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School of Ocean Science and Engineering

Summer Field Program — Course Offerings

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Session I      Session II


Summer Session I (June Term):

COA 300, 300L: Marine Science I - Oceanography

OceanographyThis course provides a multidisciplinary foundation in oceanography, specifically the terminology, principles, processes, relationships, and phenomena pertaining to three of its traditional sub-disciplines: physical, geological, and chemical oceanography. The importance of the interaction of biotic and abiotic processes in the ocean will be addressed through the exploration of timely issues in ocean science.

Prerequisites: College algebra, 8 hours of chemistry, and 8 hours of biology or permission of instructor. 5 credit hours (3/2). 

COA 422/522, 422L/522L: Elasmobranch Biology (Shark Biology)

shark measuringThis specialized course will provide students with an overview of elasmobranch (sharks, skates, and rays) biology, ecology, and taxonomy. Lectures will cover such topics as evolution, anatomy and physiology, sensory systems, behavior, and ecology. Students will be introduced to the diversity of elasmobranchs and will learn how to identify species. Special emphasis will be given to the species common to the Gulf of Mexico. Laboratory work will consist of several inshore and offshore collecting trips as well as dissections.

Prerequisites: Three semesters of biology, including Marine Biology, or permission of the instructor. 6 credit hours (3/3)

COA 446/546, 446L/546L: Marine Ecology 

Early Life History of Marine FishesA study of marine organisms and their relationships to the environment, including such topics as primary production, populations and communities, biogeochemical cycles, trophic ecology, larval ecology, and human influences. Laboratory involves weekly quantitative studies implemented as class projects.

Prerequisites: Four semesters of science or permission of instructor. 5 credit hours (3/2). hours.


Session I / Half of June Courses

COA 441/551: Coastal Restoration 

Coastal RestorationThis course will provide an overview of coastal restoration along the Gulf Coast. Through lectures and field excursions to restoration sites in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, students will gain first-hand experience with different restoration techniques at both large and small scales and across a variety of habitats (e.g. marsh, oyster, mangrove, seagrass, dunes, springs). Students will also get an overview of how to identify needs, set goals, plan, design, implement, monitor, and evaluate restoration projects.

Prerequisites: Two semesters of Biology or permission of the instructor. COA 441/551: Coastal restoration. 3 Credit Hours. This course will run 11 consecutive class days during the FIRST half of the June term.

COA 444: Cetacean Behavior 

Cetacean BehaviorStudents will learn tools and techniques used in the systematic observation and documentation of delphinid behavior in the wild. Course includes both classroom lecture and field studies focused primarily on dolphins of the Mississippi Sound.

Prerequisites: none. 3 credit hours. This course will run 11 consecutive class days during the SECOND half of the June term.

COA 306: Coastal Environments in Peril – Critical Issues

Coastal Environments in PerilThis course will explore a wide range of environmental issues facing our coast. General Scientific issues will be discussed. Topics covered will include Sea-level Rise, habitat loss, Climate Change, and other anthropogenic impacts on coastal environments on Peril- critical issues.

Prerequisites: 3 Credit hours. This course will run 11 consecutive class days during the SECOND half of the June term.

COA 490/590: Special Topics – Environmental Photography 

This course will develop an awareness of our environment and convey this understanding through the medium of photographic image. Student will gain a fuller understanding of inter relationships in the environment. This class includes studies of the structure and function of ecosystem (emphasizing aquatic environments) and examines selected environmental concerns through field trips. 

Prerequisites: Basic Awareness of environmental Issues. 3 Credit hours. This course will run 11 consecutive class days during the FIRST half of the June term.

COA 443/543, 443L/543L: Marine Mammals (ONLINE)

dolphinsAn overview of the biology of marine mammals (cetaceans, pinnipeds, sirenians, sea otters, and the polar bear) including their classification, evolutionary history, anatomy, physiology, behavior, conservation and management.

Prerequisites: 16 hours of biology or permission of instructor.  5 credit hours (3/2)

Summer Session II (July Term):


COA 301, 301L: Marine Science II: Marine Biology

Student Microscope

An ecological approach is taken to understand the biology of marine systems with emphasis on local organisms; their habitats, life cycles and survival strategies.

Prerequisites: 8 hours of biology or permission of instructor.  5 credit hours (3/2)

COA 421/521, 421L/521L: Marine Ichthyology

Marine Ichthyology Marine Ichthyology is an intensive marine biological field course which engages students to collect and identify marine fishes in numerous habitats in the Gulf of Mexico. Students experience a variety of land-based and vessel-based collection techniques such as seining, cast netting, hook and line fishing, trawling, trolling, dip netting, and many others. Students must work effectively alone and in teams and participate in field expeditions to complete the course objectives. Successful students gain an appreciation for taxonomic identities of fishes and the synergism between abiotic and biotic factors that drive marine fish distribution and faunal diversity in northern Gulf of Mexico. 

Prerequisites: 16 hours of biology or permission of instructor. 6 credit hours (3/3)

COA 490/590: Special Topics – Marine Toxicology 

ToxicologyMarine toxicology is the study of how pollutants and toxins impact the marine environment. This includes everything from algae to whales. Students will be introduced to the fundamentals of toxicology, including dose, exposure, and metabolism. Students will also engage in lectures and open discussions relating to major xenobiotics, current topics in marine toxicology (oil spills, harmful algal blooms, microplastics, etc.), molecular and analytical techniques, and experiential design.  Lab activities will focus on experiential design and basic data interpretation.

Prerequisites: 2-semester biology and 2-semester chemistry or permission of Instructor. 5 Credit hours.

COA 450L/550L: Marine Conservation

Marine ConservationThis course will introduce students to conservation biology and ecology with a focus on marine and coastal ecosystems. Topics may include biodiversity, marine ecosystem processes and threats, conservation of habitat and species, and human impacts, solutions, and policy. The course will consist of lectures, field trips, and laboratory exercises designed to provide students with hands-on experience in marine conservation biology. 

Prerequisites: 2 semesters of biology or permission of instructor.  5 credit hours (3/2)

COA 428/528, 428L/528L: Marine Invertebrate Zoology (ONLINE)

Invertebrate ZoologyThis course is a concentrated study of the marine and estuarine invertebrates from the Mississippi Sound and the contiguous continental shelf of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Emphasis is on structure, classification, phylogenic relationships, larval development, and functional processes.

Prerequisites: 16 hours of biology or permission of instructor. 6 credit hours (3/3).

Research Study Program

Available in both Session I and Session II, This Research Study Program allows upper-level undergraduate students an opportunity to gain valuable experience in designing a research project, sampling, analyzing data, and presenting research findings.  Research options encompass a broad spectrum of disciplines in coastal sciences that include: Marine Aquaculture, Marine Biodiversity, Marine Biomedicine, Marine Ecology, Marine Education, Marine Fisheries, Marine Pathology, and Marine Toxicology.  This course could easily form the basis of a Senior or Honors Project.  Prerequisites: Four semesters of biology or permission of instructor.  Special Problems: Research.  One to six hours credit is available and is assigned by the instructor. Contact SFP staff for further information at 228.818.8812 or sfpFREEMississippi.

Online courses will be 100% online and conducted through USM’s online learning platform, Canvas. Students are expected to have access to a computer and reliable internet connection and should expect a combination of synchronous and asynchronous content. 


Students may take a maximum of 6 credit hours of in-person coursework per term OR a maximum of 11 credit hours of online coursework per term. If taking in-person SFP courses, students are strongly discouraged from enrolling in online classes at another institution simultaneously.