Earth Sciences: Ocean Mapping (M.S.)

Earth Sciences: Ocean Mapping (M.S.)

Ocean Chart

The demand for skilled geoscientists is expected to grow rapidly in coming years. This degree allows you to specialize in ocean mapping and will prepare you to meet the public and private sector demand for knowledgeable and analytical professionals with strong scientific communication skills.

Credit Hours: 38-41   |    Courses: 10-11   |    Program Length: 2 years


Why get a master’s degree in earth sciences with an ocean mapping option? 

More than 85 percent of the ocean floor is still unexplored. Ocean mappers are modern-day explorers, mastering not only the elements of mapping the seabed, but also becoming adept at such topics as the geologic characterization of the seabed; mapping of living ocean resources and habitats; and development of the tools, sensors and techniques used to map the oceans.  

Why choose for your earth sciences degree? 

As a student in the ocean mapping program at UNH, you’ll gain experimental, numerical and analytical skills through rigorous classes and research projects. You’ll have access to exceptional equipment and facilities, including the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center (CCOM/JHC), one of four data centers for the Seabed 2030 project, which aims to create the definitive map of the world ocean floor; the Jere A. Chase Ocean Engineering Laboratory; and the R/V Gulf Surveyor, a 48-foot ship purpose-designed for ocean mapping activities. Our extensive experimental and computational facilities include a variety of test tanks, autonomous and robotic vehicle development programs, high-performance computing clusters and data stores, and a data visualization laboratory. Most students accepted into our program are supported as research associates through externally-funded grants. 

Potential career areas 

  • Data analysis  
  • Education 
  • Environmental and hydrographic consulting firms  
  • Governmental agencies 
  • Hydrographic surveying 
  • Marine hardware and software development  
  • Marine resource management  
  • Mineral resources exploration 
  • Ocean technology  
  • Remote sensing  
  • Research


Rosemarie Came

Earth Sciences Graduate Coordinator
Phone: (603) 862-1720
Office: Earth Sciences, James Hall Rm 214, Durham, NH 03824
Department of Earth Sciences
56 College Road
214 James Hall
Durham, NH 03824

P: (603) 862-1718

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Alignment with and advocacy from a potential advisor. Prospective students should reach out directly to faculty with relevant research interests to ensure that the faculty member is actively recruiting students and that a relevant research project can be identified.
  •  Academic preparation. An applicant to the M.S. program is expected to have demonstrated competency in the following college courses: one year of calculus, one semester of chemistry, and at least three additional semesters of chemistry, physics, and/or biology.  In addition, the applicant is expected to have an undergraduate degree or equivalent in geology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, engineering, or the biological sciences. Students lacking some background in a particular area may be admitted provided they are prepared to complete courses, without graduate credit, in which they may be deficient.
  • Scholarly potential (research, technical, oral communication, and written communication skills, acquired both from academic and non-academic settings).
  • Persistence, motivation, and realistic self-appraisal.
  • Potential to capitalize on their unique experiences, perspectives or talents to contribute to the scholarly community at UNH.

Many of our students receive funding from Teaching Assistantship (TA) or Research Assistantship (RA) positions. Contact potential advisors to discuss sponsorship.

For fall admission, apply by January 15 if seeking funding, and by April 1 for regular admission. For spring admission, apply by December 1. Admission decisions will be made a few weeks after those dates. Admission decisions do not guarantee funding; if funding is offered, a separate offer letter will be sent.

In person program. Most students are full-time students, although different arrangements may be possible depending on the selected research project. Contact potential advisors to discuss alternative arrangements.

Applicants are highly encouraged to reach out directly to faculty with relevant research interests to identify a relevant research project.

Curriculum & Requirements

A degree option in Ocean Mapping is for students with interests in hydrography and hydrographic survey technology who wish to prepare for careers in such areas as federal and institutional marine research, federal and international positions in hydrographic surveying, the environment, private sector offshore mineral resources exploration industries, and marine hardware and software development. The study of ocean mapping is a key niche in the ocean technology field.

