Graduate Courses in Marine Biology


Course Description:

The objectives of the course are to:(1) explore what it is to be a graduate student at Memorial University; (2) gain an understanding of the process underlying science and the significant ethical issues that confront a biologist; (3) explore the “culture” and responsibilities of modern research and science (such as responsibility to society, etc); and (4) develop, draft and present a preliminary research proposal for the M.Sc. or Ph.D degree (to be peer reviewed). The course will address scientific philosophy, research ethics, grant and research writing and presentation, accessing resources and support, safety and training requirements during research activities, budgeting, and career strategies.

Course Format:

The class format will be participatory discussions, case studies, visiting speakers and student seminars. PhD students will be expected to lead at least one discussion on a topic of relevance to the course.

Course Evaluation:

As the course is pass or fail, evaluation is based on class participation and successful completion and presentation of a preliminary research proposal, as well as the constructive review of other student proposals.


OCSC 7100: Biological Oceanography

Course Description:

Biological Oceanography is a core course in the Graduate Program in Marine Biology offered by the Department of Ocean Sciences. Students in other programs and departments are welcome to take it. The aim of this course is to provide students with a general understanding of the biological processes that occur in oceanic and coastal environments. The course will progressively build on the theme that the geological, chemical, and physical environments play a key role within and among biological communities. The course will begin by providing a general theoretical background and framework for subsequent invited seminars by local biological oceanographers. Most of the material used in this course will be derived from the current scientific literature. The course will also foster critical appraisal of this literature, as well as communication skills applicable to oceanographic research.

Course Format:

One session per week: OSC Challenger Room, Wednesday, 9:00-11:40 a.m.

Course Evaluation:

Early course examination 20%

Weekly critiques of articles (8x5% each) 40%

Oral Presentations/Discussion (last two weeks) 25%

Class Participation 15%


OCSC 7200: Adaptations to the Marine Environment

Course description:

Covering more than 70% of the planet, the oceans are a huge and dynamic environment that contain a diversity of distinct habitats which can be defined by specific conditions/regimes of salinity, temperature, light, pressure, oxygen levels, current, nutrient sources, etc. Marine organisms have developed a number of mechanisms (at the behavioural, organismal, cellular and genetic levels) that allow them to become uniquely adapted to more delimited niches, or to tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions. For example, in the intertidal zone, marine organisms must withstand wave action, and periodic exposure to the sun and air; in the deep sea, they face crushing pressures and constant darkness; in estuaries, they experience significant daily and seasonal variations in salinity, temperature, oxygen levels and other factors.
Using a combination of lectures, student presentations and discussions, this course will provide an overview of the fascinating adaptations displayed by marine organisms, as well as opportunities for more in-depth assessments of particular functions or processes. Marine habitats (e.g. deep sea, polar environments, intertidal) will be used to highlight specific ecological, physiological and molecular responses (e.g. photoadaptation, symbiosis, host-pathogen interactions, life-history strategies, signaling/communication, chemosynthesis, metabolic restructuring). Students will also explore adaptations specific to particular taxa, the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying a variety of adaptations, and the influence of anthropogenic disturbances on marine organisms.

Course Format: one 3 hour session per week

Course Evaluation:

Short student presentations: Each student will be required to make three oral presentations based on papers they select. Each presentation will be 12-15 min in length with 5 minutes for discussion facilitated by the speaker. The presentation should describe the major findings of the study , the experimental approaches, and how the results contribute to our further understanding of the information under discussion in the specific module of the course. A general marking scheme for oral presentations is posted on D2L.
The paper will be selected from the recent primary literature by the student and must be in the general topic area under discussion. The paper must be approved by one of the module instructors. A pdf of the front page of the paper including the abstract should be sent to 2 days before class. The abstracts will be posted on D2L. All students should read the abstracts in order to be better informed for discussion.
Discussion/participation: It is anticipated that each student will make a significant contribution to the discussions and question periods throughout the entire course.
Examination: There will be an examination based on the material presented in class by each of the six instructors and, in addition, six recent primary publications selected by the instructors. The examination will be approximately 90 min in length and will be in the form of multiple choice, short answers, etc.
Major student presentation: Each student will be required to deliver a major oral presentation of approximately 30 min on a topic of their choosing. The topic, including a preliminary list of references, must be approved by one of the course instructors and the course co-ordinator no later than Feb. 27. The material covered should be comprehensive in nature and give consideration to information from ecological through physiological to biochemical/molecular levels. The objective will be a presentation that integrates the material into a comprehensive story that ties in levels of biological organization.
In addition, to the oral presentation students are required to submit a two page, single spaced, summary of their presentation which will be evaluated on content including aspects such as synthesis and comprehensiveness of the selected topic, and the quality of writing (e.g. grammar, organization, structure of sentences, length). The summary should be sent to 2 days before class. The summaries will be posted on D2L. All students should read these in order to be better informed for discussion.
Finally, students are requested to submit the reference list of material that was used in the preparation of the oral presentation to by the day of the presentation. This should be in a format that includes titles and is consistent with a recognized journal.
The speaker order for presentations will be based on volunteers first and thereafter on a lottery system. This will be determined in class on March 13.

Examples of topics are as follows:

Adaptations in Antarctic animals to life at constant sub-zero temperatures.
Evolutionary adaptation of marine plankton to global change.
Adaptive strategies employed by ‘diving' animals.
Adaptations to life in wave-swept environments.
Adaptations of seaweeds to herbivory.
Adaptations of marine organisms to the estuarine environment.
Adaptations of marine invertebrates (e.g. oysters, mussels) to heat or salinity stress.

Marking scheme:
Three short oral presentations 3 x 10% = 30%

Examination 30%

Final major presentation (oral) 25%

Final major presentation (written) 5%

Class participation 10%



OCSC 7300: Plankton Dynamics

Course Description:

This course will examine the selected aspects of the ecology, food web interactions and dynamics of marine plankton (i.e. bacterioplankton, phytoplankton and zooplankton). The focus of this course will be to evaluate the interactions among the different trophic levels, and the interactions of food webs with upper ocean biogeochemical processes.

Course Format:

Classes will meet once per week for approximately 3 hours.

Course Evaluation: 

Oral presentation 25%

Research Proposal 20%

Term paper 25%


OCSC 7400: Fisheries Resource Management

Course Description:

This graduate studies course takes a global view of marine fisheries resource management, with a focus on the failure of governments to prevent the collapse of many major commercial fisheries. The objectives, principles and quantitative theory of fisheries management are reviewed. Classroom discussions include the role of industry, federal and regional governments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in managing living marine resources, both wild stocks and cultured species.

Course Evaluation:

Midterm Exam 50%

Final Exam 50%


Ocean Sciences

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000