Marine Science minor available to students

Julie Herrmann/Sun Star Reporter
April 9, 2013

There’s a new fish in the sea for students casting about for a minor. The School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences is now offering a minor in Marine Science. Faculty in the Marine Science department designed the program which began last spring and currently has seven students enrolled in it.

“We started it because there was student interest,” said Assistant Professor of Chemical Oceanography, Dr Ana Aguilar-Islas. Before the minor became available, there was only one undergraduate marine science class offered. The course was a 100-level general oceanography class for non-science majors. With the Marine Science minor, two new oceanography courses are available. MSL 211, Intro to Marine Science I offered in the fall, covers the physical aspect of the oceans including how oceans form and the physics, geography and chemistry of the ocean. MSL 212, Intro to Marine Science II offered in the spring, covers ocean biology including the ocean’s animals and plants and how they interact. These two classes, along with a lab, make up the minor’s seven-credit core. The lab is offered in the spring and must be taken concurrently with MSL 212. In the lab, students apply everything from 211 and 212. They learn how to look at and handle ocean animals and plants, read and use maps, identify rocks and use a compass.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Nicole Farnham, a junior in the minor program. “The classes are very interesting.” The minor requires 15 credits total. In addition to the core, students take eight credits in electives relating to the ocean. Electives are offered on a wide variety of subjects including classes such as Scientific Diving, Introduction to Marine Mammal Biology, Kelp Forest Ecology and Introduction to Natural Resource Economics. In the future, Aguilar-Islas hopes to add more electives in more disciplines to the program.

Farnham joined the program last year, when the minor was just starting, so she could gain a better understanding of the oceans. Farnham hopes to further pursue oceanography in graduate school after she finishes a bachelor’s degree in Fisheries. Farnham is interested in marine mammals and would like to stay and work in the Arctic.

Students in any degree program can pursue the Marine Science minor and the core classes can be taken by those not pursuing the minor. Aguilar-Islas chose to open it up this way because she says marine science is important and having a background in it can give students an edge when it comes to job searches or graduate school, especially in Alaska. “We take so many resources from the ocean and we want to protect it,” Aguilar-Islas said. “I didn’t learn much about oceanography in high school, but the ocean covers 70 percent of the planet.”

There are many jobs where having literacy in Marine Science is important. “It’s very interdisciplinary,” Aguilar-Islas said. It can be helpful in many fields including Geology, Biology, Physics and Natural Resource Management, according to Aguilar-Islas.

“It’s not always in the field or in the lab. There’s a nice balance between,” Aguilar-Islas said. Marine science has enabled Farnham to participate in a seal study and a Bowhead whale project and has taken Aguilar-Islas all over the world. “The ocean is way cool, right?” Aguilar-Islas said.

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