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

Marine‐Estuarine‐Environmental Sciences, Biological Oceanography, M.S.

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Marine‐Estuarine‐Environmental Sciences, M.S.


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 M.S. degree program are as follows:

Course Work

  1. A minimum of 30 credits with 24 credits of course work and 6 credits of graduate research. Of the 24 course credits, 12 of them must be at the 600 level or higher. Exceptions and waivers for equivalent courses taken at other institutions may be used to meet prerequisite requirements of the student’s AOS upon approval of the appropriate AOS Committee. Although graduate courses taken elsewhere may serve to fulfill AOS requirements, only six credits from such courses may be identified as transfer credits. Courses used to fulfill requirements for a previously awarded degree cannot be used for transfer credits.
  2. One seminar course (MEES 608  or equivalent) must be taken for each year in residence (on average) for a total of 2.
  3. One approved Statistics course (400 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 (a 3‐4 credit course can satisfy ‘4’ above) is required.

Thesis Defense

An oral defense of the thesis, administered according to Graduate School procedures will take place at the completion of the research project. This defense will be conducted by the Research Advisory Committee and will be administered once all other degree requirements have been fulfilled. The thesis defense will generally last no longer than two hours, but the time will be long enough to ensure an adequate examination. The RAC also approves the thesis, and it is the candidate’s obligation to see that each member of the Committee has at least two weeks in which to examine a copy of the thesis prior to the time of the defense. The RAC may conclude that the candidate has passed or failed. A student may be conditionally passed with the provision that minor changes in the thesis be made by the student and approved by the major advisor. A student who fails may, at the discretion of the Committee and with approval of the MEES Program Director and the UMES Graduate Studies Dean, be permitted to stand a second defense after acting on suggestions for improvement of the thesis (e.g., collection of more data, use of different statistical analysis, rewriting of the discussion, etc.), at such time as the advisor considers appropriate. Once the thesis has been successfully defended, one copy must be supplied to the UMES MEES Office in addition to the copies required by the Graduate School.

Undergraduate Courses

The following undergraduate courses are available for MEES graduate students to take. Please visit the undergraduate catalog to view their course descriptions. 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

Oceanography Area of Specialization

In the past decade, the University System of Maryland (USM) has emerged as a nationally and internationally recognized center for oceanographic research. Laboratories of the USM Center for Environmental Studies and at the College Park campus have been most active in this field. The current expertise in oceanography in the USM lies in the subfields of Biological and Physical Oceanography and the cross disciplinary studies of Marine biogeochemistry.

The expertise in Biological Oceanography includes water column nutrient cycling and trophic dynamics (comprising the entire pelagic food web and fishes) benthic ecology, and theoretical ecosystem analysis. The expertise in physical oceanography is in large scale flows and global circulation problems, estuarine and coastal circulations, mixing, transport and numerical modeling. Physical and biological oceanographers work closely together to understand the dynamics of estuarine, coastal, and ocean systems. It should be noted that there is also considerable strength in marine chemistry in the USM; some courses are available in the MEES Oceanography track, but the MEES track in Environmental Chemistry currently has a more diverse listing and greater program strength in this area.

Students in this AOS have access to extensive oceanographic facilities throughout the USM as well as the opportunity to work with some of the University’s outstanding faculty in oceanography with global scale programs. Fundamental courses in the four major subfields of oceanography are required to provide interdisciplinary breadth, but a degree in the Oceanography AOS emphasizes the student’s independent research. Students graduating from the Oceanography AOS can expect to find jobs in universities, oceanographic laboratories, government agencies, and consulting firms.

Biological Oceanography


A Bachelor’s degree equivalent to the University of Maryland College Park undergraduate Biology degree, including:

  1. Two semesters of Calculus.
  2. Two semesters of Introductory Chemistry.
  3. Two semesters of Organic Chemistry or Biochemistry.
  4. Two semesters of Physics.
  5. Two semesters of Introductory Biology.

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

  1. One 3‐credit course in Physical Oceanography (MEES 661* or equivalent).
  2. One 3‐Credit course in Biological Oceanography (MEES 621* or equivalent).
  3. One 3‐credit course in Chemical Oceanography (CHEM 723 or equivalent).
  4. Two 3‐credit courses in Oceanography or related fields (400 or 600 level) including a recommended additional interdisciplinary course although MEES 661 can satisfy the MEES requirement for interdisciplinary breadth.
  5. A course in Statistics/Biostatistics (600 level for the Ph.D.; 400 level for the M.S.).
  6. One course or seminar in Environmental Management, Ethics or Philosophy of Science.
  7. One graduate level seminar for each year in residence (on average).
  8. Courses in Experimental Design and Analysis and in Scientific Writing are also recommended.

*This course is taught through the University of Maryland College Park.

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