Ocean Sciences

A312 Earth and Marine Sciences Building
(831) 459-4730

Programs Offered

Ocean Sciences M.S. Plan 1 and Plan 2

Ocean Sciences Ph.D.

Other Programs of Interest

Environmental Sciences B.S.

Ecology and Evolution B.S.

Marine Biology B.S.

Earth Sciences B.S.

The Ocean Sciences Department includes faculty, students, and staff involved in oceanography and other marine sciences and offers undergraduate and graduate courses in these disciplines. Through faculty sponsors, students have access to a wide variety of research facilities and equipment, including on-campus analytical chemistry, geology, and molecular biology laboratories for marine research; computing and imaging facilities; an onshore marine laboratory two miles from campus (Long Marine Laboratory), with aquariums and holding tanks that are supplied with running sea water; and a unique field station on Año Nuevo Island Reserve (19 miles north of Santa Cruz), especially suited for studies on pinnipeds and marine birds. The department supports collaborative studies utilizing the innovative technologies of the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), the Naval Postgraduate School, Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, California State University (CSU) Moss Landing Laboratory, and other facilities. Students may also work at other University of California facilities, including the Bodega Marine Laboratories and Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

In addition to research and instructional activities along the California coast, interests of the core faculty and their students include biological, chemical, and physical oceanography; sediment, marine, organic, and trace metal biogeochemistry; marine plankton, phytoplankton ecology, paleoceanography, aquatic microbial ecology, ecological modeling, and remote sensing (satellite oceanography); numeric modeling of coastal and basin-scale dynamics;  top predator ecology, and impacts of climate change and disturbance; and midwater ecology, climatology, among others.

Ocean Sciences Department affiliated faculty in other departments represent a deep resource of research interests and methodologies including those pertaining to coral reef and kelp forest ecology, plate tectonics and continental margins, marine mammal behavior and physiology, and natural products from marine organisms. Student research projects have included participation in major scientific expeditions to various marine environments ranging from Polar Regions to the tropics.

Undergraduate Program

While offering a range of undergraduate courses, the Ocean Sciences Department presently only confers graduate degrees (Master of Science—M.S. or Doctor of Philosophy—Ph.D.) However, the undergraduate major in environmental science includes required and elective courses in ocean sciences. In addition, the undergraduate major in marine biology, sponsored by the Biological Sciences departments, includes required and elective courses in ocean sciences, and includes an ocean sciences concentration in Earth sciences for undergraduates. Students interested in ocean sciences should major in a discipline such as biology, marine biology, chemistry, Earth sciences, physics, or mathematics and take ocean sciences-related electives. Students with a bachelor's degree in one of these disciplines or equivalent coursework may apply directly for admission to the graduate program through the Division of Graduate Studies.

Graduate Program

Our graduate education mission is to train the next generation of talented and diverse ocean scientists. Through core training in oceanography and focused advanced training in biology, chemistry, Earth sciences, physics, and data science we prepare students to tackle the pressing issues facing society today. Ocean sciences is a highly interdisciplinary field that requires diversity in thinking and experience. We welcome and provide support for students with diverse backgrounds such as URM, LGBTQIA+, and first-generation college students. From faculty training to peer mentoring and other programmatic elements we are dedicated to fostering the success of all students in our program.

The Ocean Sciences Department offers both master of science and doctorate degree programs. The graduate programs in ocean sciences are designed to prepare students for careers in research, teaching, and other environmentally related endeavors. The graduate programs encourage collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches, and are designed to support and promote diversity, equity and inclusion. There are professional development events and opportunities such as an annual career panel, several designated emphasis degrees that can be combined with the ocean sciences graduate degrees, and training in innovative and inclusive teaching. There is an advising structure that provides support from a main advisor, thesis committee members, an advisory committee, and peers. A student-run group, Communicating Oceanographic Research Effectively (CORE), offers community building activities. 

The fundamental requirement for admission to the program is substantial evidence of superior scholarship and aptitude for original research. Preparation for admission to the graduate program in ocean sciences should comprise an undergraduate degree in the discipline of one of the program specialty areas (e.g., biology or marine biology, geology or earth sciences, chemistry, or physical science) or an equivalent background. If a student does not have a degree in one of these areas, the student must demonstrate that they have taken the classes necessary to do their research.

The prerequisites for entering either the master's or the Ph.D. programs are a minimum of two quarters or two semesters in each of the following: a calculus series; chemistry, biology, and physics. In addition, one course in each of the following is required: earth sciences or geological principles; and statistics or biostatistics.

Details regarding admission, graduate standing, financial aid, examinations, and the requirements for the master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees are available from the Division of Graduate Studies.