2021-2022 Graduate and Professional Program Catalog 
    Mar 25, 2023  
2021-2022 Graduate and Professional Program Catalog

Marine‐Estuarine‐Environmental Sciences, Fisheries Science, Ph.D.

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Marine‐Estuarine‐Environmental Sciences, Ph.D.


The University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) offers graduate programs leading to the degrees of Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in the Marine‐Estuarine‐Environmental Sciences (MEES). The mission of the MEES Program is to train graduate students in the overall environmental sciences. There is a clear need for scientists with training in this area, given the multitude of environmental problems faced by society today. The interests of students in the program are diverse, but generally center on some aspect of the interaction between biological and physical or chemical systems. The analysis of this interaction may be anything from a study of molecular mechanisms to an assessment of the economics of an environmental impact. To ensure that all students in the program have some understanding of the breadth of information in the field of environmental sciences, each student is required to have course work in a variety of areas.

The interests of faculty and students within the MEES Program have led to six formally defined Areas of Specialization (AOS), from which a student may choose. The AOSs are:

  1. Ecology
  2. Environmental Chemistry
  3. Environmental Molecular Biology and Biotechnology
  4. Environmental Science
  5. Fisheries Science
  6. Oceanography.

Each student will choose an AOS when applying, and both admission and program requirements will depend on the AOS and the student’s background and interests.

The strongest concentrations at UMES are in the areas of Ecology, Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Science and Fisheries Science, with Environmental Molecular Biology and Biotechnology under development and strengthening.

General Information and Program Overview

The MEES Program is a University System of Maryland (USM) interdisciplinary graduate degree program. Courses taken by MEES students are taught on participating USM campuses and USM research laboratories. A course taught at a USM campus is available to enrolled graduate students through the intercampus enrollment process.

Applicants as well as matriculated students to the program should consult the MEES program website for additional information and details on the program which are not covered in the MEES program section of this Catalog, and for any updates to the program after the time of printing. The MEES program comprehensive website is www.mees.umd.edu.

Overall Degree Program


Applicants will be considered for admission and advising on participating campuses by faculty associated with an appropriate Area of Specialization (AOS) based on the applicant’s requests. Applicants are free to apply to more than one AOS, if so desired. Prospective students may apply through either the University of Maryland Baltimore County Graduate School, the University of Maryland Graduate School at College Park, or the Graduate School at UMES. In general, a student who has identified a specific member of the faculty with whom to work should apply to the campus where that faculty member is affiliated. A student may also apply to a particular campus due to geographic considerations. See the UMES contacts for inquiries and application at the end of this section.

Applicants to the MEES Program will be considered at both the M.S. and Ph.D. levels. In the event an applicant to the Ph.D. program has only a BA or B.S. degree, admission may initially be to the M.S. program with the final acceptance to the Ph.D. program contingent on successful completion of a probationary period (usually one year) and on the recommendation of the student’s Research Advisory Committee.

An Admissions Committee from each AOS has been established to evaluate the applications of prospective students based on the following criteria:

  1. The applicant’s research interests must be clearly stated and relevant to one or more of the MEES AOS.
  2. The academic preparation of the applicant must be consonant with stated interests and AOS requirements.
  3. The undergraduate GPA must be at least 3.0, although some students with a GPA of 2.75 may be provisionally accepted based on related research or work experience.

Applicants must submit the following required documents as part of their application for graduate study in the MEES Program:

  1. Graduate Record Examination Scores. Only the General Test is required, although one of the Advanced Tests is strongly recommended. (See the AOS prerequisites).
  2. Transcripts of all college‐level work.
  3. A brief essay clearly defining areas of research interest and research objectives preferably including the AOS of interest. The essay should be carefully prepared, not in outline form, and will assist with identification of an academic advisor should the applicant be judged admissible.
  4. Three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the academic work of the applicant.

The initial screening of an applicant’s credentials is done by the Admissions Committee of the appropriate AOS. Each AOS has course prerequisites (described in subsequent subsections). Applicants missing several of these prerequisite courses may be offered provisional acceptance. Applicants missing four or more prerequisites will generally not be admitted, and should plan to take some of those courses before re‐applying.

