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Undergraduate: Marine Vertebrate Biology

  • Program Overview

    Marine Vertebrate Biology (MVB)

    The Marine Vertebrate Biology major provides students with a solid background in basic biology with an emphasis on marine vertebrate organisms such as fish, sharks, birds, turtles and marine mammals. It provides a more intensive zoology background than the Marine Sciences degree.

    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 work in government agencies or non-profit organizations. The Marine Vertebrate Biology major is also good preparation for the Master of Arts in Teaching high school biology program or a pre-vet or pre-med program. A few additional courses are required for admission to the MAT program or for veterinary or medical school admission.

    The Marine Vertebrate Biology 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 also 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. The 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 sciences (MAR) 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).

    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

    All students should consult with the director of undergraduate studies to design and approve an acceptable course of study before declaring the major.

  • Degrees and Requirements

    Requirements for the Major in Marine Vertebrate Biology (MVB)

    The major in Marine Vertebrate Biology leads to a Bachelor of Science degree. Completion of the major requires approximately 68 credits. Of these no more than one course (4 credits) with a passing grade lower than C can be credited to the major.

    1. Foundation Courses (43-46 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 125/ MAT 130 ), MAT 126 Calculus (See Note 1). If students do not place into MAT 125 or MAT 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 and MAR 352 Intro­duction to Physical Oceanography, or PHY 121, PHY 122 Physics for Life Sciences and labs, or PHY 121, MAR 352 (see Note 2)
    • AMS 102 or AMS 110 Statistics or equivalent

    2. Zoology and Marine Vertebrate Core (13 credits)

    • BIO 344 Chordate Zoology or ANP 300 Human Anatomy or HAN 200 Human Anatomy and Physiology for Health Science I
    • BIO 354 Evolution or BIO 320 Genetics or BIO 321 Ecological Genetics

    Two of the following:

    • MAR 370 Marine Mammals
    • MAR 373 Apex Predators
    • MAR 376 Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles
    • MAR 377 Biology and Conservation of Seabirds  
    • MAR 380 Ichthyology

    3. Marine Biology (12-16 credits)

    • MAR 349 Biological Oceanography or MAR 303 Long Island Marine Habitats or MAR 388 Tropical Marine Ecology

    Three electives from below:

    • BIO 328 Mammalian Physiology
    • BIO 342 Invertebrate Zoology
    • BIO 351 Ecology
    • BIO 353 Marine Ecology
    • EBH 359 Behavioral Ecology
    • MAR 301 Environmental Microbiology or MAR 302 Marine Microbial Ecology
    • MAR 303 Long Island Marine Habitats*
    • MAR 305 Experimental Marine Biology
    • MAR 315 Marine Conservation
    • MAR 375 Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rehabilitation
    • 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 can be used for required elective)

    * These courses can be used as electives if not used as an alternative to MAR 349.

    Other classes may be substituted with permission of undergraduate director

    4. Upper-Division Writing Requirement

    The advanced writing component of the major in ​MVB requires registration in, and satisfactory completion of, the 0-credit  MAR 459 or SUS 459 (S/U grading) along with enrollment in an approved advanced course that entails writing of either a term paper or a laboratory report.  Completion of MAR 459 or SUS 459 with a grade of S will also result in fulfillment of the WRTD requirement.  A list of preapproved courses can be found at . Successful completion of BIO 459 will also be accepted for MVB majors.


    1. MAT 131, MAT 132 or MAT 141, MAT 142 or MAT 171 or AMS 151 , AMS 161 may be substituted for MAT 125, MAT 126
    2. PHY 125, PHY 126 /PHY 133 , PHY 127 /PHY 134 or PHY 131/PHY 133, PHY 132/PHY 134 or PHY 141 /PHY 133 , PHY 142 /PHY 134 may be substituted for the two-semester physics sequences listed above. MAR 352 may also be substituted for PHY 127 / PHY 134 or PHY 132 / PHY 134 or PHY 142 / PHY 134 .
    3. BIO 207 may be substituted for BIO 205 .
    4. CHE 129/ CHE 130 may be substituted for CHE 131. CHE 152 may be substituted for CHE 131+ CHE 132 .
    5. CHE 331 may be substituted for CHE 321.
    6. CHE 152, CHE 154 , CHE 331 may be substituted for CHE 131/ CHE 132 / CHE 133 / CHE 134 / CHE 321 .

    Bachelor of Science Degree in Marine Vertebrate Biology/Master of Science Degree in Marine Vertebrate Biology

    Students interested in this program, intended to prepare students for professional employment or graduate school in the field of marine vertebrate biology and marine science, 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 8 th 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.

    Honors Program in Marine Vertebrate Biology

    Graduation with departmental honors in Marine Vertebrate Biology 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.

  • Sequence

    Sample Course Sequence for the Major in Marine Vertebrate Biology

    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 3
    CHE 132 4
    CHE 134 1
    MAT 126 3
    SBC 3
     Total 15

    FALL Credits
    BIO 201 3
    BIO 204 2
    AMS 110 3
    CHE 321 4
    SBC 3
     Total 15
    SPRING Credits
    BIO 202 3
     BIO 205 2
    ENS/PHY 119 4
    SBC 3
    SBC 3
     Total 15

    FALL Credits
    BIO 203 3
    BIO 354 3
    MAR Biology Elective 3
    SBC  3
    Elective  3
     Total 15
    SPRING Credits
    MAR 349 4
    MAR Vertebrate Core Elective 3
    MAR Biology Elective 3
    SBC 3
    Elective 3
     Total 16

    FALL Credits
    MAR 352  3
    MAR Vertabrate Core Elective  3
    SBC  3
    Upper-division SBC  3
    Elective  3
     Total 15
    SPRING Credits
    BIO 344 4
    MAR Biology Elective  3
    SBC   3 
    Upper-division SBC  3
    Upper-division elective 3
     Total 16


  • Contact

    Marine Vertebrate Biology (MVB)

    Major in Marine Vertebrate Biology

    School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS)

    Director: Joseph Warren

    Undergraduate Advisor: Nancy Black

    Office: E2361 Melville Library

    Phone: (631) 632-9404






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