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School of Ocean Science and Engineering

Summer Field Program — Course Offerings

Summer Session I:
May 30-June 28

COA301: 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)


COA448: Barrier Island Ecology

Barrier EcologyThis field course will familiarize students with concepts of coastal ecology with emphasis on the diversity of plant and animal communities unique to the northern Gulf of Mexico barrier islands. Students will take field excursions to barrier islands during this course. Topics covered include marsh, submerged, and barrier island vegetation, aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, mammals, birds and reptiles, intertidal and shallow subtidal communities, and geologic processes of island dynamics.

Prerequisites: background in biology, botany, or geology recommended.  Three credit hours (2/1). This is a half-term course, dates are May 30-June 13. Students may enroll in this course and either Cetacean Behavior OR Coastal Environments in Peril in the same term for a total of 6 credit hours.


COA444: 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. Three credit hours. This is a half-term course, dates are June 14-28. Students may enroll in this course and either Barrier Island Ecology OR Coastal Restoration in the same term for a total of 6 credit hours.



COA422: 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: Marine Biology and Marine Ichthyology or permission of instructor. 6 credit hours (3/3)


COA443: 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:
June 29-July 31

COA300: Oceanography

This 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 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). 

COA421:  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)

COA446: 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.

COA450: Marine Conservation

This 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)


COA490: Marine Toxicology (ONLINE)

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 of biology and 2 semesters of chemistry or permission of instructor. 5 credit hours.


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.