Receipt of the application will initiate the search for an appropriate faculty member to serve as the academic advisor for the student. No student will be admitted to the Program for whom an advisor has not been identified in advance. Hence, if prior discussions have taken place between an applicant and a member of the faculty regarding the faculty member serving as advisor to the student, that fact should be mentioned in the application and the potential advisor should forward a letter of agreement. The student will be matriculated on the degree‐granting campus of his/her advisor, following admission of the applicant by the respective Graduate School.

Application Deadlines

Fall Semester ‐ February 1
Spring Semester ‐ September 1

Application Deadlines For International Applicants

Fall Semester ‐ February 1
Spring Semester ‐ June 1

Advisors and Research Advisory Committees

Upon admission to the MEES Program, students are assigned to an academic advisor. This person will be responsible for advising on all aspects of the student’s progress through the program. Any request for a change of advisor must be submitted to and be approved by the AOS Committee and the MEES Program Director (Central Office).

In certain situations, a student may want a second academic advisor. This might happen if, for instance, the professor most familiar with the student’s work will have only an Associate Graduate Faculty status. In this case, it is possible to set up a co‐advisor team of two professors who jointly serve in the role of advisor (the other having Regular Graduate Faculty status).

Due to the expected divergent interests and goals of students in the MEES Program, as well as the dispersion of campuses and laboratories, the early formation of a Research Advisory Committee is mandatory to develop an individual program. During the first semester of enrollment in the MEES Program, the student and the advisor must form this Committee and submit its membership to the AOS Committee Chairperson for approval. The Committee should meet during the first semester, and must make its written recommendations for a program of study before the end of the second semester.

A Master’s Research Advisory Committee will consist of three members, all of whom must be Regular or Associate members of a University System of Maryland (USM) campus Graduate Faculty. A Ph.D. Research Advisory Committee must have five members, three of whom must be Regular or Associate faculty as above. The Ph.D. Research Advisory Committee can consist of a minimum of three members, who are UMS graduate faculty, until the Comprehensive Examinations, at which time, it must have all five members. The student’s advisor will serve as Chair of this Committee. The membership of the Research Advisory Committee should not be drawn entirely from a single laboratory or department. Replacement of Committee members is expected, as needed, based on the advisor’s recommendation.

The program of study is laid out by the Research Advisory Committee in the first or second semester and will include any missing prerequisites [all prerequisites must be completed within the first year in the program], all required core courses, and any specialized courses the Committee believes the student needs. Total required and suggested courses will often exceed the general credit minimum (30 for M.S. and 36 for Ph.D.). The program of study must then be approved by the appropriate MEES AOS Committee.

The Research Advisory Committee is responsible for initial approval of the student’s area of research. Once the student has chosen an area of research, a proposal should be written up and discussed with the Research Advisory Committee. This preliminary research proposal should be brief (3‐5 pages), but should cover as specifically as possible the student’s research interests. Students in the Ph.D. program will later develop a more comprehensive research proposal which they must defend before advancement to candidacy. Students in the M.S. program will develop a more complete Thesis Proposal to submit to their Research Advisory Committee as described below. The approved preliminary proposal should be filed with the MEES Program Director’s office by the end of the second semester following entry into the MEES Program.

An M.S. student’s Research Advisory Committee will approve the Thesis Proposal and the Thesis Defense. Master’s students are not required to take Comprehensive Examinations. For Ph.D. students, the Research Advisory Committee will administer the Defense of the Dissertation Proposal, oversee the student’s research, and administer the Dissertation Defense. Once formulated, the names of the Research Advisory Committee members must be submitted to an AOS Committee Chairperson for approval.

Annual progress reviews initiated by the advisor will be conducted through the MEES Program Central Office and the AOS Committees to ensure satisfactory progress of MEES students toward degree completion (coursework and research direction).

The specific requirements for the MEES Ph.D. degree program are as follows:

Course Work

  1. The student must complete a minimum of 36 credits, with at least 24 credits of coursework and 12 credits of dissertation research. Twelve credits of coursework must be at the 600 level or above. Credits used to obtain a M.S. degree at a USM campus or other college/university cannot be transferred to the Ph.D. program. However, if a student has completed a M.S. degree, up to 16 credits of appropriate courses can be waived by petition to the AOS Committee.
  2. One seminar course (MEES 608 or equivalent) is required for each year in residence (on average) for a total of 4.
  3. One approved Statistics course (600 level or higher) is required.
  4. One graduate course representing significant interdisciplinary breadth, preferably outside the student’s AOS is required.
  5. One course or seminar in Environmental Management is required (a 3‐4 cr. course can satisfy ‘4’ above).


