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Spend a semester on the coast and dive into cutting-edge research with this comprehensive spring program for UT undergraduates. Semester by the Sea that combines coursework and research at our field station in Port Aransas.

The Spring Semester by the Sea program offers five 3-credit hour organized courses plus a four-credit field research course for an independent field- or lab-based research project. Courses count towards degree requirements for EVS, EEB, & MS.

  • MNS 382 Marine Phytoplankton Diversity
  • MNS 352E Marine Conservation Biology
  • MNS 352M Marine Community Ecology
  • MNS 352R** Research Methods and Reporting
  • MNS 370 (Writing and II Flag) Special Studies in Marine Science
    ** Lab/Field components are offered in Port Aransas only (not video-linked)

Students accepted into the program are eligible for:
• Campus housing with week-day cafeteria services.
• Top students are eligible for a travel award to a national or regional science meeting based on their research.
• Access to marine instrumentation and diverse small boat fleet at UTMSI for field research.

We plan to offer four 3-credit hour organized courses in spring 2022 plus a four-credit field research course for an independent field- or lab-based research project. Courses count towards degree requirements for EVS, EEB, & MFS. 

  • Each course satisfies a requirement in the Prescribed Work or Major Requirements for the EVS Biology degree (e.g. Climates and Oceans, Physiology, and Taxon-based).
  • All courses would count toward the 21-hr requirement for students in the MS degree option.
  • While taking our field courses, students accepted into the "Spring Semester by the Sea" program will also register for MNS 370 (Independent Research) and:
  • Identify a faculty research mentor.
  • Develop an independent field-based research project.
  • Work in a research lab.
  • Become familiar with the primary scientific literature for independent inquiry and research.


This course will cover the taxonomy of the major phytoplankton groups, their physiology, and their role in marine ecosystems. Through a combination of field sampling, lectures, and practical laboratory exercises, you will investigate the composition and distribution of planktonic algae and how they respond to environmental change. You will be introduced to sampling regimes, identification techniques, counting methods, and a variety of modern analytical tools (flow cytometry, fluorescence microscopy, PAM fluorometry, microsens O2 sensor) used to study phytoplankton physiology. Major course topics include (broadly based):

  • Evolution of major phytoplankton lineages, including endosymbiotic theory and endosymbiotic event(s)
  • Identification of phytoplankton, including differences in cellular structure and physiology among phytoplankton groups
  • Growth of phytoplankton, including photosynthesis, light responses, nutrient requirements
  • Composition of phytoplankton communities: how they change and how they affect ecosystem function
  • Global patterns of phytoplankton distribution, diversity, and function
  • Role of phytoplankton in food webs
  • Topical issues in phytoplankton ecology, such as harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, ocean acidification, climate change, polar systems
  • Graduate students are expected to participate in one hour discussions section each week and perform additional/graduate level work as prescribed in the syllabus

MARINE CONSERVATION BIOLOGY -WB - MNS 352E (unique 54235 Port Aransas/54230 Austin)
This course presents general principles of marine conservation biology from a whole systems approach, covering recent advancements in marine conservation ecology. The course will focus heavily on case studies as examples of marine conservation in marshes, estuaries and other marine environments. Prerequisites: six semester hours of upper-division course work in science.

The aim of this course is to provide students with a holistic understanding of the assembly and functioning of marine communities. Students will gain insight into both traditional and newly-emerging techniques to study marine communities, from visual censuses to molecular approaches. The course includes practical components using the statistical software R. The equivalent of three lecture hours a week for one semester; additional lecture and field/laboratory hours may be required. May be repeated for credit when the topics vary. Prerequisite: The following with a grade of at least C- in each: Biology 311D or 315H, and Chemistry 302 or 302H.

SPECIAL STUDIES IN MARINE SCIENCE - MNS 370 (unique 53145) This course sequence is taught in Port Aransas and is NOT offered over the video link. Students must reside in Port Aransas. The primary goal of this course is for students to develop the range of skills necessary for success in marine science research including: the design and execution of a coordinated field/lab project; critical evaluation of scientific data; and development of effective oral and written communication techniques. The course serves as the interface for the student research experience in UTMSI faculty labs during Semester by the Sea via a professional scientific training curriculum. Specific course activities include some field/lab work in addition to proposal writing, peer review, report writing, and oral communication practice in preparation for the Semester by the Sea Research Symposium. The equivalent of one lecture hour a week for one semester. Marine Science 148, 348 (Topic 1), and 152R may not both be counted. Prerequisite: Upper-division standing and concurrent enrollment in Marine Science 370.