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Coastal Sciences - Master's and Doctorate

Availability: Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Options

Why Study Coastal Sciences?

Coastal Sciences (COA) is an academic department in the School of Ocean Science and Engineering (SOSE) offering M.S. and Ph.D. programs at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) in Ocean Springs, MS. As a research-intensive unit, COA's graduate program offers excellent opportunities for students to immerse themselves in basic and applied research. Graduates are equipped to help better protect, manage, and enhance coastal and marine resources. Current research programs support graduate and postdoctoral students in investigations related to aquaculture, aquatic health sciences, coastal ecology and ecosystem processes, and fisheries and fisheries oceanography.

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$36MActive grants in 2019
33Annual publications on average
 3yrs  Average time to complete M.S.

What Will I Learn?

  • Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary knowledge and understanding of Coastal Sciences.
  • Specialized research skills.
  • Scientific presentation skills to effectively communicate scientific research.
  • Scientific publication skills.
  • Knowledge, field and laboratory skills necessary for jobs in marine-related fields.

Admission is competitive and is based on several criteria, including GPA, course background, three letters of recommendation, resume/CV, and a statement of purpose.

The Coastal Sciences program also requires each student to have a faculty sponsor. A faculty sponsor is a member of the Coastal Sciences faculty who is willing to serve as the student’s major professor and provides funds for an assistantship and resources to perform the student’s research. Students are strongly encouraged to identify a faculty sponsor before applying for admission. To find a faculty sponsor, prospective students should consult the Coastal Sciences faculty directory to identify and contact a faculty member with whom they might have a common interest.

Admission to the program is handled through the USM Graduate School. The application deadline for Fall admission is May 15. The application deadline for Spring admission is October 15. These deadlines are earlier than the general deadlines set by the Graduate School.

The COA program generally accepts applicants for regular admission with the following GPA:

  • M.S. program — A GPA of at least 3.0 on all undergraduate coursework is required.
  • Ph.D. program — A GPA of at least 3.5 on all graduate coursework (if entering with a master’s degree), or a GPA of at least 3.5 on all undergraduate coursework (if entering with a bachelor’s degree) is required.

These GPA criteria are higher than the minimum admissions standards for regular admission as set forth by the USM Graduate School.  Applicants with a GPA below the standards above have potential to receive conditional admission.  Students granted conditional admission to the Division of Coastal Sciences are not eligible for any graduate assistantship positions regardless of the source of funding. 

See Step-By-Step Guide to Apply

Prospective Students

Coastal Sciences Fellowship In Support of Diversity

The Coastal Sciences are pleased to announce the availability of graduate fellowships in support of diversity to prospective students seeking a M.S. or Ph.D. degree.

These fellowships are awarded competitively and are intended to support the recruitment of graduate students from historically underrepresented groups in coastal and marine science who demonstrate scholarly promise.

More Info and How to Apply 

Current Students

Several awards and scholarships are available to COA students each year. The deadline to apply is February 15 for all award and scholarship opportunities. For more information, please contact the COA%20Awards%20Committee%20Chair.

  • Drs. Julia and Thomas Lytle Coastal Sciences Scholarship
    This scholarship is awarded to a graduate student in good standing who best demonstrates his or her commitment to academic and career goals in coastal sciences. The funds are designed to enhance the student's professional development.
  • Nick Baron memorial Marine Education Endowment
    Graduate students in good standing in the Division of Coastal Sciences are eligible. The scholarship will be awarded to a graduate student who is presenting an oral paper at a top-level national/international scientific conference or symposium and is seeking to become active in that society or future related symposia.
  • Tom McIlwain Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Fisheries Endowment
    The purpose of this fund is to provide financial support for a COA graduate student in good standing in who is conducting research in marine fisheries.
  • Robin M. Overstreet Coastal Sciences Endowment

    The purpose of this fund is to provide support for a COA graduate student who is conducting research on parasites or diseases and research that is not funded by the student’s primary source of funding.

  • Marine Estuarine Graduate Student Association
    The Marine and Estuarine Graduate Student Association (MEGSA) is the graduate student organization of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. MEGSA’s goals are to provide a forum for professional and social fellowship, exchange ideas in marine science research, and participate in community service projects and related volunteer work. Membership in this organization is open to any full or part-time graduate student regularly enrolled at USM in Coastal Sciences, Marine Science, or Biological Sciences and in residence at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. For more information, contact the MEGSA%20President%2C%20David%20May.
  • American Fisheries Society Student Subunit
    The USM Student Subunit of the American Fisheries Society aims to promote conservation, development, and sustainable use of Mississippi fisheries, promote education and professional development of its members, and share science through outreach and professional communications. Membership is open to students, faculty, and staff as well as fisheries professionals who have an interest in fisheries and related issues of importance to USM. For more information, contact the AFS President, Alyssa%20Pagel or visit our Facebook page.
  • Graduate Student Association
    The College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Student Association (GSA) is designed to provide students with useful training opportunities and professional development resources, as well as a space to voice concerns that students perceive hinder graduate education progression. It is open to all graduate students in the College, so all students are automatically members of the association—no fees are associated with membership.

The Coastal Sciences Graduate Student Handbook contains the policies and guidelines for doctoral and master's level graduate students. These guidelines augment those stipulated in the USM Graduate Bulletin. It is the student's responsibility to become familiar with all policies and deadlines in these documents. The student is subject to the versions of the USM Graduate Bulletin and the student handbook associated with the semester of admission.

2024-25 Graduate Student Handbook

Conduct Research With Nationally and Internationally Recognized Faculty

Coastal Sciences consists of talented faculty covering a wide range of disciplines in core marine research areas. As authors of hundreds of scientific publications, members of regional, national and international councils and advisory panels, graduate students benefit from numerous scientific and research experiences. Active faculty research programs provide students with opportunities to engage in multidisciplinary research and conduct original studies, providing COA graduates a competitive edge in the job market.

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Michael Andres

Dr. Michael Andres studies Gulf sturgeon, a protected species in Mississippi. He gives an overview of the field of restoration ecology and what life is like for those who study protected species.

Restoration Ecology & Gulf Sturgeon 



Degree Plan Availability
Coastal Sciences PhDGulf Coast Research Laboratory
Coastal Sciences MSGulf Coast Research Laboratory
  • Academic Faculty
  • Fisheries Biologist
  • Research Scientist
  • Project Manager
  • Coastal Resource Manager
  • Laboratory Coordinator
  • Virginia Fleer, 2017, 
    Adjunct Biology Faculty, Texas A&M-San Antonio and Palo Alto College
  • Allison Walker, 2012, 
    Associate Professor, Acadia University
  • Bryan Hedgpeth, 2013, 
    Research Scientist, ExxonMobile Biomedical Sciences
  • Idrissa Boube, 2011, 
    Environmental Scientist, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  • Michael Lowe, 2013, 
    Fish Biologist, US Geological Survey
  • Christa Woodley, 2001,
    Senior Researcher, US Army Corps of Engineers