College of Science & Mathematics
Master of Science in Marine & Environmental Science
Core courses must be completed on the Orville E. Kean campus on St. Thomas, but the degree can be completed on either campus.
Students complete a minimum of 36 graduate credit hours to earn the MMES degree. There are three program requirements:
- Core courses
- Elective courses
Note that students will be expected to finalize a match with a major professor by the end of the first semester in the program.
Core coursework in the first year is designed to provide the broad theoretical and practical background and tools necessary for effectively conducting scientific research, managing natural resources and communicating the results of research and management decisions to various audiences. All students enrolled in the MMES program complete four core courses in each of two semesters:
Fall Year 1
- MES 501 Physical and Ecological Processes along a Land-Sea Gradient I (3 credits)
- MES 503 Research Methodologies and Tools I (3 credits)
- MES 505 Natural Resource Management I (3 credits)
- MES 507 Professional Development I (1 credit)
Spring Year 1
During the Spring semester, students work as a team on a capstone project to address an environmental issue from the perspective of ecology and natural resource management. The project's theme guides all core courses in the Spring.
- MES 502 Physical and Ecological Processes along a Land-Sea Gradient II (3 credits)
- MES 504 Research Methodologies and Tools II (3 credits)
- MES 506 Natural Resource Management II (3 credits)
- MES 508 Professional Development II (1 credit)
Core courses are usually held on Mondays and Wednesdays. Students should expect to be on campus and in class or the field from 9am to 5pm every Monday and Wednesday during the Fall and Spring semester of their first year.
MES 501 Physical and Ecological Processes along a Land-Sea Gradient I - This course provides a theoretical and hands-on introduction to global ecological concepts and diverse ecosystems. Students will be introduced to current ecological thinking through readings and discussion, including primary literature. They will also participate in laboratory and field work to introduce them to local flora and fauna and the habitats (terrestrial, coastal and marine) in which they are found. Two hours of lecture and 3 hours of laboratory per week.
MES 502 Physical and Ecological Processes along a Land-Sea Gradient II - This course follows up on knowledge and skills that were introduced in Physical and Ecological Processes I. Ecological concepts will be examined by using the interactions between local flora and fauna and the abiotic environment along a land-to-sea gradient as specific examples. Students will examine conceptual models linking terrestrial, coastal and marine zones, and examine the effect of physical changes on ecological processes through specific case studies. Students will also participate in collecting data for long-term ecological studies. Two hours of lecture and 3 hours of laboratory per week.
MES 503 Research Methodologies and Tools I - This course sets the theoretical and practical foundations for conducting scientific research. Students will learn how to design research projects from inception of an idea, formalizing a hypothesis, designing sampling/experimental techniques and data collection, and an overview of statistical and geospatial analyses. Two hours of lecture and 3 hours of laboratory per week.
MES 504 Research Methodologies and Tools II - This course provides training in database management, and the statistical and geospatial tools necessary to conduct research in natural and social sciences. Two hours of lecture and 3 hours of laboratory per week.
MES 505 Natural Resource Management I - This core course provides an overview of environmental management by examining services provided by natural resources, introducing resource management paradigms, and analyzing case studies. Three hours of lecture per week.
MES 506 Natural Resource Management II - This core course provides continued training in natural resource management with particular emphasis on Caribbean coastal and marine ecosystems. Students will examine institutions and policies that influence natural resource management, have the opportunity to interact with guest lecturers from local natural resource management agencies, and work as a team on a project that addresses a local resource management issue. Three hours of lecture per week.
MES 507 Professional Development I - This course introduces the tools necessary to be a successful scientist and resource manager. It will address communication with diverse audiences, public speaking and presentations skills, negotiation and conflict resolution. One hour of discussion per week.
MES 508 Professional Development II - This course continues to build students’ professional skills. It will address proposal preparation and presentation, grantsmanship, and ethics, and will introduce students to project planning. Additional topics covered will depend on the professional interests of students in the course. One hour of discussion per week.
