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Undergraduate: Marine Sciences

  • Program Overview

    Marine Sciences (MAR)

    Marine Sciences is a highly interdisciplinary field requiring an understanding and application of basic science, including biology, physics, and chemistry. In particular, the Marine Sciences major provides students with a solid background in basic biology as well as in the physics and chemistry of the ocean. Upper-division electives permit each student to gain a deeper understanding of particular groups of organisms (microorganisms, algae, marine invertebrates, fish, and marine mammals) and of habitats (salt marshes, rocky inter­tidal, barrier islands, dunes, estuaries, and the open ocean).

    Students are encouraged to participate in research and internships. Opportuni­ties for experiential learning are available through field and laboratory courses taught at or near the Stony Brook campus and from a field station at the Stony Brook Southampton campus.

    Most students who wish to have a career in research related to the marine environment will need to plan for graduate study. Career possibilities include research, education, or employment in government agencies or non-profit organizations.

    The Marine Sciences major is administered by the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, one of the leading oceanographic and atmospheric institutions in the nation.

    The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) is Stony Brook University's center for education, research, and public service in the ocean, atmospheric, and environmental sciences. Housed within the SoMAS are the Marine Sciences Research Center (MSRC) and the Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres (ITPA).  MSRC is the only state-designated center for marine research, education, and public outreach within the State University of New York system. The SoMAS is one of the nation's leading coastal oceanographic and atmospheric institutions, and the expertise of the SoMAS faculty places SBU at the forefront of addressing and answering questions about regional environmental problems, as well as problems relating to the global ocean and atmosphere. The primary focus of the SoMAS faculty is on fundamental research designed to increase understanding of the processes that characterize the coastal ocean and the atmosphere. The SoMAS is also committed to applying the results of research to solve problems arising from society's uses and misuses of the environment. The SoMAS includes mission-oriented institutes in several major areas: the Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres, the Living Marine Resou­rces Institute, the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science, the Long Island Ground­water Resource Institute, and the Waste Reduction and Management Institute. These institutes and many research projects add a wealth of varied resources to education and research at Stony Brook.

    The SoMAS offers undergraduate majors in atmospheric and oceanic sciences, environmental studies, marine sciences, and marine vertebrate biology, and minors in environmental studies and marine sciences. See the separate entries for atmospheric and oceanic sciences (ATM), environmental studies (ENS), and marine vertebrate biology (MVB) in the alphabetical listings of Approved Majors, Minors, and Programs. The SoMAS also offers several cooperative programs in both marine and environmental sciences with departments in the College of Arts and Sciences (Chemistry, Geosciences) and the College of Engine­ering and Applied Sciences (Chemical and Molecular Engineering).

    Students should contact the director of undergraduate studies to design and approve an acceptable course of study before decaring the major.

    Students may learn more about the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences by visiting

    Research opportunities in marine sciences, atmospheric sciences, and waste manage­ment are available to undergraduates. Information on research opportunities may be found by contacting faculty directly or on the SoMAS Web site at

  • Degrees and Requirements

    Requirements for the Major and Minor in Marine Sciences (MAR)

    Requirements for the Major in Marine Sciences (MAR)

    The major in Marine Sciences leads to a Bachelor of Sciences degree. Completion of the major requires between 69 and 72 credits. Of these, no more than one course (4 credits) with a grade lower than C can be credited to the major.

    1. Foundation Courses (41-43 credits)

    • BIO 201 Organisms to Ecosystems
    • BIO 202 Molecular and Cellular Biology
    • BIO 203 Cellular and Organ Physiology
    • BIO 204 Fundamentals of Scientific Inquiry in the Biological Sciences I
    • BIO 205 Fundamentals of Scientific Inquiry in the Biological Sciences IIA (see Note 3) 
    • CHE 131/CHE 133, CHE 132/CHE 134 General Chemistry and Lab (see Note 4 and Note 6)
    • CHE 321 Organic Chemistry (see Note 5 and Note 6)
    • MAT 125 (or MAT 130/MAT 125), MAT 126 Calculus (see Note 2). If students do not place into MAT 125 or 131 on the basis of the math placement examination, MAT 123 (or MAT 119/MAT 123) is a required course for the major.
    • ENS 119/PHY 119 Physics for Environmental Studies or PHY 121 Physics for Life Sciences with lab (see Note 2)
    • AMS 102 or AMS 110 Statistics

