Oct 01, 2022  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Marine Science, M.S.

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Department: Dean’s Office


  • Biological Oceanography
  • Chemical Oceanography
  • Geological Oceanography
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Marine Resource Assessment
  • Physical Oceanography


The College of Marine Science (CMS) 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 fill-time faculty. Students in the Marine Science 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 Oceanographers seek 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 developed new technology, capable of identifying and quantifying harmful algal blooms and related processes.

Chemical Oceanography

Chemical oceanographers seek to understand the ways in which various chemical forms 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 wide ranging topics such as the role and variability of nutrients in seawater, the distribution and cycling of both biologically-essential and toxic trace 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 modem coral reefs,
  4. carbonate depositional processes,
  5. anthropogenic influences on estuaries,
  6. mathematical descriptions of geological phenomena, and  
  7. plate tectonics.  

The geological oceanography group has a variety of modem 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.  The group also works closely with scientists from the US Geological Survey’s Center for Coastal and Marine Science Center, and NOAA two major federal agencies located next to the campus.

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 (MRA) 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 MRA 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 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 shall not be the only basis for admission. Complete and up-to-date application instructions can be found at http://www.marine.usf.edu/students/how-to-apply

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an accredited university (Preferable majors include biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and math).
  • Have completed all of the coursework listed on our website (http://www.marine.usf.edu) under “Undergraduate Preparation”.
  • Have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) within 5 years preceding the application. Preferred minimum scores are as follows: Verbal = 153 (59th percentile), Quantitative = 148 (32nd 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 essay (use template from Marine Science website) -
  • a professional goal essay
  • a resume or curriculum vitae
  • three letters of recommendation
  • GRE exam scores

Curriculum Requirements


Total Minimum Hours - 32 hours

  • Core Requirements - 12 Credit Hours
  • Concentration - 14 Credit Hours
  • Thesis - 6 Credit Hours

A committee, consisting of a major advisor and at least 2 other members of the graduate faculty, will be appointed to supervise and guide the major of each student.

Core Requirements (12 Credit Hours)

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

Concentration Requirements (14 Credit Hours)

Students select one of the following concentrations and complete 14 hours of electives within the concentration subject area (or other courses as approved by the Graduate Director). Note: At least 8 of these credit hours must be in formal courses to satisfy the USF requirement of 20 hours of formal coursework.

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

*Students in Marine Resource Assessment Concentration

* Students in Marine Resource Assessment Concentration area are required to take 3 courses from the following list (totaling 9 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 Exam Requirements

In lieu of a standard Comprehensive Exam, M.S. students must only pass their thesis defense. 

Thesis Requirements (6 Credit Hours)

  • A minimum of 6 credits of OCE 6971  (Thesis credit hours)
  • A written thesis
  • A successful thesis defense examination

Other Requirements

  • Other coursework as required by thesis advisory committee

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