Marine Science

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College of Science and Engineering

Dean: Keith Bowman

Based at the Romberg Tiburon Center

Web Site:

Administered by the Department of Biology

Web Site:
Graduate Coordinator: Ellen M. Hines

The M.S. in Marine Science program is an interdisciplinary program offered at San Francisco State University (SF State) by the College of Science and Engineering, based at the Romberg Tiburon Center (RTC;, and administered by the Department of Biology. Faculty mentors in the program are from the Departments of Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Physics, Geography & Environment, and Earth & Climate Sciences

Program Scope

The interdisciplinary MS in Marine Science program includes faculty from a broad spectrum of marine, coastal and estuarine researchers from across SF State departments. The program provides the opportunity for students to acquire a practical and theoretical education in the marine sciences to prepare them for careers as research scientists, teachers, and marine technicians. Through RTC the program provides extensive field and laboratory work for advanced study in the marine sciences.

Master of Science in Marine Science

Admission to the Program

Prospective students from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Applications are administered by the Biology Department and must comply with the application procedures and deadlines of the Biology Department ( Note, the M.S. in Marine Science is distinct from the M.S. in Biology with a concentration in marine biology.

Coursework Requirements

Students are required to complete a total of 30 units*, structured as follows:

  • 9-10 units of research credits, comprised of:
    BIOL/CHEM/ERTH 897/GEOG 896Research6
    BIOL/CHEM/ERTH/GEOG 898Master's Thesis4
  • 20 units of coursework that must include:
    • 6-8 units of graduate seminar courses
    • 12-15 units of remaining coursework, as described below.

The 20 units of coursework are broken down below in the following categories I-V:

  1. Scientific Methods for Professional Aquatic Scientists BIOL 708, 3 units:
    Required in the first semester of graduate school.
  2. Students pick at least three of the following core seminars*:
    BIOL 862Advances in Ecology and Systematic Biology2
    BIOL 863Advances in Marine Biology2
    BIOL 864Advances in Microbiology2
    BIOL 865Advances in Physiology and Behavioral Biology2
    GEOG 857Issues in Marine and Estuarine Conservation3
    • Students who have completed these courses under their undergraduate courses can take other courses after advisor’s approval.
  3. Students can choose from a wide range of upper division or graduate-level courses in consultation with their advisor.  Options include the following, but other upper-division majors and graduate-level courses can be taken upon advisement.
    • Electives taught at RTC include:
      BIOL 582Biological Oceanography4
      CHEM 680Chemical Oceanography3
      ERTH 870Physical Oceanography4
      BIOL 534Wetland Ecology3-4
      or BIOL 585 Marine Ecology
      ERTH 834Coastal Processes3
      BIOL 731Animal Physiology Laboratory - GWAR4
      BIOL 702Biology of the Algae3
      GEOG 629Coastal and Marine Applications of GIS3
    • Electives taught at SF State, MLML, or elsewhere (e.g. UC Berkeley):
      • For example, Biometry, Environmental GIS, Conservation Biology, etc…
  4. Current RTC Research, BIOL 883, 2-4 units. MS in MS students are expected to participate each semester in this formal course for the Wednesday RTC lecture series. Students are expected to enroll in BIOL 883 each semester, though the course can only count twice (4 units total) towards the degree. This course does not fulfill the graduate seminar requirement.

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Courses

Most courses for the MS in Marine Science are offered at SF State’s Romberg Tiburon Center and on the main campus. Students may also take equivalent core courses or any elective courses at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories on advisement. Consult the current Moss Landing Marine Laboratories course schedule,