessment
Physical Oceanography

Contact Information

College: Marine Science
Contact Information:

The College of Marine Science offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Marine Science. This research based major has a low student‐to‐faculty ratio, with an average of 100 graduate students under the direction of ~ 30 full‐time faculty. Students in the Master’s major may elect a concentration in biological, chemical, geological, or physical oceanography, or Marine Resource Assessment through course work and thesis research. CMS graduates are well prepared for positions in academia, industry, government agencies, and non‐governmental organizations at local to international levels.

Biological Oceanography

Biological oceanography seeks to understand the life histories and population dynamics of marine organisms and how they interact with their environment over space and time. Scientists in the College of Marine Science study the full breadth of biological oceanography including microbiology, phytoplankton, zooplankton, benthos, coral reefs, fishes, and marine mammals. Our biological oceanographers utilize a variety of techniques including SCUBA, shipboard samplers, acoustics, molecular biology, and mathematical modeling to understand the oceans and their inhabitants. Scientists in our college also use the latest in remote sensing technology to study vast regions of the Earth’s oceans, and have also developed new technology, such as genosensor capable for identifying and quantifying harmful algal blooms and related processes on unprecedented scales.

Chemical Oceanography

Chemical oceanographers seek to understand the ways in which various elements are cycled within the oceans, and the reactions that influence biogeochemical cycles. Ocean chemists improve our understanding of the basic conditions under which ocean life thrives in seawater, and help predict the effects of anthropogenic and natural climate change on ocean composition. Research programs in the College of Marine Science include such wide ranging topics as the role and variability of nutrients in seawater, the distribution and cycling of both biologically-essential and toxic metals, the oceans’ CO2 system, dissolved organic matter, molecular organic compounds, radionuclides and stable isotopes and the distribution of chemical pollutants and their interactions with marine organisms and ecosystems. Faculty and students utilize a wide variety of state‐of‐the art instrumentation and technology for conducting this research. .

Geological Oceanography

Geological oceanographers in the College of Marine Science conduct research from the continental margins to the deep‐ocean seafloor. Their work extends from modern environments to millions of years present to understand and predict Earth surface and interior processes. Primary research themes include:

  1. paleoceanography and paleoclimatology
  2. coastline and continental shelf development and processes including effects of storms and sea‐level fluctuations
  3. the health of modern coral reefs
  4. carbonate depositional processes
  5. anthropogenic influences on estuaries
  6. mathematical descriptions of geologic phenomena and
  7. plate tectonics.

Our geological oceanography group has a variety of modern well‐equipped laboratories and field equipment, including one of the best seafloor mapping capabilities in the US. Fully integrated with these field instruments is the computational capability to generate state‐of‐the art data depictions and imagery. Our group also works closely with scientists from the US Geological Survey’s Center for Coastal and Marine Science Center, a major federal laboratory located nearby.

Physical Oceanography

Physical oceanography involves the study of water movement in the ocean. Energy is introduced to the ocean through wind and solar heating, and these combine with the rotation of the Earth and gravitational effects to drive ocean circulation, tides, and waves. Our physical oceanographers also investigate how the Earth’s oceans are directly coupled with the atmosphere, from local weather patterns to the global climate system. Physical oceanographers in the CMS carry out research on a variety of topics using the latest technology. Computer models, real time data, satellite remote sensing, and in situ data from moored arrays, coastal tide gauges, and research cruises are used to study a wide range of research problems. Topics include tide and current prediction in Tampa Bay, circulation on the West Florida Shelf and in the Gulf of Mexico, El Niño phenomena, and the potential for global climate change.

Marine Resource Assessment

The College of Marine Science offers an interdisciplinary concentration in Marine Resource Assessment as part of its M.S. and Ph.D. majors. This concentration provides training in the emerging field of ecosystem‐based management. Its mission is to train a new generation of scientists that can effectively address issues concerning the sustainability of the world’s living natural resources. The MRA concentration addresses the national shortage of graduates possessing the skills required for managing living marine resources by teaching a quantitative approach to ecosystem analysis and living resource assessment. The concentration is designed to produce resource assessment scientists who can introduce relevant ecosystem‐level variables into the traditional, single‐species assessment process, complementing and enhancing the development of the science‐based management policies that protect living marine resources.

Admission Information

Must meet University Admission and English Proficiency requirements as well as requirements for admission to the major, listed below.

