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Undergraduate Courses

MS 103: Marine Ecology   4 Units 

Field-oriented introduction to the interrelationship between marine and estuarine organisms and their environment; emphasis on quantitative data collection and analysis.

Prerequisites:  Ecology, statistics (or concurrent registration in MS 104), consent of instructor.


MS 104: Quantitative Marine Science   4 Units 

Mathematical methods for the analysis of biological, chemical, and physical data from the marine environment - experimental design, parametric non-parametric and resampling statistics. Not for major credit.

Prerequisites:  College mathematics, instructor's consent


MS 105: Marine Science Diving   3 Units 

Skin and SCUBA diving course, pool-training culminates in ten ocean dives. Topics covered include diving physics, physiology, diving environments, night diving and research diving. Successful completion gives AAUS and MLML scientific diver certification. Not for major credit.

Prerequisites:  CERTIFIED SCUBA DIVER (OR EQUIVALENCY AS DETERMINED BY INSTRUCTOR), upper division science major status, thorough physical examination, ability to pass swimming test, instructor's consent.


MS 112: Marine Birds and Mammals   4 Units 

Systematics, morphology, ecology and biology of marine turtles, birds, and mammals.

Prerequisites:  Upper division college vertebrate zoology or instructor's consent; MS 103 recommended.


MS 113: Marine Ichthyology   4 Units 

A description of the taxonomy, morphology and ecology of marine fishes. Both field and laboratory work concentrate on the structure, function and habits of marine fishes and the ecological interactions of these fishes with their biotic and abiotic surroundings.

Prerequisites:  College zoology or equivalent or consent of instructor; MS 103 recommended.


MS 124: Marine Invertebrate Zoology I   4 Units 

A field-oriented introduction to the structure, systematics, evolution, and life histories of the major and minor marine phyla.

Prerequisites:  College zoology or consent of instructor; MS 103 recommended.


Section 1 -    Instructor: Dr. Jonathan B. Geller
Offered: spring, 2015

Course lecture will take place in the Think Tank from 9am-12pm, and the course lab will take place in the Wet Classroom from 12-5pm


MS 125: Marine Invertebrate Zoology II   3 Units 

A field-oriented survey of the common marine invertebrates of the major intertidal habitats in and around Monterey Bay. Focus will be on identification and natural history. Students will maintain and expand a course website that includes updated guides to common invertebrates and a geo-referenced database of species based upon class observations.

Prerequisites:  College zoology or instructor's consent; MS 103 and MS 124 recommended, or instructor's consent


MS 131: Marine Botany   4 Units 

Introduction to the plants of the sea, with emphasis on the morphology, taxonomy and natural history of seaweeds and seagrasses.

Prerequisites:  Instructor's consent; MS 103 recommended.


MS 135: Physiology of Marine Algae   4 Units 

Understanding the adaptations of marine algae to their environment. Physiological topics will incude respiration, enzyme activity, and biochemical composition. Hands-on experience in basic electronic instrumentation, chemical separations, optical measurements, culturing methods and radioisotope techniques. Designed for students interested in the biology of seaweeds and phytoplankton.

Prerequisites:  MS 103, 131, 144 or consent of instructor.


MS 141: Geological Oceanography   4 Units 

A study of the structures, physiography, and sediments of the sea bottom and shoreline.

Prerequisites:  Instructor's consent; undergraduate course in general geology recommended


MS 142: Physical Oceanography   4 Units 

An introduction to the nature and causes of various oceanic motions including currents, waves, tides and mixing, and the physical properties of seawater.

Prerequisites:  Instructor's consent; college algebra, college physics and calculus recommended.


MS 143: Chemical Oceanography   4 Units 

An introduction to the theoretical and practical aspects of the chemistry of the oceans, including major salts, dissolved gases, nutrient ions, carbonate system, transient tracers, and shipboard sampling techniques.

Prerequisites:  One year of college chemistry.


MS 144: Biological Oceanography   4 Units 

The ocean as an ecological system. Emphasis will be on the complexity of environmental influences on plankton, the transfer of organic matter between trophic levels and nutrient cycles. Laboratory sessions will include methods in sampling, shipboard techniques, identification of the plankton, and current analytical techniques.

