Nov 18, 2018  
2012-2013 Graduate Catalog 
2012-2013 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Marine Biology, MS

Program Description

The Marine Biology Program is designed for students with an interest in one or more of the subdisciplines of marine biology who wish to pursue careers in higher education, government, or private industry. This unique, interdisciplinary degree program (IDP) combines the strengths of various departments at three universities within the Texas A&M University System: Life Sciences at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Marine Biology and Marine Sciences at Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMU-G), and Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Oceanography and Biology at Texas A&M University (TAMU). Students can choose courses from any campus and form committees with any participating faculty. Advantages of the interdisciplinary degree format for Marine Biology students include a diverse, internationally recognized faculty with high scholarly productivity and extramural funding, as well as two campuses strategically located on the Gulf of Mexico. A student in the IDP receives his or her degree from both Texas A&M University and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

The Marine Biology program offers the Master of Science and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Marine Biology. A personalized graduate advisory committee guides each student through the conception, design, construction, and execution of marine biology-based inquiry.

 Student Learning Outcomes

As part of their progression through the Marine Biology Program, Master of Science students will:

  • Acquire a broad understanding of marine biology
  • Acquire enhanced knowledge of a specific marine biological field including relevant scientific literature related to their thesis or professional paper
  • Understand the scientific method and be able to design and conduct experiments or field studies.
  • Be able to accurately describe (orally and in writing) marine biological research
  • Develop a skill set such that they can secure employment in federal agencies, private companies, or non-governmental organizations where they can apply the skills and knowledge acquired during the program

Admission Requirements

Those seeking admission to the Marine Biology Program should apply online through the university Office of Research and Graduate Studies. In addition to the documents required by that office, applicants must submit an essay of no more than 1,000 words describing their educational and career goals, and interests as they relate to the faculty in the Marine Biology Program; a list of names of program faculty members contacted; three letters of recommendation from people familiar with their potential for graduate studies; transcripts of all previous undergraduate/graduate work; Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores that are not more than 5 years old; and a résumé. Additional requirements exist for international students, including TOEFL scores from ETS taken within the last two years for students from countries where English is not the native language, and a course by course foreign transcript evaluation through an approved service (refer to the Admission section of this catalog). All relevant supplemental materials (such as publications or other documents that include information about relevant experiences) that are submitted with the application will be considered. Send application documents to the Office of Research and Graduate Studies. A campus visit including personal interviews with prospective faculty mentors is highly recommended.

Completed applications must be received by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies by the specified priority deadlines:

  • Fall Semester - February 1
  • Spring Semester - June 1

Incomplete applications will not be considered. The applicant will be notified of acceptance or rejection by letter.

Teaching assistantships, graduate research assistantships, and fellowships may be available to admitted degree-seeking students who maintain full-time graduate student status (9 hours/fall and spring semester, and 3 hours/summer). The completed Teaching Assistant Application ( and all other materials requested for evaluation should be submitted to the office indicated on that form. For full consideration, the deadline for submitting applications is February 1 for the following academic year. A limited number of fellowships are available, and faculty members conducting funded research projects often hire qualified graduate students as Research Assistants. Students will need to contact faculty members in their field of interest for information on these opportunities.

Non-degree students may enroll in courses for which they have adequate academic preparation, but they may not apply more than nine credit hours of work taken in non-degree status to a graduate degree program. Non-degree students must consult with the Marine Biology Program Coordinator to determine those courses in which they may enroll and those courses they may later apply to a Marine Biology degree, should they be admitted into the program. Students must earn a grade of “B” or better in each of the prescribed courses in order to have the courses apply to the plan of study.

Academic Preparation

Students entering the Marine Biology Program are expected to have a strong background in biological and physical sciences, with competencies equivalent to those required of biology majors graduating from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (see the biology section of the undergraduate catalog). Students lacking adequate academic preparation in a particular subject area, but who are otherwise well-qualified to enter the graduate program, may be required to complete appropriate undergraduate course work in addition to that specified for the graduate degree. Such courses (4000-sequence or lower) are regarded as foundation or leveling work and do not count as credit towards the total required for completion of the graduate degree.

Advising and the Graduate Advisory Committee

After admission to the graduate program, the Marine Biology Program Coordinator will advise the student in all matters relating to degree requirements and procedures until a formal Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC) is formed. By the end of the first semester of graduate study, a student will select a GAC whose members should represent the student’s field of study. The GAC including the advisor(s)/Chair(s) consists of no fewer than three members. The Chair (or one Co-Chair) of the GAC must be a member of the Marine Biology graduate faculty at the student’s home campus. Recognized scholars who are not a members of the Marine Biology Participating Graduate Faculty may serve as committee members following nomination and approval by Marine Biology faculty and the Office of Research and Graduate Studies. Additional committee members may also be added as “Special Appointments” by submitting a letter of request from the advisor, through the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Marine Biology Program Coordinator. The GAC will advise the student in all matters pertaining to graduate requirements and procedures, and together with the student will develop a personalized Degree Plan (including foundation or leveling work). After the student’s GAC approves the degree plan, it will be submitted to Marine Biology Program Coordinator who will forward it to the Chair of the Department of Life Sciences and the Dean of the College of Science and Engineering for approval.

