Marine Biology

Dive headfirst into the study of oceanography, marine ecology, fisheries biology and more with a degree in Marine Biology. Situated on Mount Hope Bay in RWU’s state-of-the-art Marine and Natural Sciences Building -- home to an aquatic animal diagnostic lab and the state’s only shellfish hatchery -- the Marine Biology program teaches students to discover the aquatic world through lectures, labs, fieldwork and independent research in preparation for careers as scientists and educators.

Degree Requirements

The Marine Biology Major

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Marine Biology majors explore the unique challenges faced by organisms living in the marine environment and the methods by which they meet these challenges. Additionally, students in the major learn to apply this knowledge to confront current issues in marine science such as fisheries and resource management, aquaculture, and marine conservation. Students begin the program by obtaining a broad understanding of marine biology and oceanographic principles, and through subsequent lectures, laboratories, and field work, build on this knowledge for a more complete appreciation of the aquatic world. The department also fosters undergraduate research programs in such fields as biological oceanography, coastal and wetland studies, marine environmental physiology, and marine biotechnology and aquaculture in order to enhance the educational experience provided to undergraduates. Upon completion of the degree, students are prepared to specialize at the graduate level in the oceanographic sciences or other environmental disciplines.

Students may also elect to undertake a SEA Semester through the SEA Education Association (SEA) of Woods Hole, Massachusetts or a semester in Bermuda at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS).

Marine Biology majors can receive either a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. Marine Biology majors must satisfy all University Core Curriculum requirements and the College speech requirement, COMM 210. In addition, Marine Biology majors must successfully complete the following courses and sufficient electives to total 120 credits. Majors are encouraged to apply electives toward a minor or second major. 

Students may only count one short-term abroad course per category towards the Marine Biology major.

Course Requirements

For the Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

For the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

The SEA Semester Option

Prerequisite for majors: Satisfactory completion of the writing and mathematics requirements and the five-course Interdisciplinary Core; a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or above; and permission from the program faculty.

Prerequisite for Core Concentration: Students who are not majoring in science or mathematics may use the SEA Semester to fulfill the Core Concentration requirement provided the following prerequisites are met before the SEA Semester: satisfactory completion of the writing, mathematics, and the five-course Interdisciplinary Core; a GPA of 2.5; and permission of the program faculty.

Students in good academic standing who meet the prerequisites may apply to attend a SEA Semester through the Sea Education Association (SEA) of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This exciting and challenging off-campus program combines onshore classes, labs, and field work, in ocean sciences and maritime studies with an offshore sailing and research experience.

Marine biology majors who successfully complete a SEA semester receive eight (8) credits towards the Applied elective category.

This program is academically affiliated; however, certain restrictions exist for the transfer of institutional aid. Please consult the Spiegel Center for details.

More information is available about the course requirements for this option on the program pages for the Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and the Bachelor of Arts in Marine Biology.

Semester Program at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS)

Prerequisite for majors: Satisfactory completion of the University Core Curriculum requirements and the five-course Interdisciplinary Courses.

This semester-long course of study examines the natural processes and human interventions found in the Gulf Stream, the Sargasso Sea, and the coral archipelago, Bermuda. Students are introduced to the interactions that determine the distribution and abundance patterns of tropical marine organisms, with emphasis on the ecology of near-shore areas. Basic principles of ecology are integrated with an understanding of the sea as a habitat for life. Major groups of dominant marine organisms of the region are examined in the field. Major near-shore marine habitats are examined, along with their associated biotic communities. Coral reef ecosystems are emphasized to illustrate basic concepts. Students conduct a major research project. Fall

For marine biology majors participating in the Bermuda semester, BIO 361 replaces BIO 320 (Organismal and Ecology category) and BIO 336 replaces BIO 335 (Organismal and Ecology category). In addition, students receive 3 elective credits towards the Applied category.

More information is available about the course requirements for this option on the program pages for the Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and the Bachelor of Arts in Marine Biology.

Marine Biology Internship at the New England Aquarium (NEAq)

Prerequisites: Satisfactory completion of the writing and mathematics requirements and the five course interdisciplinary CORE; a cumulative GPA of 2.8 or above; recommendation from a RWU Faculty member; and acceptance by the program faculty at the New England Aquarium (NEAq).

This semester-long course of study provides a rigorous introduction to the research and educational opportunities provided by a major public aquarium. The internship will consist of an active research component in a laboratory setting under the direction of an NEAq research scientist, an animal husbandry experience with responsibilities that may include feeding animals, cleaning tanks and equipment, and providing treatment for diseased animals, and the successful completion of a dedicated course of research under the direction of an RWU biology faculty member.

More information is available about the course requirements for this option on the program pages for the Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and the Bachelor of Arts in Marine Biology.

Student Learning Outcomes

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By the time a student has completed a major in Biology or Marine Biology, s/he is expected to be able to demonstrate the following competencies:

  1. formulate a scientific question or problem
  2. design a properly controlled experiment or field study that tests a clearly-stated hypothesis
  3. evaluate evidence critically and quantitatively, and apply this knowledge to novel situations.
  4. effectively communicate scientific knowledge orally, graphically, and in writing
  5. conduct a search of peer-reviewed print and electronic resources relevant to a research project in the life sciences
  6. understand the role of macromolecules in cellular processes
  7. understand the relationship between the structure and function of cellular components
  8. understand the relationship between the structure and function of major organ systems
  9. understand the mechanisms of physiological homeostasis
  10. describe cellular and physiological adaptations that have evolved in a variety of phyla
  11. understand the key discoveries of modern biology (including molecular biology and bioinformatics)
  12. understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of inheritance
  13. understand the species concept and the factors affecting biodiversity
  14. describe the patterns and mechanisms of evolution
  15. understand how phylogenetic relationships among taxa are determined
  16. describe the patterns and mechanisms of population distribution, growth and regulation
  17. understand the flow of matter and energy through natural systems from the molecular to the ecosystem level
  18. describe interactions among biotic and abiotic factors in natural systems
  19. understand the life history strategies of organisms
  20. describe the major global biological communities and biomes
  21. understand significant interactions and dependencies between human and natural system.

headshot of gabrielle baillargeon

From Research Scientist to App Developer

Gabrielle Baillargeon, RWU Class of 2020
Marine Biology

Ever since forging an original research project her freshman year, Gabrielle Baillargeon continues to surf a tidal wave of success.

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Guaranteed Research Opportunities

Student examines seaweed at shoreline.Marine Biology majors explore the unique challenges faced by organisms living in the marine environment and the methods by which they meet these challenges. Students begin the programs by obtaining a broad understanding of oceanographic principles, and through subsequent lectures, laboratories and field work, build on this knowledge for a more complete appreciation of the aquatic world. Undergraduate research is integrated into the Marine Biology curriculum, with opportunities for students to earn academic credit for doing research, to develop proposals and compete for small grants to fund their projects, and to present their findings at regional, national and international conferences.

RISE STEM Scholarship at RWU

Marine biology students works in the wet lab.RWU offers a scholarship opportunity for students interested in majoring in math, sciences, engineering, computer science or forensic science. Learn about the National Science Foundation RISE Scholars program, which recognizes, supports and empowers a group of academically talented students with financial need as they prepare to enter Research and Industry in Science and Engineering (RISE).

Learn About RISE Scholars