Prerequisites:  Instructor's consent; general biology, general chemistry.


MS 175: Topics in Marine Sciences   1 Units 

The study of a selected area in the marine sciences. The subjects will vary depending on student demand and availability of instructors. Can be repeated for credit when topics change.

Prerequisites:  Instructor's consent


MS 180: Independent Study   1-4 Units 

Faculty-directed study of selected problems; open to undergraduate students with adequate preparation. NOTE: SFSU and CSUH students must file a petition with their home campus department before admission to class. Offered every semester.

Prerequisites:  Instructor's consent


Graduate Courses

MS 201: Library Research Methods in Marine Science   1 Units 

Students will gain an advanced understanding of the nature of scientific information. Lectures, discussions and assignments will provide the framework for using and evaluating a variety of information sources in marine and ocean sciences. Strong emphasis will be placed on developing critical skills to interweave knowledge of the history of science into the context of bibliographic tools including the digital realm.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing and instructor's consent.

MS 202: Oceanographic Instrumentation   4 Units 

Principles of instruments used in oceanographic research, introduction to electronics, and applications of instrument measurements. Emphasis will vary from CTD profilers, current meters, radiometry and chemical measurement.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing, instructor's consent, MS 141, 142.

MS 204: Sampling and Experimental Design   4 Units 

Basic design of experiments and field sampling, including random and systemic sampling, subsampling, survey techniques, single and multifactor experiments using randomized, nested, and blocked experimental designs, and data analyses.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing, instructor's consent, MS 103, 104.

MS 206: Molecular Biological Techniques   4 Units 

A laboratory-based overview of concepts and techniques for the isolation, characterization, and analysis of DNA and RNA. This course presents an overview of standard methods (amplification, cloning, and sequencing), as well as selected specialized techniques (analysis of gene expression). Lectures focus on marine science applications.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing; college level genetics, molecular biology, or instructor's consent.

MS 208: Scientific Methods   4 Units 

Course is designed to help students develop an understanding of strengths and limitations of various types of scientific reasoning, methodology, and analysis as they relate to scientific progress. Course centers on: round-table discussions of papers and techniques; interactive computer, laboratory, and field learning experiences; and development of critical thinking and writing skills.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing, instructor's consent, and approved MLML thesis project.

MS 211: Ecology of Marine Turtles, Birds and Mammals   4 Units 

Community approach to the ecology of marine turtles, birds, and mammals using experimental and sampling methodology. The class will read and discuss recent literature regarding ecological concepts, and field studies will examine the distribution, abundance, trophic ecology, and behavior of birds and mammals in Elkhorn Slough and Monterey Bay.


Graduate standing, instructor's consent, MS 103, 104, 112.

MS 212: Advanced Topics in Marine Vertebrates   4 Units 

Advanced consideration of the ecology, physiology and phylogeny of fishes, birds, reptiles or mammals, emphasizing current literature and research. Topics and emphasis will vary with term and instructor. May be repeated once for credit.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing, instructor's consent, MS 112 or 113.

Section 1 - Physiological Ecology of Marine Animals   Instructor: Dr. Gitte McDonald
Offered: spring, 2015

This course will examine the physiological adaptations that animals have evolved to live in the marine environment, as well as short term physiological responses to environmental changes. The course begins with a review of basic principles of physiological ecology, develops some of the central themes of physiological ecology, and concludes with how organism are adapted to a variety of marine habitats. Laboratory exercises will utilize modern techniques of physiological measurement to examine adaptive strategies among and between species.


MS 221: Advanced Topics in Marine Invertebrates   4 Units 

Advanced considerations of the ecology, physiology and phylogeny of the various invertebrate phyla emphasizing current literature and research. Topics and emphasis will vary from term to term. May be repeated once for credit.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing, instructor's consent, MS 124.

Section 1 - Advanced Marine Invertebrate Zoology   Instructor: Dr. Jonathan B. Geller
Offered: Spring, 2015

This course is the graduate-level offering of MS 124: A field-oriented introduction to the structure, systematics, evolution, and life histories of the major and minor marine phyla. Prerequisites: College zoology or consent of instructor; MS 103 recommended. Lecture will be held in the Think Tank from 9am-12pm. Lab will be held in the Wet Classroom from 1-5pm.


