Top 10 Marine Biology Schools

Marine biology research is constantly making new discoveries that help us better understand life in the sea.

Marine biology is the study of organisms in oceans and other bodies of water. It is an important field of research especially when you take into consideration that roughly 71 percent of the planet is covered by water and an incredible variety and volume of life live in ocean environments. As such, continued research into marine biology and related areas is vital because many humans rely on certain ocean species, such as fish, for food, medicine, and raw materials.

For those looking to pursue a career in the study of ocean life, here is a list of 10 schools that offer some of the best marine biology programs in the world.

Harvard University

At Harvard University, the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology offers a number of courses related to the biology of marine systems. Courses include:

OEB 51. Biology and Evolution of Invertebrate Animals

OEB 118. Biological Oceanography

OEB 123. Biology of Symbiosis

OEB 130. Patterns and Processes in Fish Diversity

OEB 157. Global Change Biology

OEB 191. Physiological and Biochemical Adaptations

OEB 221. Microbial Diversity

OEB 227. Molecular Approaches to Environmental Microbiology

OEB 234. Topics in Marine Biology

OEB 255. Nature and Regulation of Marine Ecosystems

OEB 278. Topics in Microbial Metabolic Systems

SCIENCE B-53. Marine Biology

The department is also currently conducting research into the roles of seasonal and inter-annual variability in climate on the productivity of the sea, the reproductive biology and dispersal of benthic organisms (organisms at the lowest ecological level in a body of water), and the impacts of invasive and introduced species.

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Cornell University

Cornell University offers a comprehensive list of undergraduate courses in marine science. Students who specialize in marine biology have the opportunity to spend a great deal of time at the Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island in Maine. There, they can take classes, conduct independent research projects and even complete a paid internship.

University of Miami

Since 1949, when the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) introduced a master’s program, marine science has been an integral part of the academic curriculum at the University of Miami. RSMAS is now one of the largest oceanographic foundations in the United States. The institute boasts more than 100 scientists who partake in academic training and conduct sponsored research projects.

Taking advantage of the university’s subtropical location, students enrolled in the Marine and Atmospheric Science program are given year-round access to unique marine environments including coral reef tracts, sea grass beds and deep ocean waters. Combine this with the supervision of some of the top scientists in the field and it’s no mystery why students wanting to get into marine biology flock to the University of Miami.

University of California – Santa Barbara

Composed of roughly 35 different faculty research groups all engaged in basic research, The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology (EEMB) at the University of California in Santa Barbara is firmly committed to high educational standards. Researchers at the EEMB are continually using their scientific knowledge to gain a better understanding of some the world’s most urgent environmental issues including global warming, biodiversity, pollution, and the impacts of environmental change. Each year, the graduate students and professors in the department educate over 1,500 students enrolled in any of the four specialized undergraduate majors offered by the University (Aquatic Biology, Ecology and Evolution, Physiology, and Zoology). The Aquatic/Marine Biology major, in particular, has received considerable recognition.

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University of California – Berkeley

At Berkeley, the Marine Science Program is offered, in part, through the departments of Earth and Planetary Science and Integrative Biology. The program is not only widely regarded as a solid foundation for graduate studies in marine biology, but also as training for technical positions in private consulting firms or federal agencies like NASA.

Current marine science research being conducted at Berkeley includes coastal erosion, coastal pollution and its effect on coastal marine ecosystems, the ocean’s role in climate phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña, and the role of the ocean in climate change.

Duke University

The marine labs at Duke University are devoted not only to the study of marine systems but also to the understanding of the human component so that proper approaches to marine conservation can be developed.

The University offers a Master’s Program in Coastal Environmental Management and a PhD Program in Marine Science and Conservation. Duke is also home to some of the most advanced marine labs in the world and has courses that are specially structured so that students are often exposed to marine environments that are located in other parts of the world.

Boston University

The Boston University Marine Program (BUMP) was founded in 1969 and has maintained a focus primarily on the field of marine biology. Since 2008, however, BUMP has become an interdisciplinary program the concentrates more on the relationships between marine biology, physical oceanography, biogeochemistry, and marine geology in coastal environments.

In addition to field experiences and coursework, students in BUMP are subjected to a hands-on, research-oriented curriculum in marine science presented by a diverse faculty of talented educators.

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University of Washington

Students getting into marine biology at the University of Washington have the option of pursuing a major in popular areas like Biology, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, and Oceanography.

All of the marine biology coursework at the University of Washington involves hands-on learning and there is even a Marine Biology Community that organizes special courses and events that further the exploration of marine environments.

Texas A & M

The Marine Biology Department at Texas A & M gives faculty and students access to a multitude of fascinating and environmentally-sensitive marine ecosystems. There are five main areas of focus in the Department: fisheries, marine mammals, oceans and human health (aquatic health), wetlands and biodiversity. Through extensive field work, students receive productive training in the conservation and management of specific ecosystems.

Marine Biology graduates from Texas A & M often find employment with environmental consulting firms, private industries, federal agencies and biomedical laboratories.

College of Charleston

The College of Charleston offers one of the most wide-ranging master’s degree programs in marine biology. While the program may not offer a lot in the way of specialization, it is all-encompassing, and emphasizes a large variety of topics including cell biology, physiology, population biology, ecology, toxicology, and marine genomics. The school also provides fellowships and teaching assistant positions to help support graduate students.

In order to complete the master’s program, students at Charleston will need to spend a minimum of 30 hours in the field, pass a comprehensive exam and complete a thesis presentation and defense.