BA in Marine Science

The BA in Marine Science, offered through the BU Marine Program (BUMP), provides a rigorous, interdisciplinary education in marine science, with courses in biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography. All Marine Science majors complete the Marine Semester, an intellectually and physically challenging sequence of four month-long, research-based courses. During the Marine Semester, students conduct research in a variety of New England locations as well as the Belizean Barrier Reef, working with BU faculty and scientists from the New England Aquarium, NOAA, and the University of Belize.

The BA in Marine Science prepares graduates for marine-related positions in commercial, educational, governmental, and nonprofit organizations and for admission to graduate school in a range of fields (e.g., environmental science and policy, marine biology, oceanography, etc.).

Learning Outcomes

The Marine Science major has the following learning outcomes:

  • Demonstrate understanding of fundamental concepts in marine science, including principles of geological, physical, chemical, and biological processes in the marine environment.
  • Demonstrate understanding of common laboratory, field, and modeling methods used in marine science.
  • Demonstrate the ability to i) formulate a falsifiable hypothesis, ii) design an experiment or observational study to test your hypothesis, iii) analyze your results in a statistically rigorous way, and iv) draw logical conclusions based on your analysis.
  • Communicate effectively the concepts, methods, results, and conclusions of marine science research, in oral and written form, to specialists and the general public.
  • Apply knowledge and skills learned to solve problems in marine geology, physics, chemistry, or biology.
  • Demonstrate understanding of how human activities impact the marine environment, and how the marine environment impacts human activities.

Course Requirements

All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Marine Science will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Scientific Inquiry, Quantitative Reasoning, Ethical Reasoning, Oral and Signed Communication, and in the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

The Marine Science major provides a strong foundation in science and math via eight required related courses in biology, chemistry, calculus, physics, and statistics. Additionally, all students are required to take Introduction to Oceanography (CAS EE 144), Marine Biology (CAS BI 260), three “marine breadth” courses, and the Marine Semester. During the Marine Semester, students choose four courses from approximately 16 diverse course offerings. A total of 17 4-credit courses are required for the major.

A grade of C or higher is required in all of the aforementioned courses to receive credit in the major. All required courses are 4 credit hours.

Core Introductory Courses (2)

  • CAS BI 260 Marine Biology
  • CAS EE 144 Introduction to Oceanography

Related Courses (8 total)


  • CAS BI 107
  • CAS BI 108


  • CAS CH 101 and CH 102, or
  • CAS CH 109 and CH 110, or
  • CAS CH 111 and CH 112, or
  • CAS CH 171 and CH 172


  • CAS PY 105 or 211

Mathematics and Statistics

Students must complete:

  • One calculus course from CAS MA 121 or 123
  • One statistics course from CAS MA 115 or 213
  • One calculus, statistics, or computer science course from CAS MA 122, 124, 115, 213, CAS CS 105, 108, 111

Marine Breadth Courses (3 total)

It is recommended that students take a variety of courses to cover the breadth of Marine Science: Biological Oceanography (BO), Marine Biology (MB), Physical Oceanography (PO), Chemical Oceanography (CO), Marine Geology & Geophysics (MG), and Marine Spatial Dynamics (MSD).

Choose 3 courses from:

  • CAS AR 518 Zooarchaeology (BO)
  • CAS BI 303 Evolutionary Ecology (MB)
  • CAS BI 500 Biology of Sharks (MB)
  • CAS BI 509 Metapopulation Ecology (MB)
  • CAS BI 519 Theoretical Evolution Ecology (BO, MB)
  • CAS BI 550 Marine Genomics (MB)
  • CAS BI 586 Ecological and Evolutionary Genomics (BO, MB)
  • CAS EE 142 Beaches and Nearshore Systems (PO)
  • CAS EE 310 Climate and the Environment (PO)
  • CAS EE 351 Paleoclimatology and Paleoceanography (PO, MG)
  • CAS EE 422 Aquatic Optics and Remote Sensing (CO, MSD)
  • CAS EE 423 Marine Biogeochemistry (BO, CO)
  • CAS EE 505 Geographic Information Systems (MSD)
  • CAS EE 507 Dynamical Oceanography (PO)
  • CAS EE 533 Quantitative Geomorphology (MG)
  • CAS EE 576 Aquatic Geochemistry (CO)

Marine Semester Courses (4 total)

The Marine Semester is held every fall semester. Students are required to select one course during each of four “blocks.” Each block comprises 18–20 class days.

Marine Semester courses currently include:

  • CAS BI/EE 523 Marine Urban Ecology
  • CAS BI 531 Ichthyology: Behavior, Ecology, and Evolution of Fish
  • CAS BI/EE 539 Coral Reef Dynamics: Shallow Waters, Deep Time (with fieldwork in Belize)
  • CAS BI 541 Coral Reef Restoration and Resilience (with fieldwork in Belize)
  • CAS BI 546 Marine Megafaunal Ecology: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Surrounding Waters
  • CAS BI 548 Marine Microbial Ecology
  • CAS BI 569 Tropical Marine Invertebrates (with fieldwork in Belize)
  • CAS BI/EE 578 Marine Geographic Information Science
  • CAS BI/EE 591 Bio-Optic Oceanography
  • CAS BI/EE 593 Marine Physiology & Climate Change
  • CAS EE 542 Coastal Ecosystems
  • CAS EE 543 Estuaries and Nearshore Systems
  • CAS EE 544 Coastal Sedimentology
  • CAS EE 557 Oceanography of Stellwagen Bank and Surrounding Waters
  • CAS MR 500 Topics in Marine Science
  • CAS MR 529 Tropical Marine Fisheries (with fieldwork in Belize)
  • CAS MR 533 Scientific Diving and Underwater Research Methods

Marine Semester course offerings may vary from year to year. Contact the BUMP office for the latest offerings.

Note: In lieu of one of the four Marine Semester block courses, students may enroll in 4 credits of Research for Credit. Research for Credit during the Marine Semester must be prearranged with a Marine Science faculty member and approved by the Marine Program Director.

Undergraduate Research Options

The BU Marine Program strongly encourages hands-on research at the undergraduate level and offers each student the opportunity to spend time in a marine field environment or laboratory setting. A maximum of 12 research credits may be counted as elective courses.


  • CAS MR 291/292 (2 credits per semester; does not count toward the major)

Juniors and seniors:

  • CAS MR 391, 392 or CAS MR 491, 492

Honors in the Major

Qualified seniors can earn Honors in the Major by completing a two-semester, two-course sequence of Research for Credit (CAS MR 401/402) culminating in the production of a written thesis and an oral thesis defense before a committee of three Marine Program faculty. Registering for MR 401/402 involves preparation of a research proposal developed in consultation with your faculty research advisor, and approval of the proposal by the Marine Program Director. GPA requirements are 3.25 overall and 3.5 within the major.