Coastal and Marine System Science Ph.D.

Program Description

Coastal and Marine System Science studies the interactions within the coastal and marine environment, which includes most of the critical physical and biological systems that support life on Earth. The mission of the Coastal and Marine System Science (CMSS) program is to support interdisciplinary research and scholarship on the biotic and abiotic components of this zone, as well as quantitative investigation of socio-economic and political processes. The program addresses this mission by integrating the tools of Earth System Science: biogeochemistry, geographic information science, ecosystem dynamics, and quantitative modeling. Students who earn PhD degrees in the sciences are typically employed in teaching or research positions in universities, or in pure research applications at specialized institutions or governmental agencies.

With the increasing efficiency of real-time data collection, transfer, and processing, aided by autonomous observation systems such as satellite sensors, oceanic buoys, and remotely controlled or autonomous submersibles, Coastal and Marine System Science is at the forefront of extracting meaningful scientific results from large data sets in near real time. Graduates of the CMSS program will demonstrate proficiency in understanding and applying the concepts and principles of all of the natural sciences as well as a working competence in mathematical modeling and geospatial analysis.

All students share a core of five interdisciplinary courses that cover the foundations of mathematical modeling, environmental policy, and case studies in system science. Topical specialized coursework (determined by the graduate advisory committee of each individual student) provides grounding in the specific scientific disciplines needed to effectively manage the coastal and marine system. After the completion of any required leveling courses and all core classes (with the exception of the seminar class,CMSS 6102) students must successfully complete a comprehensive examination for advancement to doctoral candidacy. This examination should be scheduled no later than 24 months after initial enrollment. The required dissertation involves an independent, detailed research project of importance to the international scientific community. The graduate advisory committee of each student will guide them through the conception, design, construction, and execution of a systems-based inquiry.

Student Learning Outcomes

As part of their progression through the Coastal and Marine System Science program, the students will:

  • acquire the skills required for system science studies applied to coastal and marine topics such that they are prepared to conduct CMSS original research
  • perform original and hypothesis-driven quantitative analyses that will lead to comprehensive verifiable models of natural systems
  • emphasize mathematical and/or analytical skills to generate new data and critically evaluate models that will aid in our understanding of dynamic natural systems, become a resource capable of answering environmental “what if” questions by providing comprehensive interpretation
  • develop the skills necessary to present and publish their work at national and international venues
  • develop the skills necessary to effectively teach effectively a college-level class in the area of sciences and technology
  • develop a skill set and research record such that they can secure employment at universities, federal agencies, private companies, or non-governmental organizations where they can apply the skills and knowledge acquired during their time in the program