Graduate Degree Specialization in Marine Biology

photo Students who apply to the graduate programs in botany, microbiology, oceanography, or zoology at the University of Hawai‘i may choose to specialize in marine biology. The marine biology specialization allows students to interact with an interdisciplinary group of faculty in the above programs rather than with the faculty from only one or two of these areas. The purpose of the specialization is therefore to give the student greater flexibility in choosing the faculty who will serve as mentors on his/her MS or PhD committee. Areas of expertise of the marine biology graduate faculty include aquaculture, behavioral biosystematics, botany, cognition, ecology, genetics, microbiology, molecular biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, coral reef biology and zoology.

Students who wish to specialize in marine biology must apply to and be accepted by either the botany, microbiology, oceanography, or zoology fields of study. Applications from students who have been accepted by one of these programs and who have indicated a desire to specialize in marine biology are reviewed by the Marine Biology Admissions Committee, which decides which students will be accepted into the area of specialization. Coursework required for completion of the student's graduate degree is determined by the requirements of the student’s graduate field of study. This required course work may be supplemented by courses specific to marine biology, the particular selection of courses being determined by the student in consultation with his/her advisory committee. All of the programs include seminars, colloquia, field research and/or laboratory studies as part of the student's graduate education. Students are expected to complete an original research project and present a thesis or dissertation based on that research.

Program of Study

The program in marine biology provides integrated graduate education for students seeking careers in research and teaching with emphasis on recent advances in understanding of marine systems at the ecological, organismal, and cellular-molecular levels. It is an interactive University-wide program offering possibilities for degrees in graduate programs in the College of Natural Sciences and the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. The program allows students to become specialists in the marine field of their choice by selecting courses, advisors, and research opportunities from many disciplines, including aquaculture, behavioral biosystematics, marine botany, ecology, genetics, virology and marine microbiology, molecular biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, coral reef biology and zoology. The specialization includes faculty whose research interests are focused in these areas and who provide a program of special excellence at the University of Hawai‘i. The University is based in a tropical setting on geographically the most isolated archipelago in the world. The Pacific Ocean location and volcanic origin of the islands are key factors to many of the unique research opportunities available at the University of Hawai‘i in marine biology.

The specific program of each student who specializes in marine biology is tailored to his/her interests in consultation with an advisory and a graduate (MS or PhD) committee appointed for the student. The program of study includes courses related to marine biology already existing within the curriculum of participating fields of study. Coursework is supplemented by seminars, colloquia, field programs and laboratory research in the various fields of study. The student will be expected to pass a qualifying examination in his/her field of study, complete an original research project, and present a thesis or dissertation on that research.


Prospective students must first apply for admission to the graduate programs in Oceanography, Zoology, Microbiology, or Botany. At that time, the student may select the Marine Biology specialization. The graduate program requirements for these four fields of study must be fulfilled first.

Research Facilities

Graduate student research is carried out in the research laboratories of the graduate faculty. These laboratories are located in Edmondson Hall, Snyder Hall, the St. John Laboratory of Botanical Sciences, the Marine Science Building, the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (located on Coconut Island in Kāne‘ohe Bay), and the Kewalo Marine Laboratory of the Pacific Biomedical Research Center. These laboratories are well equipped for the specialized research of the faculty and include capabilities for state-of-the-art DNA sequencing using PCR technology; video and acoustic recording for ecological and behavioral studies of coral reef and planktonic organisms; electron, ultraviolet, and light microscopy; electrophoretic analysis; flow cytometry; and radioisotope tracer work. There is a university-wide centralized computer data base, biotechnology center, and there are also excellent library facilities.

Financial Aid

Most students who specialize in marine biology receive graduate assistantship and/or tuition waivers. This financial assistance comes from a variety of university and extramural sources. Updated information on financial aid can be accessed at

Cost of Study

For the Academic Year 2010–2011, the regular graduate tuition is listed in the Table below.