Formal application for advancement to candidacy for the Doctoral degree requires successful completion of both a Comprehensive Examination and an oral defense of the Dissertation Proposal. The Comprehensive Examination must be passed before the student can defend the Dissertation Proposal.

  1. Comprehensive Examination: The MEES Program Central Office has both general MEES and specific AOS Committee guidelines available for comprehensive examinations.

    The RAC is responsible for administering the comprehensive examination. Since this examination must be successfully completed before the dissertation proposal can be defended, it is in the student’s best interest to take the comprehensive examination as early as possible in the program. The exam must be taken by the end of the student’s fifth semester. This examination is intended to determine whether the student demonstrates sufficient evidence of scholastic and intellectual ability in major and related academic areas. The examination will not be a defense of the research proposal. Areas of the examination will be chosen by the student with the Committee’s approval, from a general list formulated by the AOS Committee. One area of the examination must be chosen for interdisciplinary breadth (e.g., relating to the interdisciplinary course from the core curriculum).

    The examination will include a combination of written and oral sections. The RAC will determine whether the student passes (a minimum of four affirmative votes is required), or fails. If failed, the examination may, at the recommendation of the RAC, be taken again. In this case the examination should be repeated within one year, but no sooner than six months, after the initial examination. If the examination is failed a second time, admission will be cancelled. Any conditional passing of the examination must be satisfied before the examination can be rendered “successfully completed.” The MEES Program Director’s office must be notified at least two weeks in advance of the pending examination. A report of the examination will be filed with the Director’s Office following the examination.

    The USM interactive video network system may be used for oral comprehensive examinations and dissertation proposal defenses but all Committee members, the student and the Graduate Studies Dean must agree to this use. Phone/conference calls are not acceptable alternatives.
  2. Dissertation Proposal Defense: The proposal defense is an oral examination on the research proposal administered by the Research Advisory Committee. At least two weeks prior to the examination, the student must supply the Committee members with a formal research proposal in which is detailed: background information, research progress to date (if any), specific objectives, and experimental design of the proposed research. The Committee is expected to examine the student on all aspects of the proposed research to determine whether the research plan is sound, and whether the student has the proper motivation, intellectual capacity and curiosity, and has, or can develop, the technical skills necessary to successfully pursue the Ph.D. degree. The student passes if there are at least four affirmative votes. If failed, the student must re‐defend the proposal within one year. A second failure will result in cancellation of admission.

    The research proposal should be defended within one year of unconditionally passing the oral and written comprehensive examination and at least one year before projected completion of the degree requirements. The MEES Program Director’s Office must be notified of the pending examination several weeks prior to its administration, and a report of the examination must be filed with the Director’s Office following the examination.

    At the successful completion of this defense, the student officially applies for Advancement to Candidacy for the Ph.D. Degree and should submit the necessary form to the UMES MEES Program Office for transmission to the UMES Graduate School. Students must be admitted to candidacy at least six months prior to the Defense of the Dissertation (final defense).

Dissertation Seminar and Defense of the Dissertation Research

A candidate for the Ph.D. degree will present a public seminar on the dissertation research during the academic year in which the degree will be awarded. The seminar should, under normal circumstances, be given within five weeks in advance of the day of the oral final examination. The student and the advisor will be responsible for initiating arrangements through the UMES MEES Office for the date and advertisement of the seminar. The seminar will be open to faculty, students, and other interested parties.

The final oral defense of the dissertation is conducted by a Committee of the graduate faculty appointed by the Graduate Studies Dean (this is usually the Research Advisory Committee plus a Graduate Studies Dean’s representative). Nominations for membership on this Committee are submitted on the designated form to the UMES Graduate School by the student’s advisor. This is done by the third week of the semester in which the student expects to complete all requirements, but no later than two months prior to the defense (see the UMES Graduate School’s calendar for Commencement Fall or Spring semester). The time and place of the examination are established by the Chair of the Committee. The student is responsible for distributing a complete, final copy of the dissertation to each member of the Committee at least two weeks before the examination date. Announcement of the final examination will be made through the UMES MEES Office to all members of the MEES faculty at least two weeks prior to the examination. All final oral examinations are open to all members of the graduate faculty and students, although only members of the Examining Committee may question the candidate. After the examination, the Committee deliberates and votes in private. Two or more negative votes constitute failure. The student may be examined no more than twice.