    2. Oceanography Core (13 credits)

    • MAR 349 Biological Oceanography
    • MAR 352 Introduction to Physical Oceanography
    • MAR 351 Introduction to Ocean Chemistry
    • MAR 305 Experimental Marine Biology

    3. Marine Biology (15-17 credits)

    Five marine biology electives from below:

    • BIO 343 Invertebrate Zoology
    • BIO 353 Marine Ecology
    • MAR 301 Environmental Microbiology or MAR 302 Marine Microbial Ecology
    • MAR 303 Long Island Marine Habitats
    • MAR 304 Waves, Tides and Beaches
    • MAR 308 Environmental Instrument Analysis
    • MAR 315 Marine Conservation
    • MAR 320 Limnology
    • MAR 334  Remote Sensing of the Environment
    • MAR 336 Marine Pollution
    • MAR 356 Maritime Traditions of New England
    • MAR 366 Plankton Ecology
    • MAR 370 Marine Mammals
    • MAR 373 Apex Predators
    • MAR 375 Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rehabilitation
    • MAR 376 Sea Turtles
    • MAR 377 Sea Birds
    • MAR 380 Ichthyology
    • MAR 384 Diseases of Aquatic Organisms
    • MAR 385 Fisheries Biology
    • MAR 386 Ecosystem Science for Fisheries Management
    • MAR 388 Tropical Marine Ecology
    • MAR 394 Environmental Toxicology and Public Health
    • MAR 487 Research or MAR 488 Internship (maximum of three credits for the major)

    Other classes may be substituted with permission of undergraduate director

    4. Upper-Division Writing Requirement

    The advanced writing component of the major in ​MAR requires registration in the 0-credit  MAR 459  and approval of either a term paper or a laboratory report written for an advanced course in ​the appropriate major  at Stony Brook (including Readings and Research courses). Completion of MAR 459 (or BIO 459) with a grade of S will result in approval of the WRTD requirement. A list of preapproved courses can be found at 

    For MAR/MVB majors, successful completion of BIO 459 will also be accepted.
    Students who wish to use material from a participating course should obtain the necessary form and present it to the course director prior to submission of the material. The course director will grade the material and assign a grade for the appropriate section of MAR 459.

    Students should consult with the department advisor to ensure that their plan for completing the Upper Division Writing Requirement is consistent with university graduation requirements for General Education. Students completing the Stony Brook Curriculum (SBC) must complete a course that satisfies the "Write Effectively within One's Discipline" (WRTD) learning objective to graduate. The Upper Division Writing Requirement is consistent in most cases with the SBC learning outcomes for WRTD.

    1.  MAT 131, MAT 132 or MAT 141, MAT 142 or MAT 171 may be substituted for MAT 125, MAT 126
    2. The first semester of any calculus-based Physics with lab can be substituted, such as PHY 131/PHY 133 or PHY 141 or PHY 142.
    3. BIO 207 may be substituted for BIO 205.
    4. CHE 129/130 may be substituted for CHE 131. CHE 152 may be substituted for CHE 131+132. 
    5. CHE 331 may be substituted for CHE 321.
    6. CHE 152, 154, 331 may be substituted for CHE 131/132/133/134/321.

