Jul 15, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Marine Science, Ph.D.

Department: Dean’s Office


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


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 90 graduate students under the direction of ~ 25 full‐time faculty. Students in the Master’s major may elect a concentration or complete the cross disciplinary or interdisciplinary option  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. .

Crossdisciplinary Option

The Crossdisciplinary option is based upon recognition of the potential for engaging in marine research in collaboration with and with application to disciplines outside the College of Marine Science. Possibilities include (but are not limited to) Public Health, Engineering (e.g., Chemical, Environmental, Mechanical), STEM Education, Global Sustainability, Environmental Policy, and Business (e.g., Marketing). The thesis or dissertation committee for a student in the Crossdisciplinary option should include a faculty member from the appropriate unit outside CMS. 

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: paleoceanography, paleoclimatology,
coastline and continental shelf development processes related to storms and sea-level fluctuations, anthropogenic influences on estuaries, marine geophysics, and plate tectonics. The geological oceanography group has a variety of modern well-equipped laboratories and field equipment, including modern seafloor mapping capabilities. 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 the USF-NOAA Center for Ocean Mapping and Innovative Technologies, both located proximal to the USF St. Petersburg Campus.


Hydrographers in the College of Marine Science conduct research related to mapping the seafloor from land to the deep seafloor. They use acoustics, optics, and other remote sensing tools to map the depth and characteristics of the seafloor. These tools and sensors are operated from a large array of crewed and un-crewed platforms. Primary research themes include techniques to map very shallow seafloor efficiently in an effort to monitor the health of benthic communities over large shallow areas.   Other research themes focus on temporal variations in these shallow areas.   Additional work focuses on processing and displaying multiple data types for scientific and public use.  Testing new equipment and innovative techniques provide multiple opportunities for research projects. The students in this concentration benefit from working closely with scientists from the USF-NOAA Center for Ocean Mapping and Innovative Technologies, and several other partners at the USGS and within the defense hub of 16 agencies located proximal to the USF St. Petersburg Campus.

Interdisciplinary Option

The Interdisciplinary option is based upon recognition of the potential for engaging in marine research in a variety of areas within the Marine Science discipline.  Possibilities include coursework taken from a variety of the concentrations.  This option provides students the flexibility to design a course load that is focused on their research objectives, rather than taking extra unnecessary courses to satisfy a single  concentration.  Further, the Interdisciplinary option is for courses within the College, whereas the Crossdisciplinary option is for courses that include other courses outside of the College.

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.

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.

Admission Information

Must meet University Admission and English Proficiency requirements as well as requirements for admission to the major, listed below.  Complete application instructions can be found on the college website (https://www.usf.edu/marine-science/education/prospective-students/index.aspx)

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an accredited university (Preferable majors include biology, chemistry, geology, physics or math)
  • Have completed all of the pre-requisite coursework listed on our website (https://www.usf.edu/marine-science/education/prospective-students/index.aspx )
  • GRE Optional 
  • Have the commitment of a Marine Science faculty member to serve as their Major Professor during the student’s graduate studies.

Required Application Materials

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

Curriculum Requirements


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

  • Core Requirements - 12 Credit Hours
  • Concentration or Crossdisciplinary/Interdisciplinary Option - 14 Credit Hours Minimum
  • Electives/Research - 48 hours 
  • Dissertation - 16 Credit Hours Minimum



Total Minimum Hours Required: 60 hours beyond the Master’s

  • Core Requirements - 12 Credit Hours
  • Concentration or Crossdisciplinary/Interdisciplinary Option - 14 Credit Hours Minimum
  • Electives/Research - 18 hours 
  • Dissertation - 16 Credit Hours Minimum

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 outside of the College of Marine Science.

Core Requirements (12 Credit Hours)

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

Concentration or Crossdisciplinary/Interdisciplinary Course Options Requirements (14 Credit Hours)

Students select either one of the following concentrations or choose either the Crossdisciplinary or Interdisciplinary course option 


Biological Oceanography (14 Credit Hours)

Complete two of the following (6 Credit Hours):

Chemical Oceanography (14 Credit Hours)

Complete the following (3 Credit hours):

Geological Oceanography (14 Credit Hours)

Complete two of the following (6 Credit Hours):

Hydrography (14 Credit Hours)

Complete the following (3 Credit hours):

Marine Resource Assessment (14 Credit Hours)

Complete three of the following courses (9 Credit hours):

Physical Oceanography (14 Credit Hours)

Complete the following (6 Credit hours):

Crossdiscplinary/Interdisciplinary Course Options (14 Credit Hours)

Cross-disciplinary  (14 Credit Hours)
Appropriate courses to support the student’s crossdisciplinary focus of research are selected in consultation with the student’s major advisor and outside committee member.  A minimum number of two formal courses (6 credit hours) outside of the College Marine Science  are required. 

Interdisciplinary Course Option (14 Credit Hours)
Appropriate courses to support the student’s interdisciplinary research project selected in consultation with the student’s thesis committee.  

Qualifying Exam Requirements

A comprehensive Qualifying Exam consists of a written and oral portion. A student must receive a passing vote on the exam from at least four committee members before admission to Ph.D. candidacy.

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