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A hand reaches into water and touches marine life.

Best marine biology program in Oregon links students to career networks

By Elana Roldan

In the Department of Integrative Biology, opportunities to thrive are placed directly in students’ hands. Nowhere is this more evident than in the marine biology option.

With a marine biology specialization, undergraduates gain a solid understanding of marine life alongside foundational knowledge. Learning not only conceptually, but also by diving head-first into hands-on learning is one of the greatest assets a marine biology student can have.

“Students are getting a first-class education, but also being exposed to — and even participating in — cutting-edge marine biology research,” said Sarah Henkel, associate director of the Pacific Marine Energy Center.

The next generation of these leading biologists is growing strong thanks to the key experiences they have at Oregon State.

Set up for success

From laboratories to research vessels, marine biology exists in a broad range of environments. This makes it critical for up-and-coming scientists in the field to access quality experiences in several settings.

At the Corvallis campus, students tackle current research topics by getting involved with laboratories. The Weis Lab, for instance, is home to projects on coral reefs and how such ecosystems are impacted by global warming.

Outside of the lab, the marine biology curriculum is designed to equip students with practical career skills. By pursuing a specialization in marine biology alongside a biology major, students maintain a solid foundational knowledge while delving deeply into their area of interest. This approach ensures that students develop essential skills necessary for success in both general biology and specialized marine biology fields.

“Undergraduates here get so much access to an incredible realm of resources, networks and people that will carry them throughout the rest of their career in marine biology.”

A prime example of this is the intensive course students take at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State’s key hub for marine science.

During either the spring or the summer, students get to truly experience the life of a marine biologist by spending a term at Hatfield. They dive into research on the Oregon Coast, an environment bustling with diverse habitats and aquatic life. From microscopic plankton to massive sharks, the topics covered in both fieldwork and laboratory sessions at Hatfield are unparalleled for undergraduates.

“Here at HMSC, you can take classes, you can do internships. There’s so many opportunities for someone to get involved in this research experience,” said Samuel Arriola, a marine biology undergraduate.

In addition to honoring their skills, undergraduates at Hatfield also have the chance to network with predominant marine science organizations. The center is a single block away from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agencies that regularly work with OSU students and faculty. This tight-knit community fosters valuable connections for students.

“Undergraduates here get so much access to an incredible realm of resources, networks and people that will carry them throughout the rest of their career in marine biology,” said Itchung Chung, a professor of practice based at Hatfield.

Future premier marine biologists need equally excellent foundations. To learn more about how Oregon State creates these, watch the video here.

Read more stories about: students, integrative biology, marine science