Academic Year 2010–2011 (nine-month period)




Regular graduate tuition



Basic fees

$209 (2009-10)

$209 (2009-10)

Living expenses, books and supplies



Student Body

There are approximately 14,400 undergraduates and 6,300 graduate and professional students enrolled at the Mānoa campus of the University of Hawai‘i. According to the 2003 report of the Institutional Research Office, a plurality of students at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa are Caucasian, making up twenty-four percent of the student body. Japanese Americans represent twenty percent, Chinese Americans represent nine percent, Filipino Americans represent eight percent as do native Hawaiians. Ten percent of the student body is racially mixed. Smaller populations of Pacific Islanders and other ethnic groups make up the remainder.


The Mānoa campus is located on approximately 1.2 sq. km. in the Mānoa valley, a residential section close to the heart of metropolitan Honolulu, a cosmopolitan city with a population of about 800,000 people. Cultural and recreational features include the Honolulu Symphony, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Bishop Museum, the Waikiki Aquarium, the Honolulu Zoo, beaches, mountains, parks, and spectator and participant sports.

The University and the Program

The University of Hawai‘i was founded in 1907 as a land-grant institution. Although it is a statewide institution, all marine biology graduate programs are conducted at the Mānoa campus.


Completed applications should be sent to the

U.S. and foreign applicants should have a bachelor's degree emphasizing the biological sciences. Results of the Graduate Record Examination (and TOEFL scores for applicants whose native language is not English) must be submitted with the application.


Marine Biology Graduate Faculty

Alam, Maqsudul, Ph.D. (Microbiology, Moscow State University, Russia; biochemistry, Max-Planck-Institute), Professor, Microbiology. Signal transduction of halophilic Archaea, microbial diversity in lakes of the Hawaiian Archipelago, microbial genome sequencing.

Atkinson, Marlin, Ph.D., (University of Hawai‘i), Professor, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Coral Reef biogeochemistry, solid state sensor technology.

Au, Whitlow, Ph.D. (Washington State University) Professor, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Acoustics of marine animals — especially dolphins and whales, echolocation, broadband sonar R&D.

Bidigare, Robert R., Ph.D. (Texas A&M University), Professor, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Bio-optical oceanography, nutrient cycling, phytoplankton pigment biochemistry, intermediary metabolism of marine plankton.

Baley-Brock, Julie H., Ph.D. (University of Wales), Professor, Zoology. Invertebrate zoology, reef ecology, polychaetes.

Birkeland, Charles, Ph.D. (University of Washington, Seattle), Professor, Zoology. Coral reef ecology, life histories of coral reef species.

Bowen, Brian, Ph.D. (University of Georgia ) Associate Researcher, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Evolution and conservation genetics of marine organisms.

Cann, Rebecca, Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley), Professor, Cell & Molecular Biology. Molecular evolution.

Conant, Sheila, Ph.D. (University of Oklahoma), Professor, Zoology. Ornithology, ecology, behavior, conservation biology.

Cooke, Ian, Ph.D. (Harvard University), Professor, Zoology. Cellular neurophysiology, neurosecretion.

de Couet, H. Gert, Ph.D. (Darmstadt Universite), Professor, Zoology. Marine invertebrate molecular biology.

Donachie, Stuart, Ph.D. (Institute of Ecology, Polish Academy of Sciences), Assistant Professor, Microbiology. Microbial diversity of marine environments.

Douglas, James, Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley) Professor, Microbiology. Bacterial diseases including tuberculosis, leposty, brucellosis, and leptospirosis.

Gates, Ruth, Ph.D. (University of Newcastle upon Tyne , UK ) Associate Researcher, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Biology of corals; evolution and development of sensory systems.

Grau, Gordon, Ph.D. (University of Delaware), Professor, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Comparative endocrinology, environmental physiology.

Holland, Kim, Ph.D.(University of Pennsylvania ) Researcher, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Physiology; behavior; ecology of aquatic organisms; shark biology.