MS 231: Biology of Seaweeds   4 Units 

Discussions of marine macroalgal biology with extensive reading of original literature. Ecologically oriented individual research projects involving laboratory culture and field experimentation.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing, instructor's consent, MS 131.

MS 233: Advanced Topics in Marine Ecology   4 Units 

Selected topics and current issues in marine ecology. The subjects will vary depending on student demand and availability of instructors. Can be repeated for credit when topics change.

Prerequisites:  Instructor's consent; MS 103.

Section 1 - Navigating Wicked Marine Problems   Instructor: Dr. Alison Stimpert
Offered: spring, 2015

Commercial shipping is essential to international trade and consumer goods. Container ships use vessel traffic schemes (VTS) that often overlap with important marine areas, creating unintended pressures and associated impacts to marine ecosystems, including whales. In particular, ship strikes are a threat to endangered blue, right, humpback, and fin whales, and ship noise can affect important mating and feeding behavior of whales as well as other marine life. This course will use this case study to help students identify the threats, pressures, and policy responses of a complex, or “wicked”, ocean-based problem. In project teams, students will complete a Pressure State Response analysis of the problem, with the goal of developing practical and professional skills to participate in complex marine planning and decision-making. Students will also gain exposure to experts in the field through many invited speaker presentations and panel discussions. To enhance collaborative interdisciplinary problem-solving opportunities, this course will also involve team-building activities, and collaborative assignments with interdisciplinary students from multiple campuses.


Section 3 - Global Kelp Systems   Instructor: Drs. Graham/Hamilton
Offered: spring, 2015

This is an intensive class that occurs over one week in January in Chile. More details will follow soon.


MS 234: Advanced Biological Oceanography   4 Units 

Experimental techniques in biological oceanography with emphasis on problems important in plankton ecology. The course includes lectures and labs, and discussions of current research problems. An individual research project involving the use of one or more modern analytical tools will be required.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing; MS 144 or instructor's consent.

MS 242: Plate Tectonics   3 Units 

Historical background, modern theory and geophysical evidence of continental drift sea floor spreading and plate tectonics. Examinations of the impact of the recent revolution in historical geology. Offered alternate fall semesters.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing and MS 141 or instructor's consent

MS 246: Geology of the Monterey Bay Region   4 Units 

Geology, tectonics and active naturally occurring processes in the Monterey Bay region and in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The geologic and tectonic history of central California, plate tectonic processes, representative stratigraphy and geomorphology of the Monterey Bay region. Offered alternate fall semesters.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing and MS 141 or instructor's consent

MS 248: Marine Benthic Habitat Mapping Techniques   4 Units 

The collection and interpretation of geophysical data that can be used to characterize marine benthic habitats. Basic geophysical principals will be reviewed. Application of techniques will be used to identify and characterize marine benthic habitats, including echosounders, multibeam bathymetry and backscatter, sidescan sonar, seismic profiling, and GIS.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing; MS 141 or instructor's consent.

MS 251: Marine Geochemistry   4 Units 

Geochemical processes in the oceans: thermodynamics of low temperature aqueous reactions, weathering, oxidation-reduction and biologically mediated reactions, processes occurring at the sea floor and air-sea interface. Offered as needed.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing, MS 143, MS 104, and 1 year calculus or instructor's consent

MS 261: Mixing, Estuarine and Sediment Transport   4 Units 

Dynamical processes in estuarine and coastal systems, with an emphasis on flow, friction, sediment transport, mixing and diffusion of mass and biogeochemical constituents (nutrients and oxygen, others).  Discussion of recent literature.


Graduate standing; MS 104 and 142 or instructor's consent

MS 263: Data Analysis Techniques in Marine Science   4 Units 

Introduction to using observational oceanographic data, with hands-on practice in scientific programming for data analysis. Lecture, discussion, and practical experience including the use of existing programs and subroutine libraries. Semester project required.


Graduate standing, MS 104, college math and instructor's consent.

