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Ursinus Adds Marine Science Minor to Academic Curriculum

The marine science minor is designed to prepare students for postgraduate opportunities at the marine and coastal intersection of biology and environmental studies.

“Marine science is a discipline that is recognized internationally, and students are looking for these programs when considering colleges,” said Kate Goddard, an associate professor of biology.

Given its growing popularity, Goddard, who teaches marine and freshwater biology courses, teamed with two Ursinus environmental studies faculty and identified a need at Ursinus to create this multidisciplinary field of study. The goal, they said, is to help interested students pursue their preferred career paths and post-graduate experiences with a dedicated minor.

Rich Wallace, a professor of environmental studies who gained an extensive background in marine policy while working for the federal government, and Leah Joseph, an associate professor of environmental studies who is an oceanographer specialized in marine geology and paleoclimatology, teamed with Goddard to develop marine science at Ursinus. The three scholars offer diverse and specific expertise and resources that benefit the students working towards the minor.

“Recently, students have expressed much interest within the field of marine science and have been starting to drift towards these types of classes, so this is a way to provide them with a recognized way to focus on this topic,” Joseph explained.

Marine science is an area of study not often found in a liberal arts curriculum, Wallace said. It is more typical to research universities, making the Ursinus program distinctive.

The interest from students was one of the sparks for proposing the new minor. “The students lead us,” Wallace said. “They help us crystallize areas of needed curricular growth, including providing critical perspectives on some of the things that we’re doing already. All of the courses in the marine science minor were already in the curriculum. The students’ interest in a cohesive focus on marine science helped us to see the need and possibility of the new minor.”

Hannah Merges ’21 is one of the first students who plans to graduate with the minor. Her passion for marine science led her to pursue designing her own minor before it was officially established, noting all of the relevant courses she was seeing in the biology and environmental studies course catalog.

“I have always been in love with marine science and am going to pursue a career in marine science research,” Merges said. “I know other students who are also interested, so I am glad that the minor will be published to the college for all current and future students interested in marine science.”

The minor will expand on a range of experiential learning opportunities, which already includes a visit to Rutgers University’s shellfish laboratories; seining, a process that uses large nets to collect fish, crabs and sea urchins; birdwatching at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Refuge in Brigantine, N.J.; sediment coring in New York; conservation science field work on the N.J. shore; and numerous internships undertaken by Ursinus students. Students will continue to have opportunities to participate in research vessel trips, visit marine science and educational facilities, and to meet experts in the field. –By Mary Lobo ’15