Ocean Sciences


What is ocean sciences?

Ocean Sciences, or Oceanography, is a field that encompasses the study of the global marine environment from broad geographic and disciplinary perspectives. It essentially looks at the interaction between marine life and oceanic processes, covering such diverse topics as coastal and deep-sea food webs, marine animal ecology and behaviour, plankton dynamics, the effects of pollution or climate change on ocean life and ecosystems, and the management and conservation of aquatic resources, to name only a few.


Why study ocean sciences?

Our planet is predominantly covered by a vast ocean, which plays a key role in driving its climate and ecosystems, directly or indirectly affecting the lives of most of its inhabitants. Therefore, career perspectives and job opportunities for students with training in Ocean Sciences are extremely varied and rewarding.

Trainees and graduates may find work as laboratory technicians or research assistants in ocean-related fields such as:

  • oceanography
  • marine biology
  • aquaculture
  • fisheries

Other potential positions may include but are not limited to:

  • marine science educator
  • fisheries officer
  • nature interpreter
  • aquarium curator
  • environmental analyst/consultant
  • scuba diver

Importantly, students with a minor or major in Ocean Sciences are well prepared to undertake graduate studies (MSc, PhD) in various ocean-related fields, leading to further professional and academic positions.


Ocean Sciences at Memorial University

The Department of Ocean Sciences (DOS) is housed at the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC) in Logy Bay, which is located approximately 15 kilometers from the St. John’s campus of Memorial University. The OSC is a major facility for marine research on the Atlantic coast and is one of Canada’s largest marine laboratories. By virtue of its location, the department provides scientists and students access to the flora and fauna of the northwest Atlantic Ocean and is uniquely situated for shore-based studies of cold-ocean processes and subarctic, Arctic and deep-sea organisms.

Education and training is one of the department’s principal mandates, and is achieved by providing a stimulating, research-intensive environment in which students can develop and thrive. The department offers graduate and undergraduate programs, as well as hands-on field and laboratory research experience through Memorial’s Undergraduate Career Experience Program (MUCEP) and summer research positions. The uniqueness of the department’s resources provides an opportunity for interdisciplinary training in cold ocean research, whether it is related to physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology; biological and chemical oceanography; behavioural and population ecology; or aquaculture and fisheries.


Undergraduate programs in Ocean Sciences

Minor in Oceanography

This is an interdisciplinary program administered by the Department of Ocean Sciences in cooperation with the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Physics and Physical Oceanography. It is intended primarily for students in the Faculty of Science but is open to students in other faculties.

Minor in Sustainable Aquaculture and Fisheries Ecology (SAFE)

This program exposes students to aquaculture and fisheries management practices and helps prepare them for a career in applied marine fields. This is an interdisciplinary program administered by the Department of Ocean Sciences in consultation with the Marine Institute. It is intended primarily for students in the Faculty of Science but is open to students in other faculties.

Major in Ocean Sciences.

This is an interdisciplinary program administered by the Department of Ocean Sciences, providing a solid foundation in ocean studies, including the basic principles of its main sub-disciplines (physical, chemical, geological, and biological oceanography). 

Major in Ocean Sciences (Environmental Systems)

This program is a stream of the above that provides a geological/geographical context to biological and chemical phenomena in ocean sciences. It also covers such key ocean-related topics as climate change and natural hazards.

Joint Major in Marine Biology

This program is jointly administered by the Department of Ocean Sciences and the Department of Biology. It consists of core courses in oceanography and biology, and additional courses in various Science subjects.

Courses available in the first year

Ocean Sciences 1000
Exploration of the World Ocean is an introductory course covering the major ocean sciences (biology, chemistry, geology, physics) at a level sufficient for science majors but accessible to non-science majors. It explores phenomena occurring from the shoreline to the abyss and from equatorial to Polar Regions. It also examines principles of marine ecology as well as how the marine environment affects humans and vice versa. The course is offered in a blended format that combines face-to-face lectures and online interactive activities in the form of virtual oceanographic expeditions.
Lectures: 1.5 hours per week
Online Interactive Activities: 90 minutes per week
Prerequisite: None

Ocean Sciences 2000
Introductory Biological Oceanography provides a general understanding of the biological processes that occur in coastal and oceanic environments. It introduces students to the major groups of bacteria, phytoplankton, invertebrates and fish, emphasizing the biotic and abiotic factors controlling primary production and marine biomass. It shows how the physical, chemical, and geological environments interact with biology to define processes and patterns affecting nutrients and life in marine ecosystems.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: Ocean Sciences 1000 and a 1000-level course in one of Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences or Physics

Ocean Sciences 2001
Introduction to Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture introduces students to the breadth of aquaculture and fisheries science and the variety of animal species cultured and harvested. Basic aspects of aquaculture and fisheries and the links between the two are covered, including production systems, capture fisheries, environmental interactions, and the physiology, ecology and reproduction of finfish and shellfish in the context of their culture and harvest.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: Ocean Sciences 1000 or Biology 1002

Ocean Sciences 2100
Introductory Chemical Oceanography (same as Chemistry 2610) provides an introduction to the fundamental chemical properties of seawater and the processes governing the concentrations of elements and compounds in the oceans. It is an introduction to the sources, distribution, and transformations of chemical constituents of the ocean, and their relation to biological, chemical, geological, and physical processes. Topics include: controls on average concentration of chemicals in the ocean; vertical and horizontal distributions of ocean constituents; air-sea interactions; production, export, and remineralization of organic matter; the ocean carbon cycle; human-induced changes; stable isotopes; and trace elements.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: Chemistry 1011 or 1051 which may be taken concurrently or Chemistry 1001

Sample program for first year

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Science with a major in ocean sciences or a joint major in marine biology will normally take the following courses in their first year:

Sample program

Fall SemesterWinter Semester
Mathematics 1000Earth Sciences 1000
Ocean Sciences 1000Ocean Sciences 2100 (or 2000 or 2001)
Biology 1001Biology 1002
Chemistry 1050Chemistry 1051
English 1090Statistics 2550


To be admitted to the ocean sciences major or the joint major with marine biology program, students must complete 30 credit hours with an overall average of at least 65 per cent which must include:

  • six credit hours in English
  • Mathematics 1000
  • Physics 1020 (or 1050)
  • Chemistry 1050 and 1051 (or 1010 and 1011; or 1200 and 1001)
  • Biology 1001 and 1002
  • Earth Sciences 1000
  • Ocean Sciences 1000 with a minimum grade of 65 per cent.

Note: Because of scheduling and course offerings, it will realistically take three semesters  to complete all these courses. Students should contact the Department of Ocean Sciences upon completion of these courses to declare their major program.

For assistance with course selection, students should contact:
Academic Advising Centre, advice@mun.ca


Contact Information

Danielle Nichols
Department of Ocean Sciences



Guide to First Year

230 Elizabeth Ave

St. John's, NL A1B 3X9 CANADA

Tel: (709) 864-2530

Fax: (709) 864-2552