Graduate Study

Preparatory Studies

A rigorous, broad-based background in basic sciences and modern biology is required of incoming students. Preparation should include mathematics through calculus, a year of statistics, physics, and chemistry (including organic and biochemistry), as well as a strong background in biology. 

Typical Course of Study

All students in the School of Marine Science begin with the core curriculum in Marine Sciences (MS 501, 503, and 504 or equivalent); students in Biological Sciences are also required to include MS 526. Upper-level lecture and seminar courses related to the student's area of specialization are selected in consultation with the student's advisor and committee. Practical courses offering training in computer applications and specialized skills are also available. A weekly departmental seminar during the academic year brings together faculty, students, and staff for updates on current research and informal interaction.


526. Principles of Biological Oceanography. Spring, every year (4). Mr. Johnson.  Lecture and discussion of the fundamental processes underlying primary and secondary production in marine ecosystems. Examples are drawn primarily from offshore systems. Emphasis on physical processes supporting primary production, plankton dynamics, biotic interactions structuring communities, vertical and horizontal distributions, foodweb structure, ecological role of higher and lower trophic levels, and benthic-pelagic coupling. The course concludes with a survey of the major oceanic ecosystems. [top]

572. Estuarine Benthic Processes. Fall, odd years (3) Ms. Schaffner.  This course examines current concepts in estuarine benthic processes, especially the majors factors governing productivity and biodiversity. It is organized around the theme of major habitats from the upper to lower estuary and open bay, and the coastal bay mouth region. Lectures and readings will draw on examples from the Chesapeake Bay and other estuarine systems. The format consists of lectures and discussions of the primary literature. [top]

573. Environmental Microbiology. Fall, even years (3) Ms. Anderson. The study of microorganisms and their activities in natural environments.  Specific topics include water-borne pathogens; microbial processes in wastewaters; aquaculture, created marshes, subsurface groundwater and sediments; and methodologies for detecting microorganisms and measuring processes in a variety of environments.  Attention will be focused on interactions and transformations of microbial communities and pollutants (organic and inorganic) and will include discussion of biodegradation and bioremediation processes, biological nutrient reduction, and public health microbiology.  [top]

575. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. Fall, odd years (3) Ms. AndersonMr. Song. Recommended: Organic chemistry or biochemistry.  An introduction to the role that microorganisms play in the biogeochemical cycling and production of dissolved and particulate inorganic and organic matter in freshwater and marine ecosystems. The approach will be ecological, relating environmental physiochemical properties to regulation of microbial processes, distributions, and biodiversity. Topics will include state of the art methods for detecting distributions, biomass, and activities of microorganisms in the natural environment, the energenics regulating microbial processes, microbial biochemical pathways, biodegradation, microbial interactions, and the role that microorganisms play in the foodwebs of various ecosystems. Although emphasis will be placed on marine systems, also discussed will be processes in lacustrine, riverine, and groundwater ecosystems. Readings will draw heavily on the primary literature. [top]

651. Ecological Modeling and Simulation Analysis. Fall (3) Mr. Brush.  Prerequisite: [[brush,Instructor's Consent]]. Theoretical and practical aspects of conceptualizing, simulating and analyzing digital computer models of estuarine and marine ecosystems. Systems theory and control is presented in terms of ecological processes. Computer modeling project required. [top]

652. Marine Plankton Ecology. Fall, odd years (3) Ms. Steinberg.  Prerequisite: MS 524 or MS 526. Contemporary topics in cellular, population, community and ecosystem level dynamics of plankton systems, including nutrients and organic matter, viruses, bacteria, phytoplankton, protists and zooplankton.  Lectures and student-led discussions. [top]

655. Methods in Aquatic Microbial Ecology. Spring, odd years (3) Ms. Anderson.  Prerequisite: MS 575 or equivalent. An advanced laboratory-oriented course covering methods used to measure microbial numbers and biomass, activity, primary production, secondary production, community metabolism, specific biogeochemical cycling, and degradation of pollutants. Methods include gas chromatography, emission spectrometry, epifluorescence microscopy, and application of stable and radioactive isotopes. Each student will design, prepare and perform a field-project utilizing methods described in the course. [top

656. Seagrass Ecosystems. Spring, odd years (1-2) Mr. Orth.  A lecture-seminar course covering topics related to seagrass ecosystems. Emphasis on the structure and function of seagrass communities, submerged angiosperm physiology, primary and secondary production, and integration of seagrass communities to the marine environment. Students will be assigned projects to complete. Credit, which must be arranged in advance of registration, will depend on difficulty of the assignments. [top]

659. Phytoplankton Ecology. Fall, odd years (3) Mr. Smith.  Prerequisite: MS 501 (may be taken concurrently with [[wos, instructor's consent]].)  This course will examine the factors that influence the growth, losses, and distributions of phytoplankton in marine systems. Topics include photosynthesis, pigmentation, productivity, biochemical fractionation, grazing, and nutrient uptake and interactions. A laboratory will introduce students to modern methods used in the study of phytoplankton such as isotopic measurements, HPLC analysis of pigments, fluorometry, and image analysis. Samples from the local estuaries will be used in the laboratories to illustrate the principles discussed in class. [top]

660. Zooplankton Ecology. Spring (4) Ms. Steinberg. This course will examine the ecology, natural history, basic cell or body-design features, physiology, and life histories of all the major groups of zooplankton. Food webs, specialized habitats, physical-biological coupling, and behavior are also discussed. Laboratories will concentrate on the groups or topics that are being discussed that week in lecture. The laboratories will be devoted to studying freshly collected (live local net tows), laboratory cultured, and occasionally museum specimens of the various taxa, and to introducing students to methods of study of zooplankton ecology (microscopy, biomass measurements, grazing experiments). There will also be field trips (e.g., a nocturnal plankton tow to catch vertical migrators). [top]

697. Biological Sciences Seminar. Spring (1) Staff.  The weekly seminar meeting will focus on research themes of active interest in the SMS/VIMS Department of Biological Sciences. Each student will make one presentation on her/his research area during the semester and will participate in discussion of presentations by other students. [top

698. Advanced Ecosystem Modeling. TBA (3)  Mr. Brush.  Prerequisite: MS 651 or [[brush,instructor permission]]. Students will complete and report on an ecological modeling project. Advanced topics such as model certainty/uncertainty, sensitivity analysis and stochastic processes modeling will be presented and discussed. [top]

698. Aquatic Microbiology. TBA (2) Ms. Anderson.  A review of the role of bacteria in processing dissolved inorganic and organic carbon and nitrogen in aquatic systems. Topics covered will include bacterial diversity and community structure, trophodynamics, growth efficiency, remineralization/immobilization, and application of state of the art methodologies. [top]

698. Polar Oceanography. TBA (1)  Mr. Smith. Students will be introduced to recent papers and concepts concerning the physics, chemistry, biology, and geology of the Arctic and Antarctic. Particular emphasis will be placed on the oceanography and biogeochemistry of these systems and their influence on (and influences by) the rest of the world's oceans. [top]

698. Readings in Aquatic Photosynthesis. TBA (1)  Mr. Smith. Class discussion of classic and recent papers on aquatic photosynthesis. [top]

698. Upwelling Systems. TBA (1)  Mr. Smith.  This seminar will address the physical, chemical and geological features of upwelling systems by use of an analysis of recent literature. Current topics dealing with upwelling regions—air-sea interactions, teleconnections over ocean basins, biogeochemical impacts feed-backs, impacts on human health and social structures—will be discussed. Emphasis will be placed on recent studies of upwelling systems such as the equatorial Pacific and the Arabian Sea. Graded Pass/Fail. [top]