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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.

A minimum of 15 Credits total is required from Group A + Group B courses. At least 2 courses in Group B must not be used to 'double count' by also fulfilling the student’s major requirements. Courses with SEA prefix are offered off-campus or on board a sailing vessel at sea, those that end in SM are at Shoals Marine Station during summer.

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

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 your major requirements.

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

  • Shoals Marine Lab semester program
  • contact etw36 [at] (Eugene Won)

Courses that fulfill the field requirement have an asterisk (*)

S = Spring, F = Fall, Su = Summer, cr = credits

Group A - Organismal Biology and Foundations

Group B - Advanced Topics

  • BIOAP/ANSC 3300 – Fish Physiology (3 cr, S)
  • BIOEE 2740 - The Vertebrates: Comparative Anatomy, Function and Evolution (4 cr, S)
  • BIOEE 3750 - The Vertebrates: Advanced Topics in Morphology, Development and Evolution (2 cr, S) prereq = BIOEE 2740
  • BIOEE 4760 - Biology of Fishes, Lectures (3 cr, F)
  • BIOEE 4761 – Biology of Fishes, Laboratory (1 cr, F)
  • BIOEE/EAS 4790 - Paleobiology (4 cr, S)
  • BIOMI 3500/EAS 3555 - Biological Oceanography and Ocean Biogeochemistry (3 cr, S)
  • BIOSM 2500 - Coastal Habitat Field Research Methods (3 cr, Su)*
  • BIOSM 2800 - Sustainable Fisheries (3 cr, Su)
  • BIOSM 3210 - Anatomy and Function of Marine Vertebrates (3 cr, Su)*
  • BIOSM 3290 - Field Animal Behavior (3 cr, Su)*
  • BIOSM 3330 - Marine Parasitology and Disease (3 cr, Su)
  • BIOSM 3450 – Marine Mammal Biology (3 cr)*
  • BIOSM 3650 – Underwater Research (3 cr, Su)*
  • BIOSM 3750 - Integrated Ecosystem Research and Management (3 cr, Su)
  • BIOSM 3830 – Field Marine Invertebrate Biology (3 cr, Su) *
  • BIOSM 4650 - Shark Biology and Conservation (3 cr, Su)
  • BIOSM 4720 – Marine Ecological Genomics (3 cr, Su)
  • EAS/BIOEE 3500 - Dynamics of Marine Ecosystems in a Changing Ocean (3 cr, F)
  • EAS 3540 – Ocean Satellite Remote Sensing (3 cr, S, 9 week intensive)
  • NTRES 3110 - Fish Ecology, Conservation, and Management (3 cr, S)
  • NTRES 3111 - Fish Ecology Laboratory (1 cr, S)
  • NTRES 4110 - Quantitative Ecology and Management of Fisheries Resources (4 cr, S)
  • SEA 3665 - The Ocean and Global Change (4 cr, SEA semester) *
  • SEA 3690 - Oceanographic Field Methods (4 cr, SEA semester)*
  • SEA 3700 - Practical Oceanographic Research (4 cr, SEA semester)*
  • SEA 3710 - Marine Environmental History (4 cr, SEA semester)*
  • SEA 3730 - Toward a Sustainable Ocean: Conservation and Management (3 cr, SEA semester) *
  • SEA 3780 - Oceans in the Global Carbon Cycle (4 cr, SEA semester)*
  • SEA 3800 - Advanced Oceanographic Field Methods (4 cr, SEA semester)*
  • SEA 4640 - Advanced Topics in Biological Oceanography (4 cr, SEA semester)*

* indicates course fulfills the field experience requirement

S = Spring, F = Fall, Su = Summer

Marine Biology Minor Contacts:

  • Dr. Matthew Hare
    Coordinator for Marine Biology Minor, Fieldwork and Curricular topics mph75 [at] (mph75[at]cornell[dot]edu)

  • Suzanne Wapner
    Undergraduate Program Coordinator
    sw38 [at] (sw38[at]cornell[dot]edu)

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.