Enrollment Requirements

All students are required to maintain continuous registration until completion of all requirements for graduation unless a specific leave of absence is granted in writing by the department. Students funded through scholarships, fellowships and assistantships are required to maintain a minimum number of credit hours per semester. These requirements are detailed in the Graduate Catalog, but students holding assistantship/fellowships must be enrolled as a full-time student (9 hours/fall and spring semester, and 3 hours/summer). To meet enrollment requirements after completing all formal coursework on the degree plan, a student may register for MARB 5940 - Thesis Project Research .

Coursework and Research

The MS in Marine Biology is designed for graduate students who wish to become knowledgeable leaders and professionals with an in-depth education and specialized skills in the field. Students will develop a sense of creative independence that will allow them to practice in and contribute to a variety of professions and fields of scholarship. For MS students, the program offers a thesis and a non-thesis degree option (see below). Thesis students may change between the Thesis and Non-Thesis option at any time with the approval of the GAC. Specific option/degree requirements must be met. A student may request approval for transfer of a maximum of nine semester credit hours of graduate courses from other colleges to a MS in Marine Biology degree plan. Courses and research for the graduate degrees can be taken from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, TAMU, or TAMU-G with the approval of the student’s GAC. Students must demonstrate to the GAC that the selection of classes or research projects produces a coherent course of study focused on the student’s particular area of emphasis.

  1. Specialized and Elective Coursework
    Depending on the emphasis area, elective and specialized coursework selections may be chosen from biology, biomedical sciences, chemistry, coastal and marine system science, computer science, environmental science, geographic information science, geospatial surveying engineering, geology, fisheries and mariculture, mathematics, or other course offerings as stipulated and approved by the GAC. Classes or research projects designated as part of the specialized coursework requirement must receive the approval of a student’s GAC.
  2. Coursework Requirements and Limitations
    The program specifies the minimum number of semester credit hours (SCH) that must be earned from regular, graded (non-research, non-variable credit) coursework: for students in the MS non-thesis option, 33 of 36 total hours; for students in the MS thesis option, 23 of 32 total hours. A student earns SCH credit for MARB 6596 - Directed Independent Study , but may apply only 3 SCH toward the degree without prior approval of the student’s GAC and the Marine Biology Program Coordinator.

1. Non-Thesis Option

The non-thesis Master’s Degree is designed to provide a broad understanding of marine biology. The curriculum will especially benefit those individuals in professional employment who seek advancement or additional training to enhance their knowledge and skills. The student is required to write a professional paper based on research conducted in MARB 5397 - Directed Research . The paper will be on a topic approved by the student’s GAC and will demonstrate the student’s ability in organization, data collection, and scientific writing. To graduate under the non-thesis degree plan, a student must complete a minimum of 36 graduate semester credit hours. The student will complete:

Total: 36

2. Thesis Option

The thesis Master’s Degree requires a thesis based upon original research conducted during the period that the student is enrolled at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. The research must include a review of relevant literature, a description of the results from original research on a topic approved by the GAC, statistical analysis when appropriate, and an appropriate discussion of the results. To graduate under the thesis degree plan, a student must complete a minimum of 32 graduate semester credit hours. Three courses form the required research component of the degree for the MS (thesis): MARB 5392 - Thesis Proposal , MARB 5393 - Thesis Research , and MARB 5394 - Thesis Submission . Students must enroll in MARB 5394 - Thesis Submission  during their last semester when their theses will be completed. The student will complete:

Total: 32

Format and Style of Thesis or Professional Paper

The thesis or non-thesis professional paper must follow format requirements established in the Marine Biology Graduate Handbook and must be approved and signed by the members of the student’s GAC, the Chair of the Department of Life Sciences, the Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, and the Dean of Graduate Studies. Guidance can be found in the Marine Biology Student Handbook ( For more information, consult the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

Once the thesis/professional paper is completed and approved by the GAC, the results of the research must be presented orally and publicly. The final defense/oral examination usually takes place immediately following the seminar. Graduate students are encouraged to present their research at a scientific meeting (other than their graduate seminar) prior to graduation.

Upon approval by a student’s GAC, a copy of the thesis/professional paper will be sent to the Dean of Graduate Studies. At the time of successful completion of the final defense/oral examination, committee members will sign the thesis/professional paper and return it to the Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval and signature.

Final Oral Defense Examination

Each student must pass a final oral defense examination during the last semester before graduation. The student’s GAC administers this examination which covers topics related to: (1) all graduate coursework undertaken for the Marine Biology program, (2) the student’s specific research area, and (3) broad concepts of general and marine biology including familiarity with the literature. The student is responsible for scheduling the defense with the faculty involved. A student who fails the defense may repeat it once after an interval of four months or more. If a student fails the second defense, he or she will be terminated from the program. Both MS options require a final examination: students pursuing the thesis option may schedule the final examination after completion of all course work and after at least the first draft of the thesis has been submitted to their GAC for review; non-thesis students may schedule the final examination after completion of all course work.

For Additional Information


Campus address:

Science and Technology Building, Room 319; Phone (361) 825-2754

Mailing address:

Marine Biology Program, Unit 5800
College of Science and Engineering
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, Texas 78412-5800