Following successful completion of the final examination, a final copy of the dissertation must be supplied to the UMES MEES Office, in addition to those required by the UMES Graduate School.

Undergraduate Courses

The following undergraduate courses are available for MEES graduate students to take. No more than 12 credits of 400 level courses may be used towards the minimum 24 credits of course work required.

BIOL 402 Ecology
BIOL 420 Animal Histology
BIOL 431 Mammalogy
BIOL 436 General Endocrinology
BIOL 440 Plant Physiology
BIOL 441 Comparative Physiology
BIOL 451 Conservation Biology
BIOL 461 Invertebrate Zoology
BIOL 488 Wildlife Ecology
CHEM 401 Principles of Physical Chemistry I
CHEM 402 Principles of Physical Chemistry II
ENVS 411 Water Pollution &Purification
ENVS 434 Air Pollution
MATH 410 Mathematical Statistics

Graduate statistics options include AGSC 605 Statistics in Agricultural Research  and CSDP 604 Computer Methods in Statistics . Variable credit MEES 688 experimental courses may be offered periodically with specialty topics of various faculty members.

Facilities, State‐Of‐The‐Art Equipment and Field Sites

Excellent research laboratories exist on campus in the G. W. Carver Science Hall. Research laboratories are also located in Trigg Hall and on the campus farm (Department of Agriculture). For a listing of the laboratories and major equipment and the UMES MEES faculty, see the website: www.umes.edu/sciences/mees/mees.html. UMES is uniquely situated for studying marine and estuarine habitats. Students have access to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as rivers, ponds and marshes.

External Support of Research Activities

UMES faculty have received funding for research from a number of federal and state agencies and private organizations, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Agriculture, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, Mid‐Atlantic Fisheries Development Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, US Forest Service, Agency for International Development and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

UMES Combined B.S./M.S. Degree Program

UMES offers a combined B.S./M.S. degree program in the Environmental Sciences area (Environmental Chemistry or Marine Science option). This is an accelerated program designed to enable students to obtain both the B.S. degree and the M.S. degree in five years. The curricula for the two degrees are administered under the auspices of the undergraduate Environmental Science Program and the graduate MEES program. The combined degree program offers an option or track in either Environmental Chemistry or Marine Science. This is an undergraduate admission into the B.S. degree program in Environmental Science, which allows for subsequent application for admission to the MEES graduate program in pursuit of the M.S. degree in Marine‐ Estuarine‐Environmental Sciences.

MEES Program Time Limits

  • Full time Master’s students will be limited to four years in which to graduate.
  • Full time Doctoral students will be limited to 7 years in which to graduate. Students must be advanced to candidacy, i.e., taken and passed the written and oral comprehensive examination and the dissertation proposal defense, within 6 semesters after initial enrollment.
  • Part‐time Doctoral and Master’s MEES students will follow the Graduate School’s time limits for Master’s degrees (5 years) and Doctoral degrees (5 + 4 years).
  • An extension of these time limits may be granted upon request of the student’s Research Advisory Committee, and with the approval of the MEES Program Director and the UMES Graduate Studies Dean.

For more information on this program, please contact:

Joseph Pitula, Ph.D.
Graduate Coordinator ‐ MEES Program
Department of Natural Sciences
Carver Hall Room 2107
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Princess Anne, MD 21853
Phone: 410 651 6128
Email: jspitula@umes.edu or whs@umes.edu

Fisheries Science Area of Specialization

Fisheries Science is multidisciplinary, drawing expertise from the biological, physical and social sciences. Fisheries scientists study populations and communities of aquatic resources, their responses to exploitation and changes in environmental conditions, and their management. Research is quantitative and may be either basic or applied. A diversity of faculty talent exists within the USM to provide graduate students with a strong education in Ecology, Biology and Management of fish and invertebrate resources.

