Ocean Sciences

2013-14 General Catalog

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

Faculty | Course Descriptions

Program Description

The Ocean Sciences Department includes faculty and students involved in oceanography and other marine sciences and sponsors 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 (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, the Naval Postgraduate School, Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, California State University (CSU) Moss Landing Laboratory, and others. 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; plus 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; and midwater ecology, climatology, and many more.

Ocean sciences 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 Programs

Although offering a range of undergraduate courses, the Ocean Sciences Department presently offers only graduate degrees. The undergraduate major in marine biology, sponsored by the Biological Sciences Departments, includes required and elective courses in ocean sciences; and there is 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 Programs

The graduate programs in ocean sciences are designed to prepare students for careers in research, teaching, and other environmentally related endeavors. 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 (master of science (M.S.) or doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.)) 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 show their sponsor that they have taken the classes necessary to do their research. This preparation includes certain courses or prerequisites).

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

Ocean Sciences Ph.D. Degree Program

The program leading to a doctorate in ocean sciences is designed with a core training in oceanography for all students, supplemented and focused by advanced training in oceanography and in the traditional disciplines (biology, chemistry, Earth sciences, and physics) as chosen by the student and her or his advisers. The core training is provided through core courses in ocean sciences; a subset of which is taken by all students in the first two years and reinforced by the student's seminars throughout the program. In addition to core courses in ocean sciences, preparation includes upper-division/graduate courses in ocean sciences and in the specialty discipline, graduate seminars, independent research credits, participation in departmental student seminar series, and a minimum requirement of two quarters as a teaching assistant. There is no formal language requirement.

The results of a scheduling meeting in the first quarter of enrollment are used to map out the course program in the first year. The course program is determined by a faculty advisory committee in consultation with the student; and courses are drawn from ocean sciences and other science departments (e.g., biology, chemistry, Earth sciences, physics). No later than fall quarter of their second year, students must take a departmental oral examination that tests knowledge of ocean sciences and general expertise in their parent discipline. An oral and a written qualifying examination are required, generally in the second or third year of graduate study. A dissertation based on original research is required, and the final examination is a public oral defense of the dissertation. Students are encouraged to prepare their dissertation, or certain chapters of it, in a form suitable for publication.

Sample Pathways

The pathways within the ocean sciences Ph.D. program are differentiated from related degrees in the traditional disciplines by their focus on global-scale problems and interactions, a focus on the ocean, and their inherently interdisciplinary approach. Interdisciplinary projects across and between pathways are encouraged, as are interactions with faculty in related departments.

  • Biological oceanography

This area involves the interactions of organisms with their chemical and physical environments. It includes research on the physiology and ecology of organisms, but differs from marine biology in the focus on the oceanographic setting of the organism in relationship to, for example, biogeochemical cycling and the effects of ocean currents on distributions of organisms. The focus is mainly on small oceanic life-forms (plankton and bacteria, molecular ecology) and their roles in the biogeochemical cycles of marine systems.

  • Chemical oceanography

Chemical interactions of trace metals and radionuclides in the sea are the focus of this group. Research includes development of analytical techniques and measurement of trace species in seawater and investigation of the effects and interactions of trace elements on biological processes using analytical and isotopic approaches.

  • Geological oceanography

Paleoceanography, paleoclimatology, and sediment geochemistry are the focus in this pathway. Research areas include the history of global geochemical cycles and composition of the ocean on various timescales, the fate and diagenesis of materials in sediments and their contribution to the paleoceanographic record, understanding ocean and climate history by the use of records of stable isotopes and trace elements, and paleoclimate modeling.

  • Physical oceanography

The physics and dynamics of the ocean and atmosphere are the main aspects of this program. Research includes observational, computational, theoretical, and experimental physical oceanography, geophysical fluid dynamics, ocean acoustics, dynamical meteorology, climate, and global change.

Requirements for Ph.D. Students in the Ocean Sciences Department

To introduce students to the breadth and depth of the field of ocean sciences, students will be required to complete the following.