After the first year, students enroll in at least 6 additional credits from elective courses. The following courses count toward elective credit:
- MES 511 Graduate Research Diving (2 credits)
- MES 524 Marine Ecology (3 credits)
- MES 530 Coral Reef Biology (3-4 credits)
- MES 549 Aquatic Plant Biology (4 credits)
- MES 550 Terrestrial Plant Biology (4 credits)
- MES 552 Plant Physiology (4 credits)
- MES 559 Environmental Science and Human Health (3 credits)
- MES 565 Selected Topics in Marine and Environmental Science (variable credits)
- MES 567 Pedagogy and Mentoring (1 credit)
- MES 570 Evolution (3 credits)
- MES 595 Independent Study (1-4 credits)
- MES 596 Internship (1-4 credits)
Note that additional courses, including courses in zoology and in natural resource management, are currently being developed.
Also note that some elective courses are offered on a two-year rotational schedule or less often (see course descriptions). If a course is not being offered, or if a student is interested in a topic for which a course does not currently exist, MES 595 Independent Study may be arranged for that topic. In such a case, students should contact their thesis advisor and the MMES Director.
MES 511 Graduate Research Diving - A lecture and lab course designed to prepare graduate students for the rigors of fieldwork and scientific SCUBA diving at UVI. The course covers the physics and physiology of SCUBA diving with certification to Rescue Diver, the in-water identification of fishes, corals and algae of the US Virgin Islands, and research techniques for measuring and sampling reef communities. We will also introduce boating and general water safety. One 50-minute lecture and three hours of field/laboratory per week. (F) 2 credits
MES 524 Marine Ecology - Principles of marine ecology introduced through reading and discussion of recent scientific literature. Course includes all topics of the undergraduate course MBI 424; additional requirements include, but are not limited to, more rigorous, extensive, and analysis of primary literature. Three 50-minute lectures per week. (S-O) 3 credits
MES 530 Coral Reef Biology - A study of corals and their biology, the coral reef community, evolution of coral reefs, and the problems facing coral reefs today. Topics will include biological and geological structures of coral reef ecosystems; linkages between coral reefs and other ecosystems; anthropogenic impacts on coral reefs; and coral reef conservation and management. Three 50-minute lectures and three hours of field/laboratory per week. (F-O) 4 credits
MES 570 Evolution - Concepts of evolutionary biology, including the molecular level, population genetics, speciation, behavior, and broad patterns of macroevolution. Course includes all topics of the undergraduate course BIO 370; additional requirements include, but are not limited to, a more intensive consideration of the application of evolutionary theory to conservation biology, marine and environmental science. Three 50-minute lectures per week. (F-O) 3 credits
MES 549 Aquatic Plant Biology - A comprehensive survey of aquatic plants with emphasis on marine systems. The life histories, morphology, physiology, ecology, and evolutionary relationships among the major groups of algae and flowering plants are examined using local flora as examples. The commercial uses of algae are included. Course includes all topics of the undergraduate course BIO 370; additional requirements include, but are not limited to, oral presentations of material from the primary scientific literature and completion of an independent research project. Three 50-minute lectures and three hours of field/laboratory per week. (F-E) 4 credits
MES 550 Terrestrial Plant Biology - Comprehensive introduction to plant life from bryophytes through angiosperms. Morphology, evolution, systematics, reproduction, plant identification, and other significant biological aspects, with examples taken from the local flora. Students study principles that aid in understanding the biology and ecology of terrestrial plant ecosystems and learn to use field and laboratory techniques of plant biology. Course includes all material as the undergraduate course BIO 350 with additional graduate level work including a literature search, more in-depth examination questions, and a rigorous field research project. Three 50-minute lectures and one three-hour field/laboratory per week. (S-O) 4 credits
MES 552 Plant Physiology - Comprehensive introduction to physiological mechanisms that affect plant ecological processes. Topics covered include photosynthesis, respiration, nutrition, hormones, growth, absorption, and conduction. Students study principles that aid in understanding the ecology of terrestrial plant ecosystems and learn to use field and laboratory techniques of plant physiology. Course includes all material as the undergraduate course BIO 352 with additional graduate level work including a literature search, more in-depth examination questions, and a rigorous field research project. Three 50-minute lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week. (S-E) 4 credits
MES 565 Selected Topics in Marine and Environmental Science - Topics in various fields of marine and environmental science designed to educate graduate students in areas of special interest or regional need; topics such as mathematical and computer modeling of natural systems, coastal management, advanced geographical information systems, conservation genetics, global environmental change, ecological physiology, and fisheries biology, among others. May be repeated for credit as varying topics will be offered. Variable hours and credit.