    Honors Program in Marine Sciences

    Graduation with departmental honors in Marine Sciences requires the following:
    1. Students are eligible to participate in the Honors Program if they have a 3.50 GPA in all courses for the major by the end of the junior year. Students should apply to the SoMAS undergraduate director for permission to participate.
    2. Students must prepare an honors thesis based on a research project written in the form of a paper for a scientific journal. A student interested in becoming a candidate for honors should submit an outline of the proposed thesis research project to the SoMAS undergraduate director as early as possible, but no later than the second week of classes in the last semester. The student will be given an oral examination in May on his or her research by his or her research supervisor and the undergraduate research committee. The awarding of honors requires the recommendation of this committee and recognizes superior performance in research and scholarly endeavors. The written thesis must be submitted before the end of the semester in which the student is graduating.
    3. If the student maintains a GPA of 3.5 in all courses in their major through senior year and receives a recommendation by the undergraduate research committee, he or she will receive departmental honors.

    Bachelor of Science Degree in Marine Science/Master of Science Degree in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

    Students interested in this program, intended to prepare students for professional employment or graduate school in the field of marine sciences, may apply for admission at the end of the junior year. Students in this combined B.S./M.S. program may complete both degrees in 10 semesters plus two summers (although the exact timing will depend on the student’s progress on the research thesis). Entry in the combined B.S./M.S. program is contingent upon a student identifying a thesis advisor, so students should seek out research experience in the laboratories of prospective advisor prior to the end of their junior year. During the fourth year, students take a mixture of undergraduate and graduate courses (6-12 credits). After the 8th semester (during the summer), students begin M.S. level research. During the fifth year, students complete the remaining graduate requirements for the M.S., likely needing  the following summer to complete the research project. The two to four 500-level MAR courses taken during the senior year may be counted toward required or elective requirements of the undergraduate Marine Science major. Please visit the SoMAS website for further information on the Marine Sciences programs.

    Requirements for the Minor in Marine Sciences (MAR)

    The minor in Marine Sciences is open to students who either wish to prepare themselves for future graduate education in marine sciences or who are preparing for a career in a marine-related field. The minor, which is interdisciplinary in nature, provides a foundation in marine aspects of biology, chemistry, geology, and physics for the undergraduate. Intended primarily for science majors, the minor assumes completion of basic courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, or geology. No more than three credits of courses taken under the Pass/No Credit option may be applied  toward the minor. Completion of the minor requires 18 credits.

    1. MAR 101 or MAR 104
    2. At least 15 credits from the following:

    • Upper-division MAR courses
    • BIO 343
    • BIO 353

    Note: No more than three credits each of MAR 487 and MAR 488 may be applied toward this requirement.

  • Sequence

    Sample Course Sequence for the Major in Marine Sciences

    For more information about SBC courses that fulfill major requirements, click here.  


    FALL Credits
    First Year Seminar 101 1
    WRT 101 3
    CHE 131 4
    CHE 133 1
    MAT 125 3
     Total 15
    SPRING Credits
    First Year Seminar 102 1
    WRT 102
    CHE 132 4
    CHE 134 1
    MAT 126 3
    SBC  3
     Total 15

    FALL Credits
    BIO 201 and BIO 204 5
    AMS 110 3
    CHE 321 4
    SBC 3
     Total 15
    SPRING Credits
    BIO 203 and BIO 205  5
    MAR elective 3
    SBC 3
    SBC  3
     Total 14

    FALL Credits
    BIO 202 3
    MAR 305 3
    ENS 119/PHY 119 4
    Upper-division SBC  3
    SBC  3
     Total 16
    SPRING Credits
    MAR or BIO elective 3
    MAR 349 4
    MAR elective 3
    Upper-division SBC 3
    SBC 3
     Total 16

    FALL Credits
    MAR elective
    MAR 351  3
    Upper-division SBC  3
    SBC  3
    MAR 458 0
    SBC  3
     Total 15
    SPRING Credits
    MAR elective 3
    MAR elective  3
    SBC   3 
    MAR 459 0
    Elective  3
    Upper-division SBC 3
     Total 15


  • Contact

    Marine Sciences (MAR)

    Major and Minor in Marine Sciences

    School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS)

    Director: David Black

    Undergraduate Advisor: Nancy Black

    Office: W0511 Melville Library

    Phone: (631) 632-9404











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