  1. Four core courses. These courses are expected to be completed in the first year of the program (and prior to taking the departmental examination) in the sequence listed below:

  2. fall

    OCEA 200, Physical Oceanography
    OCEA 280, Marine Geology


    OCEA 220, Chemical Oceanography


    OCEA 230, Biological Oceanography

    A minimum of three graduate-level or upper-division elective courses to provide depth in the chosen area of emphasis or supporting disciplines. These courses are chosen in consultation with the student's adviser and department graduate advising committee (a maximum of one course can be a graduate-level seminar (OCEA 290); at least two courses must be graduate or upper-division undergraduate lecture courses).

  3. OCEA 296, Teaching in Ocean Sciences, to be taken prior to or concurrent with being a teaching assistant.

  4. Teaching experience satisfied by two quarters of teaching assistant experience in Ocean Sciences or supporting departments.

  5. OCEA 293, a 2-credit Graduate Research Seminar, required to be taken yearly by all Ph.D. students.

  6. OCEA 292, attendance at the Ocean Sciences Seminar series each quarter of enrollment.

  7. A minimum of three courses in Thesis Research (course 299) under direction of a sponsor. Each quarter in residence a student should take 15 credits of classes; students beyond their first year will usually take 10 or 15 credits of Thesis Research each quarter.

  8. Comprehensive departmental examination. This oral examination, covering material from the core courses, is usually taken at the beginning of a student's second year in the program. This examination must be completed successfully within two years of entering the program.

  9. Pass the qualifying examination to advance to candidacy. This examination requires a written research proposal to be defended orally in front of the student's dissertation committee and is normally taken at the beginning of the third year of the program. This examination is expected to be completed successfully within three years of entering the program.

  10. Ph.D. dissertation. The Ph.D. dissertation, demonstrating original thought and research, must be written, presented in an open seminar, and defended to the student's thesis committee. Chapters of the dissertation may be written in publication format, but must conform to university publication guidelines for submission.

Ocean Sciences Master's Degree Program

The Ocean Sciences Department offers a master of science (M.S.) degree in ocean sciences. The degree combines core courses and electives to provide depth and breadth in ocean sciences, with a focused thesis to provide experience in original research. Graduates from the program are excellently prepared to take research or management positions in organizations concerned with the marine environment, become educators, or enter doctoral programs in ocean sciences or related fields.

Whereas the doctoral program has an oceanographic orientation, the marine sciences master's program is even broader and has traditionally attracted many students in marine biology and ecology. As with the doctoral program, students are encouraged to select a course of study and a research program that draws on the expertise of the core ocean sciences faculty and any of the affiliated faculty in other departments. Customized programs of study that combine related disciplines are supported in the master's program.

Course Requirements for the Ocean Sciences Master's Degree

To introduce students to the breadth and depth of the field of ocean sciences, students will be required to complete the following:

  1. Complete three of the four core courses (one of which must be course 200, Physical Oceanography). Students are expected to complete all three of these courses in the first year of the program, and they should be taken in the order listed below. All four core courses are recommended. If taken, the fourth course counts as an elective.

  2. fall

    OCEA 200, Physical Oceanography
    OCEA 280, Marine Geology


    OCEA 220, Chemical Oceanography


    OCEA 230, Biological Oceanography

  3. A minimum of three graduate-level or upper-division elective courses to provide depth in the chosen area of emphasis. These courses are chosen in consultation with an adviser and department graduate advising committee (only one of these can be a graduate seminar (OCEA 290); at least two must be lecture courses).

  4. A minimum of three courses in Thesis Research (OCEA 299) under direction of a sponsor. Each quarter a student should take 15 credits of classes. Students beyond their first year will usually take 10 or 15 credits of Thesis Research each quarter.

  5. OCEA 296, Teaching in Ocean Sciences, to be taken prior to or concurrent with being a teaching assistant

  6. Teaching experience satisfied by one quarter of teaching assistant experience

  7. Attendance at the Ocean Sciences Seminar series (OCEA 292) each quarter of enrollment

  8. Complete a master's thesis, and present it at an open seminar.

Details regarding admission to 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 (http://graddiv.ucsc.edu/student_affairs/).

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Revised: 09/01/13