Marine Science

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Marine Science is a well-rounded and multi-disciplinary program which has been carefully designed to take full advantage of the unique variety of marine environments available for study around the island of Hawaiʻi. Introductory lecture and laboratory courses in general oceanography and marine biology are followed by intermediate-level courses in marine ecology and evolution, marine methods, and statistical applications in marine science. The most advanced level of the degree programs is composed of specialized courses in geological, chemical, physical, and biological oceanography and electives. The programs culminate in one of three capstone sequences: (a) Senior Thesis, a research sequence involving proposal writing, library research, field data collection, laboratory work, computer analysis of data, report writing, and oral presentation; (b) Senior Internship, a sequence providing students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in an agency or organization involved in marine science education or research; or (c) Senior Seminar, a sequence involving discussion, critique, and presentation of marine science-oriented seminars, and grant proposal writing.

Degree Requirements

See undergraduate education in the UH Hilo Catalog for a detailed listing of the:

Marine Science website

Visit the Marine Science website.

Mission Statement

The mission of the undergraduate degree program in marine science is to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the world’s oceans and an appreciation of the importance of marine ecosystems to the global environment and human life. This mission is accomplished through a combination of hands-on laboratory and field experience, inquiry-based instruction, and direct interactive learning and is supported by a broad background in the marine sciences, including basic knowledge of the natural science disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and mathematics.

Learning Goals for Students in the Major

The Marine Science Program trains students in the primary disciplines in Marine Science and offers a wide diversity of courses in numerous sub-disciplines. The two degree options (B.A. and B.S.) provide students with opportunities to fulfill personal goals.

  1. Content Goals provide students with a solid background in:
    • The primary sciences and mathematics, including proficiency in chemistry, physics, calculus, computer applications related to the natural sciences, and laboratory techniques;
    • Marine science, including proficiency in marine biology, introductory oceanography, marine ecology, chemical oceanography, and physical oceanography;
    • Advanced multidisciplinary undergraduate training in their choice of a variety of focal areas, including, but not limited to, geography, geology, biology, fisheries, and aquaculture.
  2. General Goals provide students with knowledge of and experience in:
    • The scientific method and critical thinking, including the ability to design and carry out an inquiry-based research or internship project, analyze primary scientific literature, write a scientific proposal, and write a research paper or compile a portfolio;
    • Scientific speech and discussion, including the ability to formally present a science project and discuss scientific issues.
  3. Technical Goals provide students with an understanding of and proficiency in:
    • Laboratory safety;
    • Oceanographic and marine biological laboratory methods and field techniques;
    • The use and application of bio-statistical and microcomputer techniques;
    • Experimental design, data analysis, and interpretation of results, particularly in the use and application of marine monitoring techniques.

Prospects for Graduates

A Marine Science degree from UH Hilo opens doors to a wide variety of jobs, careers, graduate schools, and post-graduate opportunities. Employment possibilities include positions as marine research technicians, with marine-oriented government agencies and non-profit organizations, in eco-tourism, as science teachers in public and private schools, and in the practice of environmental law. UH Hilo graduates are well prepared to continue to graduate schools in Hawaiʻi, on the mainland, and overseas in pursuit of higher degrees and careers in academia and research. Medical, dental, and veterinary schools are also post-graduate options for UH Hilo Marine Science graduates.

Special Aspects of the Marine Science Program

The Kalākaua Marine Education Center (KMEC) (, in coordination with the Marine Science Department, supervises the activities of diverse marine programs at UH Hilo including the Marine Science Summer Program, the QUEST field training course, and the UH Hilo Marine Option Program. KMEC’s programs fully utilize the Island of Hawaiʻi’s variety of marine environments, ranging from deep ocean to coral reef to estuarine, and emphasize a hands-on approach to education. KMEC operates the R/V Four Winds, a 53-foot research/education power catamaran. The Four Winds is used to support marine science courses and student research and is capable of carrying more than 30 students and deploying a CTD, current meters, drogues, sediment coring apparatuses, and plankton nets. An 18-foot Larson motorboat is used as a nearshore research vessel, and two Zodiac inflatables support scuba diving operations. KMEC maintains an inventory of scuba equipment for research diver training and in situ research projects. Underwater video systems and an editing station are available for use by students doing Marine Option Program skill projects or senior thesis research. In addition, an in-house computer graphics facility allows students to prepare state-of-the-art presentations on their research projects. Scanning and research microscopes also are available to students in the Marine Science degree program.

The Marine Option Program (MOP) ( is a certificate program available to all undergraduate students at the University of Hawaiʻi, regardless of major. The program has branches on campuses throughout the UH system. The MOP certificate is earned by completing selected course work and completing a hands on project or internship, thus combining academic requirements with practical experience in an area of marine interest of the student’s choice. Each year MOP sponsors a Student Skill Project Symposium where selected students gain valuable experience by presenting the results of their projects. The site for the symposium rotates among UH campuses. UH Hilo MOP also coordinates QUEST (Quantitative Underwater Ecological Surveying Techniques), the annual UH system-wide scuba research techniques course.

MOP also serves as the UH Hilo center for marine-related activities ranging from scientific research to marine recreation. UH Hilo MOP offers students experience in a variety of recreational skills, including sailing and seamanship, fishing, snorkeling, and kayaking. Each year MOP students participate in tagging Green Sea Turtles in an on-going research program carried out in cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service. MOP also sponsors seminars, films, field trips, and short courses on various marine-related subjects. All UH Hilo students are invited to take part in MOP-sponsored activities.

Marine Science Summer Program ( has received the Excellence of Program Award from the Western Association of Summer Session Administrators, which represents some 80 colleges and universities in the western United States, Canada, and Mexico. Course offerings vary yearly, but always include introductory level courses in oceanography and marine biology, and a Hawaiʻi marine field experience course. Other offerings may include courses on marine mammals, marine reptiles, coral reef ecology, small boat handling, advanced oceanography laboratory skills, and marine monitoring techniques. Summer courses in marine science combine classroom instruction with hands-on experience in the field and lab, and a primary goal of the program is to provide students with extensive personal attention

QUEST ( stands for Quantitative Underwater Ecological Surveying Techniques, which is a special summer course taught in May each year. QUEST is designed to train undergraduates in underwater ecological surveying methodologies, including the design, implementation and analysis of a research project, and incorporates instruction in the identification of the common seaweeds, corals, invertebrates, and fishes of Hawaiian reefs. This unique two-week course involves classroom instruction coupled with extensive practical instruction surveying coral reefs off the west coast of Hawaiʻi using SCUBA.

Marine Science Faculty and Staff