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University Catalog


College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics


Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) at Moss Landing, California, is operated year round by the California State University. This marine facility functions as an extension of seven participating State Universities (Fresno, Hayward, Monterey Bay, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Stanislaus) and offers full-time coursework in marine biology, oceanography, marine geology, and other marine sciences.

Enrollment is open to properly qualified upper division and graduate students from each of the participating colleges. New students may qualify through normal matriculation procedures at one of the home campuses. With approval of academic advisors, students may satisfy a part of their requirements in Biological Sciences through courses offered at the Moss Landing Laboratories. The Master of Science degree in Marine Science is offered as an interdepartmental degree through Biological Sciences in cooperation with Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

Special Features

  • Most courses are field-oriented, taking advantage of a diversity of nearby coastal and marine habitats, including Monterey Submarine Canyon, subtidal kelp forests, Elkhorn Slough, and rocky and sandy intertidal zones.
  • Field activities are facilitated by the MLML fleet, the 135' R/V POINT SUR, the 35' R/V ED RICKETTS, two Boston Whalers, and a number of inflatable rafts.
  • Ongoing research by faculty and graduate students further enhances the MLML learning experience.


Admission Requirements

The Master of Science degree in Marine Science program is administered through MLML and the Biological Sciences Department. The prospective student must meet the entrance requirements for the program and will be accepted into unclassified or conditionally classified graduate status by normal procedures. The student will become classified upon completion of MLML's requirements.

A conditionally classified student may become fully classified in the Marine Science program as follows:

  • obtain an advisor at MLML and one from the department of the student's choice at the home campus. Each new student in the MS program at MLML will be assigned an advisor who may or may not be the final thesis advisor;
  • make up any coursework deficiencies at either the home campus department (see their regulations) and/or MLML. MSCI 104, and three of the following five courses are prerequisites for classified graduate standing: MSCI 103, MSCI 141, MSCI 142, MSCI 143, and MSCI 144. These courses may be waived by the graduate committee upon certification that equivalent courses have been satisfactorily completed. MSCI 104 is a prerequisite and cannot be counted toward the 30-unit degree requirement;
  • students who do not receive a GPA of 3.0 or better in the courses listed above taken at MLML, or who wish to substitute equivalent courses taken elsewhere regardless of the grade(s) received, must pass a written qualifying examination given by the faculty at MLML. Contact MLML for further information.

Advancement to Candidacy

To be advanced to candidacy, the student must have:

  • attained classified standing;
  • selected a thesis problem and a thesis advisory committee. The thesis committee will be composed of at least three members, including one faculty member from MLML (who is ordinarily the thesis advisor) and, at the discretion of the home campus, a representative from that campus. The other member or members of the thesis committee may also be from MLML, or from the home campus, or elsewhere, with the approval of the thesis advisor; and
  • taken the Writing Placement for Graduate Students (WPG) or taken a Graduate Writing Intensive (GWI) course in their discipline within the first two semesters of coursework at California State University, Sacramento or secured approval for a WPG waiver.

Requirements - Master of Science Degree

A student becomes eligible for the MS degree in Marine Science after satisfying the following requirements:

  • the student has been advanced to candidacy;
  • the student has satisfied MLML's requirements for the degree; and
  • the student has completed the following 30-unit curriculum requirements.
A. Required Courses (6 units)


MSCI 285

Seminar in Marine Biology (Instructor permission)


MSCI 286

Seminar in Marine Geology


MSCI 287

Seminar in Oceanography


MSCI 299

Master's Thesis

B. Electives* (24 units)

(9) Electives from MSCI 200-level courses

(15) Electives from MSCI 100-level or above courses as approved by the thesis committee. The following courses may be used:

MSCI 112

Marine Birds and Mammals (Upper division college vertebrate zoology; or instructor permission)

MSCI 113

Marine Ichthyology (College zoology or equivalent or instructor permission)

MSCI 124

Marine Invertebrate Zoology I (College zoology or instructor permission)

MSCI 125

Marine Invertebrate Zoology II (College zoology or instructor permission)

MSCI 131

Marine Botany (MSCI 103 recommeded)


MSCI 201

Library Research Methods (Graduate standing in the Marine Science M.S. program and instructor permission)

MSCI 202

Oceanographic Instrumentation (MSCI 141, MSCI 142 and instructor permission)

MSCI 211

Ecology of Marine Birds and Mammals (MSCI 103, MSCI 104, MSCI 112)

MSCI 212

Advanced Topics in Marine Vertebrates (MSCI 112 or MSCI 113 and instructor permission)

MSCI 221

Advanced Topics in Marine Invertebrates (MSCI 124 and instructor permission)

MSCI 231

Biology of Seaweeds (MSCI 131 or instructor permission)

MSCI 234

Advanced Biological Oceanography (MSCI 144)

MSCI 242

Plate Tectonics (MSCI 141 or instructor permission)


MSCI 248

Marine Benthic Habitat Techniques (Graduate standing and instructor permission)

MSCI 251

Marine Geochemistry (MSCI 143, quantitative analysis, one year calculus or instructor permission)

MSCI 261

Ocean Circulation and Mixing (MSCI 142; college physics strongly recommended or instructor permission)

MSCI 271

Population Biology (MSCI 103, MSCI 104; or instructor permission)

MSCI 272

Subtidal Ecology (MLML diver certification and marine ecology; knowledge of marine algae, invertebrates, and statistics recommended)

MSCI 280

Scientific Writing (Graduate status and instuctor permission)

MSCI 298

Research in the Marine Sciences (Graduate standing and instructor permission)

* Other electives, including courses from home campus departments, may be included after consultation with the thesis advisory committee. See course descriptions for prerequisites.


  • The student must have submitted a thesis approved by the thesis advisory committee. The thesis must conform to the rules set forth by the home campus.

  • The student must successfully give an oral thesis defense in the form of a seminar open to the general public. The thesis advisory committee must be present, may require further oral questioning after the seminar, and will evaluate the success of the presentation. 

Contact Information

Kenneth Coale, Director of the Laboratories
P.O. Box 450, Moss Landing, CA 95039-0450
(408) 755-8656

Rose Leigh Vines, Department of Biological Sciences Chair
Sequoia Hall 202
(916) 278-6535

David Evans, Department of Geology Chair
Placer Hall 2003
(916) 278-6337