MS 271: Population Biology   3 Units 

Principles of the interaction among marine organisms that result in the alteration of population structures. Techniques for assessment and management of populations.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing; MS 103 and 104 or instructor's consent

MS 272: Subtidal Ecology   4 Units 

The ecology of nearshore rocky subtidal populations and communities with emphasis on kelp forests. Lectures and discussions of original literature. Fieldwork with SCUBA including group projects on underwater research techniques and community analysis, and individual research on ecological questions chosen by the student. Offered alternate spring semesters.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing, MLML diver certification and MS 103 or equivalent (knowledge of marine algae, invertebrates, and statistics recommended).

MS 273: Marine Environmental Studies of the Gulf of California   4 Units 

A comparative analysis of Gulf of California marine environments. Lectures, readings, intensive field work, and composing a scientific paper based on original research. Topics will vary depending on instructors. Taught in conjunction with Mexican faculty and students from La Paz, Mexico, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing; Instructor's consent, students must be able to participate in 2 weeks of field work and a valid passport is required.

MS 274: Advanced Topics in Oceanography   4 Units 

The study of a selected area of oceanography. The subjects will vary depending on student demand and availability of instructors. Can be repeated for credit when topics change.


Graduate standing, instructor's consent

Section 1 - Biogeochemistry of Estuarine Systems   Instructor: Dr. Kenneth H. Coale
Offered: Spring, 2015

Course description to be added soon


MS 280: Scientific Writing   3 Units 

Techniques and strategies of scientific writing used for proposals, journal submissions, and abstracts for meetings. Students will develop their writing skills by preparing, editing, and rewriting manuscripts. There is a maximum of 12 students allowed to register for this course.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing, instructor's consent.

MS 281: Coastal Dynamics   4 Units 

Oceanographic dynamics of coastal environments, with an emphasis on eastern boundary current systems influenced by coastal upwelling. Interactions of physical and geological oceanography and how both affect coastal ecosystem dynamics.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing and MS 142 or MS 141.

MS 285: Graduate Seminar in Marine Science   2 Units 

Seminar will be held on topics changing each semester. Each student will be required to give at least one seminar. May be repeated for credit. Offered spring and fall semesters.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing, consent of instructor.

Section 1 - Controversies in Marine Science   Instructor: Dr. Matt Edwards
Offered: spring, 2015

In this course, we will explore the root causes of controversy in science. We will ask “why do scientists argue”. Many of these disagreements have been played out in the literature for all to see, and we will examine the opposing sides of each controversy. Ultimately, we will discuss if there is consensus among our group as to who is correct/incorrect, or if there are valid points to each argument. Each week, students will be assigned 1-2 papers to read involving one side of a controversy (or the other) in Marine Science, and will be required to present these arguments to the class as if he/she were a proponent of that position. The class will then debate these points to explore their validity. Each week, one student from each opposing side will be assigned to do a bit more background into the arguments and/or scientists who take their position. They will present this information to the class so that everyone can gain a bit more understanding of the history (personalities) that led to these controversies. Ultimately, the students will gain an appreciation of both the merits of the arguments and the people behind them, with the ultimate goal of understanding the root causes of these debates. The topics chosen will range from how we do science to how natural ecosystems are structured and governed. Lastly, students will be required to search out a controversy relating to their fields of study and present these to the class in a short (15 min) presentation. There will be an overnight field trip (likely Big Creek reserve) where we will present these new controversies and discuss overarching reasons as to why scientists disagree.


MS 298: Research in Marine Science   1-2 Units 

Independent investigations of an advanced character for the graduate student with adequate preparation. NOTE: CSUH students must file a petition with their home campus department before admission to this class. CSU Stanislaus students must file Individual Study forms. CSUF students must file Research Approval forms. Offered spring and fall semesters.

Prerequisites:  Graduate standing and consent of instructor

MS 299: Thesis   4 Units 

Offered spring and fall semesters. Available only to MLML graduate students in good standing with the approval of their major advisor. Note: Fresno, San Francisco, and Hayward students must file a petition with their home campus departments before admission to this class. San Francisco students must also file a Graduate Approved Program.

Prerequisites:  Classified graduate standing, advancement to candidacy

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