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Marine Biology Minor

Bring new perspectives to a complex, intertwined world

About 70% of the planet’s surface consists of estuarine, coastal, and pelagic ocean environments. By choosing the Concentration in Marine Biology, you will learn about the biology, evolution and ecology of organisms that inhabit these environments and the ecological processes linking them.

At CALS, we deeply believe that effecting meaningful change requires a holistic, systems approach. Marine biology draws from a range of disciplines including organismal biology, marine microbiology, ocean biogeochemistry, biological oceanography and marine ecology. These disciplines consider adaptation of marine organisms to their environment, their interactions with other organisms, and ultimately the consequences and feedbacks of these interactions upon the environment. Marine habitats are sensitive barometers to anthropogenic perturbations today and global climatic perturbations over evolutionary history.

Minor in Marine Biology

Students in the minor are required to take a total of 15 credits (see curriculum section below).  Students will take an introductory class related to the marine environment as a foundation for further courses in marine biology and ecology. Next, students will choose courses that provide background in the biology of marine organisms, and advanced topics on their interactions with the marine environment, biogeochemistry, and current threats and problems related to marine organisms (e.g., climate change).

The Marine Biology minor is administered by the Department of Natural Resources.

Fieldwork is a central part of marine biology education, and most marine biologists are actively engaged in field research. Hence, a significant field component is required for the marine biology concentration. This requirement may be fulfilled by courses at Shoals Marine Laboratory; field courses listed with an asterisk in the curriculum section below; Cornell-accredited courses with the Sea Education Association; or approved independent study (e.g., BIOG 4990 or ESS 4990), volunteer work, or internships involving a marine field work component with faculty at Cornell or elsewhere with approval (e.g., during summer, winter or spring breaks, ESS 4960). The Coordinator for Marine Biology Minor must approve the field component.

  1. Download the Marine Biology Minor Certification Form  and email the completed form as an attachment; along with a brief proposal for how you will complete the field experience requirement to the Coordinator for Marine Biology Minor, Dr. Matt Hare, with a copy to the Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Suzanne Wapner.
  2. A meeting with one of the Marine Biology advising faculty is not required, but is recommended, to discuss suitable field experiences to meet the requirements. 
  3. During your final semester, before applying to graduate, the fully completed and signed form verifying your fulfillment of requirements should be submitted with an unofficial transcript to the Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Suzanne Wapner with a copy to the Coordinator for Marine Biology Minor, Dr. Matt Hare for approval.

Remember, only courses for which a grade of "C" or better is received will count towards the minor in Marine Biology (courses taken with an "S/U" option will not count)

If you are a student in a college that requires a minor advisor to sign off on your application to graduate, please bring your application to graduate with you at the same time. Please contact Suzanne Wapner with any questions about the minor certification process.

  • Understand the diversity of marine organisms, their evolutionary history, biogeography, interactions with other organisms, and adaptations to their environments.
  • Be able to form hypotheses about marine-related scientific questions and design and execute experiments to test those hypotheses.
  • Be able to synthesize knowledge of physical and chemical processes of oceans and the biology of organisms to ask questions about natural history and ecology.
  • Have an appreciation for the impact of habitat perturbation on marine organisms, and subsequent ecosystem-level consequences and feedbacks.

Students are required to take a total of 15 credits, consisting of one course from Group A and 12 credits from Group B. (BioSM 1610 or BioSM 1780 may count as a Group B course if BioEE 1540 is taken.)

Courses can be proposed for inclusion or subtraction from the following lists, based on proposals by professors or students. Please contact the Coordinator for the Marine Biology Minor, mph75 [at] (Dr. Matt Hare).

Only courses for which a grade of "C" or better is received will count towards the minor in Marine Biology (courses taken with an "S/U" option will not count).

Courses with “SM” prefix are taught at Cornell’s Shoals Marine Laboratory during summer. Several Shoals courses are equivalent to and serve to fulfill on-campus Biology requirements (1500, 1610, 1780) or CALS Life Science requirements (1650). In other words, double-counting courses for this minor and your major is allowed, but at least two courses in Group B must be outside our major requirements. Courses that fulfill the field requirement have an asterisk (*)
Courses with SEA prefix are offered off-campus or on board a sailing vessel at sea
Crosslisted courses are shown below with a slash
°° indicates courses offered every year
† indicates courses offered every other year, next offering 2017-2018
‡ indicates courses offered every other year, next offering 2018-2019
* indicates course fulfills the field experience requirement

Special Cornell marine field programs that will fulfill many of the requirement(s) of the minor:

  • CORALS program in Friday Harbor, WA
    contact cdh5 [at] (Drew Harvell)
  • Shoals Marine Lab semester program
    contact etw36 [at] (Eugene Won)

Group A - Organismal Biology and Foundations

Group B - Advanced Topics

Marine Biology Minor Contacts:

  • Dr. Matthew Hare
    Coordinator for Marine Biology Minor, Fieldwork and Curricular topics nmm63 [at]

  • Suzanne Wapner
    Undergraduate Program Coordinator
    sw38 [at]

Additional Marine Science faculty providing advising in the minor include:

  • ih88 [at] (Ian Hewson), Microbiology
  • howarth [at] (Robert Howarth), EEB
  • cdh5 [at] (Drew Harvell), EEB 
  • arm2 [at] (Amy McCune), EEB
  • web24 [at] (William E. Bemis), EEB
  • chg2 [at] (Charles Greene), EAS
  • wda1 [at] (Warren Allmon), EAS
  • bcm3 [at] (Bruce Monger), EAS
  • era23 [at] (Esther R. Angert), Microbiology 
  • lgr1 [at] (Lars Gosta Rudstam), DNR
  • nt246 [at] (Nina Therkildsen), DNR
  • pjs31 [at] (Patrick Sullivan), DNR

Explore your opportunities

A CALS education goes beyond the classroom and gives students frequent opportunities to apply what they learn in real-world settings.