Humphreys, Thomas D., Ph.D. (University of Chicago), Professor, Cell & Molecular Biology. Sea urchin molecular biology.

Hunter, Cynthia, Ph.D. (University of Hawai‘i), Associate Professor, Biology. Coral reef ecology and conservation biology.

Jameson, David, Ph.D. (University of Illinois), Professor, Cell & Molecular Biology. Dynamics of biomolecules.

Jokiel, Paul, Ph.D. (University of Hawai‘i), Researcher, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Coral reef ecology.

Karl, David, Ph.D. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California), Professor, Oceanography. Microbiological oceanography, ocean production, biogeochemical cycling.

Karl, Stephen, Ph.D. (University of Georgia ) Associate Researcher, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Marine Molecular Ecology and Conservation Genetics.

Kinzie, Robert III, Ph.D. (Yale University), Professor, Zoology. Coral reef biology, marine ecology, limnology.

Leong, Jo-Ann, Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine), Professor, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. RNA viruses, diseases of aquatic animals.

Nachtigall, Paul, Ph.D. (University of Hawai ‘i), Researcher, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Marine mammal behavior; sensory systems.

Rappe, Michael, Ph.D. (Oregon State University ) Assistant Researcher, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Microbial oceanography, diversity and ecology of marine microorganisms, including seawater, coral-associated, and deep subsurface environments, marine genomics.

Selph, Karen, Ph.D. (University of Hawai‘i), Associate Specialist, Oceanography. Macrozooplakton grazing dynamics and applications of flow cytometry in microbial oceanography.

Smith, Celia, Ph.D. (Stanford University), Professor, Botany. Physiological ecology of marine marcrophytes, marine ecology, cell biology.

Steward, Grieg, Ph.D. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California), Assistant Professor, Biological Oceanography. Microbial oceanography, ecology and genomics of marine viruses and bacteria, ecology of bacterial pathogens in coastal waters.

Stimson, John, Ph.D. (University of California, Santa Barbara), Professor, Zoology. Population ecology, marine ecology.

Thomas, Florence, Ph.D. (University of California at Berkeley) Associate Researcher, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Physiological ecology, bio-mechanics, ecosystem function, and reproductive ecology in marine invertebrates, algae, seagrass beds and coral reefs.

Toonen, Robert, Ph.D. (University of California at Davis) Assistant Researcher, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Dispersal, settlement choices and recruitment patterns of larvae; population genetics, evolution & ecology of marine invertebrates; coral reef biology; molecular ecology; marine conservation & MPA design; ornamental aquaculture & aquarium science.

Tricas, Timothy, Ph.D. (University of Hawai‘i) Professor, Zoology. Behavioral ecology and sensory biology of fishes.

Wang, Guangyi, Ph.D. (University of California at Davis), Associate Professor, Oceanography. Diversity and biogeochemistry of marine fungi, functional ecology and biotechnology of marine microbial symbionts, development and application of biosensor and DNA barcoding technology for marine observatory systems, production of renewable energy from marine natural resources.

Emeritus Professors

Abbott, Isabella A , Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley), Professor, Botany. Systematics of marine algae, phytoplankton.

Grigg, Richard W., Ph.D. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California), Researcher, Oceanography. Coral reef ecology, paleoceanography, fisheries management.

Loh, Philip, Ph.D. (University of Michigan), Professor, Microbiology. Viral pathology, environmental virology and marine viral diseases, animal cell culture.

Losey, George, Ph.D. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California), Professor, Zoology. Marine animal behavior.

Parrish, James, Ph.D. (University of Rhode Island), Adjunct Associate Professor, Zoology. Community ecology, fishery biology.

Reese, Ernst, Ph.D. (University of California, Los Angeles), Professor, Zoology. Behavior, ecology, sociobiology.

Whittow, G. Causey, Ph.D. (University of Malaya), Professor of Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology. Environmental and hyperbaric physiology.


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