Collaboration between the Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory and six departments within the Colleges of Letters and Science, Biological Sciences and Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has resulted in the creation of a new marine and coastal sciences major at UC Davis.
“This is the first time in UC Davis history that three colleges have come together in the creation of a major,” said Tessa Hill, an associate professor of geology and lead advisor of the marine and coastal sciences major.
Because the major involves three colleges, it took approximately a year before it could be approved. Each individual college reviewed the major’s requirements against its own criteria and then sent it to the Academic Senate for approval. Now after a year of evaluation, the marine and coastal sciences major is officially available for sign-up.
Development of the program was initiated by increasing student interest in the marine sciences.
“The current marine science courses are pretty popular,” Hill said. “But up until now, we couldn’t offer students a degree that focused specifically in this field.”
For this reason, the new Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute, which opened its doors on Aug. 1, was created to develop an undergraduate degree program that showcased UC Davis’ strength in the marine sciences.
Another of the Institute’s goals was to coordinate and develop a research program for students to gain hands-on experience of coastal and marine sciences at the Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory. The Bodega Marine Lab sits on California’s north coast and is a leading multidisciplinary facility that researches solutions to environmental problems in coastal ecosystems.
Students interested in the major but concerned about the requirements to switch should know that the core science courses required for the major are the same across most science majors.
“Since the major involves rigorous prerequisite preparation in mathematics, physics and chemistry during the first two years, almost any student with a science major can switch to the marine and coastal sciences major within their first two to three years at Davis,” Hill said.
After the first two years, students in the major will have the opportunity to choose a focus from one of four areas: coastal environmental processes, marine ecology and organismal biology, marine environmental chemistry and oceans and the earth system. The area of emphasis chosen by the student determines from which college they will graduate.
Students will also have a chance to participate in field research at the Bodega Marine Laboratory.
“The idea is for students to go live out at the Bodega Marine Lab and to take one quarter of courses out there,” Hill said.
Another one of the Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute’s main goals is to create closer telecommunications and research connections between the Bodega Bay Lab and the UC Davis campus.
“This is in order to establish new research collaborations that normally wouldn’t have happened,” said Rick Grosberg, professor of evolution and ecology and the Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute’s founding director.
Already in progress is another one of the Institute’s plans: the creation of a headquarter for marine scientists, from both campus and Bodega Bay, to work and meet with students and peers. The 1,200 square-foot space currently in development at Storer Hall will include a library and a localized area for future seminars, workshops and conferences.
Students interested in the major will find that it can prepare them for research positions in government laboratories or in private laborites, K-12 teaching, policy positions and consulting positions. Students can also choose to pursue graduate degrees.
So far, student reaction to the creation of the major has been positive.
“I think this is a great idea,” said fourth-year environmental sciences and management major Alyssa Obester. “I really like that it isn’t focused on one aspect of marine science. It will also create awareness of the Bodega Marine Lab, which I don’t think a lot of people know about.”
Fourth-year wildlife, fish and conservation biology major Sonia Harris, agreed.
“I’m glad that this major is here for incoming students, though I am a little upset that it wasn’t an existing major when I started here, since I really wanted to come to Davis with a marine science major,” Harris said.
For those looking to add or switch to this major, marine and coastal sciences advising is located in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences on campus.