For the first time since 1979, the Faculty of Science has added a new department. At a meeting held on May 10, the Board of Regents approved the recommendation of Senate to change the status of the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC) from a research unit to an academic unit.
“Considerable consultation on this subject has occurred throughout the Faculty of Science, particularly with faculty at the OSC and the Biology department,” said Dr. Mark Abrahams, Dean of Science. “Through this process, the Faculty of Science has developed a vision and plan that will allow us to develop undergraduate and graduate courses that will give Memorial students access to the expertise at the OSC.”
In the short term, faculty will retain their teaching obligations to other academic units within the Faculty of Science. However, graduate and undergraduate academic programming is already being developed for the new Department of Ocean Sciences.
“Since the disciplines of the 15 OSC faculty range from biological/chemical oceanography to marine genomics, the potential for developing a successful academic program in marine science that links with the academic programs of other departments within the Faculty of Science is considerable,” said OSC director, and now department head, Dr. Garth Fletcher.
He says the plan is for the department to be interdisciplinary, allowing students to take courses from the other Science departments. They are also hoping to begin offering two minors, in oceans and in aquaculture, by fall 2013 and are in the process of transferring the marine biology graduate program from the Department of Biology to the Department of Ocean Sciences.
It’s going to be wonderful being more involved with undergraduate and graduate students,” said Dr. Fletcher. “I believe this will help make Memorial University the place to go to study oceans and marine sciences.”
The Marine Science Research Laboratory was constructed in the 1960s to serve as a marine science research facility for all university faculty interested in marine organisms. It became operational in 1968. Attempts were made in the late 80s to develop a graduate program in marine biology at the OSC, within the Department of Biology, however the program was ultimately unsustainable.
Still the desire remained, said Dr. Fletcher and so this recent status change from a research unit to an academic one has certainly been a long time coming.
“It’s definitely a coming of age for us,” said Dr. Fletcher. “This is it, we’ve finally grown up. All of a sudden we have some control over what we’re going to be doing academically, with approval of the entire university of course, but we’ve finally made it.”