Topics that have been offered include:
• Biology of Marine Mammals, Birds, and Reptiles
• Advanced Statistics
• Fisheries Systems Management
• Human Dimensions in Natural Resource Management and Policy
• The Role of Marine Protected Areas in Ecosystem-Based Management
• Introduction to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Spatial Models
• Resources, Environmental Writing, and Thought
MES 567 Pedagogy and Mentoring - Introduction to techniques designed to enhance the undergraduate learning experience, including recent research on cognition and how the findings of this research can be incorporated into the teaching of undergraduate laboratory sections, supplemental instruction, and mentoring of undergraduate researchers. Students will have the opportunity to practice techniques and obtain feedback on the effectiveness of their instruction. Other topics to be discussed will include UVI policies, use of technology in teaching, ethical issues, such as confidentiality, sexual harassment, and academic integrity. One 50-minute lecture per week, or 750 minutes of contact time distributed as necessary if offered during summer session. (F) 1 credit
MES 595 Independent Study - Reading and synthesis at the graduate level in an area not otherwise available. May be repeated for credit if different topics are studied, but the student cannot accumulate more than four (4) credits. A written proposal must be submitted by the student to the supervising professor and the Graduate Student Coordinator at least four weeks prior to registration for the course. Variable hours and credit.
MES 596 Internship - Students may participate in an internship with a natural resource management agency or non-profit organization such as VIMAS through the Youth Ocean Explorers Summer Program. Written proposals for the internship must be developed by the student and the prospective agency supervisor and submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator and the student’s advisory committee for approval at least four weeks prior to the start of the internship. A maximum of four (4) credits can be earned, the number of credits being determined by the duration of the experience. Variable hours.
MES 567 Pedagogy and Mentoring - Introduction to techniques designed to enhance the undergraduate learning experience, including recent research on cognition and how the findings of this research can be incorporated into the teaching of undergraduate laboratory sections, supplemental instruction, and mentoring of undergraduate researchers. Students will have the opportunity to practice techniques and obtain feedback on the effectiveness of their instruction. Other topics to be discussed will include UVI policies, use of technology in teaching, ethical issues, such as confidentiality, sexual harassment, and academic integrity. One 50 minute lecture per week, or 750 minutes of contact time distributed as necessary if offered during summer session. (F)
MES 600 Thesis - Students collect, analyze and interpret data, and present the results of this original research in written and oral form, under the direction of their major professor and advisory committee. Variable credit and hours, up to 12 can be taken for repeated credit.
- All students submit a written thesis based on an independent research project, with oral thesis defense before the student’s academic advising committee and presentation in a public seminar. The thesis requires 11-12 credits of commitment from the student, as the primary goal of the program is to train students who can design and implement research projects, including collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data, and who can use newfound knowledge to address environmental and natural resource management challenges.
- The student is expected to begin planning the thesis, under the guidance of his/her major advisor, during the first semester of enrollment in the MMES program. The student will be guided in conducting a literature review and designing a thesis proposal in Professional Development I and II seminars. The final literature review and thesis proposal will be reviewed by the student’s major advisor and other committee members. Research will normally be conducted during the second year of enrollment, but other arrangements are possible with approval of the student’s committee and the MMES Director.
- Students may only enroll in the thesis course (MES 600) after their thesis proposal has been approved by their thesis committee. Students must enroll in MES 600 each semester they work on their thesis with their advisor.