Marine Science Field School

The area of Marine Science spans a vast range of topics including physical and biological oceanography, marine weather, fisheries biology and management, marine conservation, and virtually all aspects of the biology of marine animals and plants.

The University of Alberta does not offer a formal Marine Sciences Degree. Four courses with a strong marine focus are available on campus, as well as a field research program at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre (BMSC) on Vancouver Island. These courses include:

  • Survey of Invertebrates (ZOOL 250)
  • Advanced Invertebrate Biology (BIOL 495)
  • Marine Science (BIOL 361)
  • The Oceans (EAS 212)

Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre offers a summer program, or the option of a 15-credit fall term on-site. BMSC is Canada's premier marine research and teaching facility, and is co-owned by the University of Alberta.

To register for BMSC, complete the online application form. Consent of the Department of Biological Sciences in required after acceptance in the BMSC program.

Contact BMSC (Dr. Richard Palmer): or (250) 728-3301.

Students wishing extensive marine science experience at the U of A should consider the following:

Maximizing Marine Science Opportunities at the University of Alberta

Why Marine Science at the U of A?

The extensive suite of Marine Science courses offered at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre (BMSC) - all of the MA SC courses listed in the U of A calendar - may actually be taken for credit at any one of the five western Canadian Universities that run the Centre (University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of British Columbia, University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University). Thus, the U of A offers the same access to Bamfield courses as any of these universities. Students who actually wish to obtain an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology or Marine Science should consider programs at UBC and Dalhousie University.

Which program is best?

The best U of A programs in which to register are Animal Biology or Evolutionary Biology, depending on which of these is closer to your interests. These programs list the largest number of Marine Science courses as pre-approved options. However, Marine Science courses may also be taken as approved options in other programs (e.g., Ecology), in consultation with the program advisor.

Preparing for summer courses at Bamfield

Summer courses are normally taken during the second or third year. Students wishing to take summer courses at Bamfield should ensure they have completed BIOL 108 (Organisms in their Environment) and BIOL 208 (Principles of Ecology). Chances of admission to Bamfield courses are further raised for students who have completed ZOOL 250 (Survey of Invertebrates), BIOL 361 (Marine Science), or who have had one or more of the vertebrate diversity courses (ZOOL 405 Biology of Fishes, ZOOL 407 Biology of Birds, ZOOL 408 Biology of Mammals), if they wish to take one of the specialized vertebrate biology courses at Bamfield. If more students apply for BMSC courses than spaces are available, students are generally accepted based on their background (e.g., pre-requisites, prior experience) and GPA.

Summer course availability

Note that each summer (May-Aug) the selection of courses offered at Bamfield is different. Some courses are offered every year, some in alternate years, and others only occasionally. Also, as many as three courses may be offered during the same time period each summer, but students can only enroll in one course at a time. So, it is best to check the BMSC web site to see what courses are planned for the coming year.

Financial support

A generous scholarships program helps defray the expenses of students of high academic standing. Also, full-time Work/Study positions available for interested students. So, for example, a student who receives a BMSC scholarship and who registers for Work/Study for one 6-week block during the sumemr would recover nearly all of their lodging and meal expenses for the whole summer.

The Bamfield Fall Program

Students wishing an intensive marine science experience should consider enrolling in the Bamfield Fall Program (Sept.-Dec.). This is a full 15-credit program, normally taken in the fourth year, consisting of five courses: three full-time lecture/lab courses that run sequentially over the term (MA SC 415 - Structure and Function in Animals, MA SC 425 - Ecological Adaptations of Seaweeds, MA SC 437 - Marine Population Ecology and Dynamics), and two courses that run for the entire term (an independent research project course, MA SC 403 - Directed Studies in Marine Science, and a seminar/discussion course, MA SC 480 - Seminars and papers in Marine Science). Most students who have taken this program consider it the high point of their undergraduate career.

Doing an honours thesis as part of the Bamfield Fall Program

Honours students may arrange to do the first half of their honours thesis at Bamfield as part of the Fall Program, and then complete the second half back in Edmonton. However, a research plan should be discussed carefully with potential supervisors to ensure its feasibility. Students wishing this option should register for BIOL 499 (Honours Thesis), as they would normally, but they would not register for the directed-studies course (MA SC 403) that is part of the Fall Program.