Marine and Environmental Science

The Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences (MES) is proud to foster the top marine-focused undergraduate program in the country among Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Our department prepares students to pursue diverse career paths in the fields of marine biology, oceanography, environmental law, environmental protection, and consulting. Our former students currently hold positions in government agencies, NGOs, academic institutions, and the industry.

he Bachelor’s degree in Marine and Environmental Science is inherently interdisciplinary, so our curriculum is designed to integrate core concepts across General Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. We believe that active engagement in research provides the best platform for the development of critical thinking, quantitative and writing skills. Therefore, as a requirement for graduation, all students enrolled in our program have to complete a senior research thesis working with a faculty advisor. Upon graduation, our majors are highly qualified to enter graduate schools in areas of oceanography, marine science, and environmental science.

Message from the Chair

During the 111th Convocation on October 10, 1978, Hampton University’s President, Dr. William R. Harvey addressed the Hampton University faculty with new directions in “The Pursuit of Excellence”. One of the new directions was to establish a Center for Marine Science that would develop opportunities in ocean living marine resources, marine and ocean science, fisheries, maritime law, and aquaculture for Hampton University students.

Fast-forward to former President Obama stressing the need for well-trained scientists, and now with the current attack on the environment, skills in Marine and Environmental Sciences are needed more than ever, and students in our department are meeting these challenges. .

The Department of Marine and Environmental Science (MES) has a student to faculty ratio of 10:1, which allows for close mentorship of each studentOne hundred percent of our students are engaged in research during their academic tenure in the department and during the summer, this is a requirement for their professional development and successful matriculation. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funded programs in our department are facilitating a remarkable level of research engagement among our students.<

Students at MES have undertaken research projects in variety of topics. For example, they researched: the great white shark distribution and migration in South Africa; the use of magnets on the reduction of by-catch of sand sharks at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS); aerial photography to determine grey whale reproductive status in California; the risk of mercury exposure through seafood consumption in the James River, VA; the effects of estrogen in sewage outflow on marine organisms at our Home by the Sea; the viability of the lower trophic levels in Chesapeake Bay(HU and VIMS); the trophic interactions of zooplankton and salmon in the Mid Atlantic ocean (HU,Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Oregon State University); the effects of the changing environment of the Chesapeake Bay on the hearing and vision of fishes; the sediment oxygen demand in the Bay as it relates to the global concern of hypoxia; and the oyster population in the Hampton River. HU’s first Marshall Scholar and MES major, interned with a world-renowned fisheries scientist. This student was able to exercise her passion for science and policy by investigating the fishing practices of the small Island of Vanuatu. More recently, students have been investigating the utilization of various diets for fish aquaculture through a HU-Virginia Tech funded partnership, and they are studying the impacts of climate change and pollution on coral reefs in Mo’orea, French Polynesia.

These rich experiences have allowed our students to pursue Masters and PhDs at Yale, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University College of London, University of Maryland, College Park, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Old Dominion University, UCLA, U Mass. Boston, among others. Upon completion of their advanced degrees, MES alumni pursued careers in several settings. Examples of positions currently held by our students are: toxicologist for the US Government, Minister of Fisheries in the Bahamas, Director of Fish and Wildlife, USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Director of vessel operations for Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s Foundation, science educator, environmental consultant, conservation scientist, aqua culturist, researcher and medical doctor.

As an incoming student, if you are looking for one-on-one mentorship from your professors, you are not just a number here. If you are interested in conducted exciting research in the United States and abroad, then Hampton University’s Department of Marine and Environmental Science is for YOU!


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Marine & Environmental Science – Research
Strategically located on the Hampton River, adjacent to Hampton Roads on the Lower Chesapeake Bay, the Department of Marine and Environmental Science is ideally situated for the study of marine, estuarine and freshwater locales. Our department utilizes several vessels for field work. The R/V Aquaria III, a 40-foot research vessel built for the Center, a 19′ Privateer, provides access to deep water areas. In addition, ten kayaks and five canoes allow us to access shallow coastal habitats around Chesapeake Bay. Our faculty have been continuously engaged in research projects and actively recruit students to assist in these projects, especially at the undergraduate level.

Faculty & Staff

Dr. Deidre M. Gibson

Dr. Deidre Gibson is the Chair of the Department of Marine and Environmental Science at Hampton University. She earned her B.S. in Oceanography from the University of Washington, Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of Georgia/Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. She is a broadly trained biological oceanographer with research interests centered on the trophic ecology, reproductive biology, and population dynamics of zooplankton, but more specifically, gelatinous zooplankton, and currently oyster restoration. While at Hampton University, she has served as PI on several NSF and NOAA grants that continue to train the next generation of African American marine scientists

Dr. Benjamin E. Cuker

I work on developing and running programs to build diversity in the aquatic sciences. My primary area of research is oxygen depletion and eutrophication in the Chesapeake Bay.

Special Programs


Presently, our instructional program is targeted at the undergraduate level, however, a graduate program, granting a M.S. concentration in Environmental Science, is also available through the Department of Biological Sciences . Funding for graduate and undergraduate research is available via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center (LMRCSC), which has continuously supported our Department for the past 16 years. Awards have exceeded $2M; and these funds can be applied by students for stipends and participation in NOAA science symposiums. Importantly, students at MES are offered opportunities to present their research at the annual conference of Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) by applying to the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Multicultural Program (ASLOMP In addition to the NOAA/LMRCSC and ASLOMP programs, our faculty members actively recruit students to participate in their funded research projects in collaboration with several institutions such as:

  • Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center (Virginia Tech)
  • Virginian Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES)
  • Institute of Marine Technology (IMET)
  • Virginia Aquarium
  • NOAA science centers

Marine and Environmental Science - (Frequently Asked Questions) - FAQs

The subject area courses most important in this curriculum are Biology, Chemistry, Math and English. It is also important to have computer skills. We encourage you to obtain first hand experience in marine biology and research by doing activities such as: science fair projects, visiting the ocean, enrolling in summer marine studies camps, volunteering at an aquarium, or even learning marine skills such as small boat handling or scuba diving.

First, take a look at the first two years of the curriculum for this degree. You will need to catch up, either at the college where you are currently enrolled or by transferring to a Hampton University campus. The latter option would insure the transferability of your coursework and put you in position to learn more about the ocean through field trips and activities associated with your introductory courses. You may even be able to secure marine-related student employment.

Math is very important. It is the “language of science”. This curriculum requires two semesters of Pre- calculus and one semester of calculus. To enroll in the calculus course, you must have completed geometry, trigonometry and algebra. Your knowledge in these areas will be tested through a placement examination administered by the Department of Mathematics. Some ‘remedial’ math classes are offered here at HU, others are available at the community colleges

Yes, much of the cutting edge research in biology now is based on processes you need to understand at the cellular and molecular levels. The BS Marine Science curriculum requires that you complete several Biology courses such as organic chemistry, Ecology, Botany as well as General Chemistry and Qualitative Analysis. The Department of Chemistry administers a placement examination prior to enrollment to evaluate the adequacy of your pre-HU chemistry studies.

The university will decide this after you are admitted. For more information, visit the admissions site HU official policy on transfers. It could help to bring along your college’s catalog of course descriptions and the syllabi from key courses, in case you need to appeal a decision.

You may visit Hampton University’s Career Center located in the Wigwam building located on HU’s campus or visit the Marine Career site. *Contact the department for answers to additional questions.*

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