UW Announces New Marine Biology Major
From iconic orcas to life-sustaining salmon runs, the Pacific Northwest and Seattle itself have always been deeply connected to the sea.
Uniquely positioned in the region, the University of Washington is a world leader in the fields of oceanography and aquatic and fishery sciences, and UW’s College of the Environment is pleased to announce it will be expanding its scope to include a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Marine Biology.
“Students learn core biological concepts in a marine setting, as well as have the opportunity to study a variety of relevant topics that incorporate advanced skills,” said Kerry Naish, director of the marine biology program. “The combination of subject matter and skill-building means students will graduate with the knowledge necessary to solve emerging issues in the marine environment and beyond.”
The College of the Environment, with support from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, School of Oceanography and Friday Harbor Labs, developed the marine biology major to complement established programs. The joint approach will pave the way for collaboration and community across disciplines, and provide undergraduate students the chance to work with a broad range of faculty, staff and graduate students.
The major was designed to give students a strong foundation in the sciences, sharing learning goals with the degrees in oceanography, aquatic and fishery sciences, and biology. Additionally, students will select from a range of specialized courses offered through the three participating programs, including advanced skills in areas of biotechnology, instrumentation, programming and modeling, statistical analysis, science communication, resource conservation and management, food security and climate impacts.
“The curriculum integrates field experience, laboratory skills and incredible courses taught by world-class scientists,” said Jacqueline Padilla- Gamiño, assistant professor of aquatic and fishery sciences.
Jennifer Ruesink, a professor in the Department of Biology, adds, “In marine biology, students practice how to communicate what they know and how they know it, scientifically. To make progress on environmental issues, scientists have to find logical solutions and convince others.”
Katie Hearther, an undergraduate student who recently declared a double-major in marine biology and oceanography, says few institutions in the U.S. offer such a variety of marine science foci. “Despite popular belief, marine biology and oceanography are extraordinarily different, and I am equally passionate about both.”
A standout feature of the new marine biology program is that students complete an integrative field experience. Located on a 484-acre wildlife preserve on San Juan Island, Friday Harbor Labs is one field station where marine biology students immersive themselves in their research.
“Students who learn best by doing thrive at Friday Harbor Labs,” said Megan Dethier, associate director for academics and the environment at Friday Harbor Labs. “Most time is spent seeking patterns in the field, studying live organisms in the lab, conducting hands-on experiments and communicating science to others.”
With a degree in marine biology from UW, graduates of the program will be well-equipped for careers at local, national and international management agencies, environmental consultancies, nonprofit organizations and a range of educational institutions.
“The ocean is beautiful, diverse, complex and under-explored. It’s also changing,” said Alex Gagnon, assistant professor at the School of Oceanography. “The next generation of marine biologists will pair discovery with stewardship as they build a sustainable future for humans and marine life. It will require scientists who can bring an interdisciplinary approach to complex challenges, which is precisely what marine biology majors at the UW will receive.”
Marine biology is an open major that can be declared at any time by students currently enrolled as undergraduates at the UW. To declare the major or learn more, contact Joe Kobayashi, marine biology academic advisor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.