The multidisciplinary nature of fisheries science requires broad training in areas that may include Ecology, Oceanography, Aquaculture, Economics, Mathematics, Seafood Technology, Pathology and Diseases, and Management Science. Students will select a curriculum, with assistance from their Research Advisory Committees, to best achieve their academic and professional goals. The faculty recognizes that flexible, yet rigorous, curriculum choices are important for students in Fisheries Science.

The program in Fisheries offers both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Graduates at either level may expect to find challenging career opportunities. Most career opportunities in Fisheries Science are in the government and academic sectors, although in recent years private businesses, research firms and aquaculture businesses offer increasingly diverse career choices.

The course work and research undertaken by MEES students in this AOS emphasize the following three fields of study:

  1. Fisheries Ecology: This field provides basic studies in fish and invertebrate population biology, food webs, recruitment and life history processes, predator‐prey and competitive interactions, diseases, and effects of habitat conditions.
  2. Fisheries Management: This field provides basic and applied studies on the effects of exploitation, pollution and habitat change on fish and invertebrate populations; assessment of resources and their potential yields; and development of models and information useful for management of living aquatic resources. Students with outstanding credentials in economics, mathematics, or operations research may request the Fisheries AOS to waive certain prerequisites.
  3. Fisheries Aquaculture: This field contributes to the research on the culture of aquatic organisms and the development of aquaculture systems. This is a broad disciplinary area that includes ecology, physiology, chemistry, genetics, seafood technology, diseases and pathology, engineering, economics and management under its auspices.


A Bachelor’s degree in the Natural Sciences or other field with a strong quantitative emphasis, including:

  1. Two semesters of Calculus.
  2. Two semesters of Introductory Chemistry.
  3. Two semesters of Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, or Physics
  4. Two semesters of Introductory Biology (or high placement test, high GRE Biology scores).
  5. Advanced Biology courses, such as Ecology and Ichthyology, are recommended.

Core Courses and Other Requirements (M.S. and Ph.D.)

Five core courses will be offered, and at least three must be successfully completed by all students entering the Fisheries Science AOS. The requirements may be waived if equivalent course work has been obtained elsewhere, or if the student and his/her Research Advisory Committee successfully petition the Fisheries Science AOS Committee.

  1. Fisheries Science and Management - This course covers the basic principles of aquatic productivity, fish and invertebrate population biology, the harvest and conservation of resources, assessment of yield potentials, and fishery management practices.
  2. Fisheries Ecology ‐ This course covers the biological processes that affect the productivity, abundances, and distributions of fish and invertebrate resources. The course include life history theory, predator‐prey relationships, bioenergetics, trophic ecology, and zoogeography.
  3. Aquaculture ‐ This course covers the theory and practices of modern aquaculture of fishes and invertebrates. The course include coverage on water quality, production systems, extensive and intensive approaches, culture genetics, and fish diseases and management.
  4. Quantitative Fisheries Science - This course covers factors affecting the stability and resilience of exploited marine and estuarine populations. Basic ecological models and applied fisheries models are presented in theoretical and practical frameworks. It is recommended that either Fisheries Science and Management or Fisheries Ecology is taken prior to this course.
  5. Graduate Level Course in Oceanography (physical, chemical or biological) or Stream Ecology - The courses cover major and minor elements, composition of seawater, seawater ionic structure and interactions, nutrient distributions, biogeochemical cycles and the biology of marine organisms. Students will obtain most of their academic course work from a broad array of relevant courses presently available throughout the USM. Each student and his/her RAC will design a course of study to be approved by the Fisheries AOS. Curricular requirements are purposely flexible, yet rigorous, to accommodate the diverse needs of students in fisheries science.

In addition, the following core courses are required:

  1. A 400 or 600 level course from one of the other MEES AOSs (from an approved list, which can include 2, 4, and 5 above).
  2. One course or seminar in Environmental Management (1 or 4 above satisfies this requirement; any such 3‐4 credits course can satisfy 6 above).
  3. A course in Statistics/Biostatistics (600 level for the Ph.D.; 400 level for the M.S.).
  4. Courses in Experimental Design and Analysis and in Scientific Writing are strongly recommended.
  5. One graduate level seminar for each year in residence (on average).

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