Meeting these criteria per se shall not be the only basis for admission. Complete application instructions can be found on the college website:

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an accredited university (Preferable majors include biology, chemistry, geology, physics or math)
  • Have completed all of the coursework listed on our website ( under “Undergraduate Preparation”
  • Have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) within 5 years preceding application. Preferred minimum scores are as follows: Verbal = 135 (59th percentile), Quantitative = 148 (32nd percentile). Preferred minimum scores for Marine Resource Assessment concentration are: Verbal = 156 (71st percentile), Quantitative = 155 (60th percentile).
  • Have the commitment of a Marine Science faculty member to serve as advisor during the student’s graduate studies.

Required Application Materials

  • research interest statement (use template from Marine Science website)
  • a resume or curriculum vitae
  • three letters of recommendation
  • official transcripts of grades
  • GRE exam scores

Curriculum Requirements

Total Minimum Hours Required: 90 hours beyond the Bachelor’s

  • Core Requirements - 12 Credit Hours
  • Concentration - 12 Credit Hours Minimum
  • Electives
  • Dissertation - 16 Credit Hours Minimum

Students must complete a minimum of 90 credit hours beyond the Bachelor’s degree, (12 hours of core requirements, 16 hours of dissertation, and 62 hours split between courswork and research as determined by the committee).

A committee, consisting of a major advisor and at least four other members of the graduate faculty, is appointed to supervise and guide the major of the candidate. One member shall be from a department outside of the College of Marine Science.

Core Requirements (12 Credit Hours)

Core courses completed with a grade of “B” or better

Concentration Requirements

Students select one of the following concentrations. There is no minimum credit requirement except for the Marine Resource Assessment Concentration:

Biological Oceanography (BOC)
Chemical Oceanography (COG)
Geological Oceanography (GOG)
Interdisciplinary (IDY)
Marine Resource Assessment (MRA)*
Physical Oceanography (POG)

*Students in the Marine Resource Assessment Concentration

*Students in the Marine Resource Assessment Concentration area are required to take three courses from the following list (totaling nine credit hours) as part of their concentration requirements:

  • Population Dynamics Credit(s): 3
  • Fish Biology Credit(s): 3
  • Dynamics of Marine Ecosystems Credit(s): 3
  • Applied Multivariate Statistics Credit(s): 3

Elective Requirements

Electives are taken within each concentration area (see above)

Comprehensive Qualifying Exam Requirements

There will be an Integrated Marine Science Exam (IMSE) administered early each Fall semester. The exam aims to judge a student’s ability, upon successful completion of the four core classes (B- or better), to integrate the concepts covered in these classes. All students will take the same exam, at the same time, and questions will be determined by a committee to be appointed by the Dean. All Ph.D. students are expected to take this exam no later than the beginning of their third year (to allow for students who take 2 years to finish the core classes because of other course requirements or if they do not start in the fall term). M.S. students who anticipate continuing in the major to obtain their Ph.D. are encouraged to take this exam, which will fulfill this requirement as long as they enter the Ph.D. major within 7 years of successfully completing the exam. The IMSE is a written exam, followed by optional oral exam if the student does not perform satisfactorily on the written exam. If the student fails the exam, he/she has a second chance to pass the exam in the following year. If a student fails the exam twice, he/she may not proceed in the Ph.D. major.

After passing the IMSE, students are expected to form their dissertation committee, have their research proposal approved by the committee, and to take and pass a Ph.D. Candidacy Exam (PCE) administered by the dissertation committee. The qualifying exam is meant to test the students’ in-depth knowledge in their area of concentration and/or dissertation research. The PCE must consist of a 2-4 hour oral exam, with an optional written exam (which could be prior to or after the oral exam) at the discretion of the student’s major advisor. The student is expected to take and pass the PCE no later than the start of their fourth year. A student has two chances to pass the PCE in order to become a Ph.D. candidate and must do so prior to beginning their fifth year. Students failing the first time must take the exam again within one year of the first try. If a student fails the exam twice, he/she may not proceed in the Ph.D. major.

Dissertation Requirements (16 Credit Hours)

  • A minimum of 16 credits of OCE 7980  (Dissertation credit hours). Following admission to candidacy, the student must enroll in OCE 7980  when engaged in research, data collection, or writing activities relevant to the dissertation. The student is required to accumulate a minimum of 6 credits during each previous 12 month period (previous 3 terms, e.g., Fall, Spring, Summer) until the degree is granted.
  • A written dissertation
  • A successful dissertation defense examination

Other Requirements

Other coursework as required by dissertation advisory committee

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