Hydrography, in the context of this program, is the measurement and definition of the configuration of the bottoms and adjacent land areas of oceans, lakes, rivers, harbors, and other water areas, and the tides (or water levels) and currents that occur in those bodies of water. It includes elements of both physical oceanography, and surveying and mapping.

Ocean mapping is a broader concept that includes not only the elements of hydrography, but also encompasses such topics as the geologic characterization of the seabed and the mapping of living resources and habitats.

Admission Requirements

An applicant to the M.S. program is expected to have demonstrated competency in the following college courses: one year of calculus, one semester of chemistry, and at least three additional semesters of chemistry, physics, and/or biology. In addition, the applicant is expected to have an undergraduate degree or equivalent in geology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, engineering, or the biological sciences. Students lacking some background in a particular area may be admitted provided they are prepared to complete courses, without graduate credit, in which they may be deficient. The program of study a student wishes to follow and the student's undergraduate major determine the level of preparation necessary. The preparation of each student is determined before the beginning of the first semester in residence in order to plan the course of study. Each entering student is assigned an academic adviser to assist in planning a program of study.

More information is available about program from the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM), which oversees this degree program.

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
ESCI 872 Applied Tools for Ocean Mapping 2
ESCI 874 Integrated Seabed Mapping Systems 4
ESCI 997 Seminar in Earth Sciences 1
MATH 831 Mathematics for Geodesy 3
ESCI 871 Geodesy and Positioning for Ocean Mapping 4
ESCI 875 Advanced Topics in Ocean Mapping 4
ESCI 998 Proposal Development 1
ESCI 972 Hydrographic Field Course 4
Second Year
ESCI 858 Introduction to Physical Oceanography 3
ESCI 859 Geological Oceanography 4
ESCI 899 Master's Thesis ( or Elective for Directed Research Option) 3-4
Elective 3-4
ESCI 899
or ESCI 898
Master's Thesis
or Directed Research
2 or3
 Total Credits38-41

Degree Requirements

Students in the thesis option must satisfactorily complete at least 30 graduate credits, which include the credits accumulated in the core curriculum. Students in this option must complete a master's thesis (6 credits) and give an oral presentation of the results.

Students in the non-­thesis option must satisfactorily complete at least 34 graduate credits, which includes the core curriculum, a 2­-credit directed research project (ESCI 898 Directed Research), and a written and oral presentation of that research.

Ocean Mapping

The core curriculum for the option in ocean mapping normally includes:

Required Courses:
ESCI 997Seminar in Earth Sciences (first year)1
ESCI 998Proposal Development (first year)1
Additional Courses
ESCI 858Introduction to Physical Oceanography3 or 2
or ESCI 868 Applied Physical Oceanography for Hydrographic Surveyors
ESCI 859Geological Oceanography4 or 2
or ESCI 869 Marine Geology and Geophysics for Hydrographic Surveyors
ESCI 871Geodesy and Positioning for Ocean Mapping4
ESCI 872Applied Tools for Ocean Mapping2
ESCI 874Integrated Seabed Mapping Systems4
ESCI 875Advanced Topics in Ocean Mapping4
ESCI 972Hydrographic Field Course4
MATH 831Mathematics for Geodesy3
Select Master's Thesis or Directed Research:
ESCI 899
Master's Thesis (6 Credits)
ESCI 898
Directed Research (2 Credits)

Students may fulfill the Category A (professional) International Federation of Surveyors/International Hydrographic Organization/International Cartographic Association (FIG/IHO) Standards of Competence for Hydrographic Surveyors by completing some additional specialized requirements.

For more information, please visit the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping website,

Students graduating with a MS in Earth Sciences: Ocean Mapping should achieve the following learning outcomes:

Core Knowledge

  • Demonstrate foundational knowledge in ocean mapping technology and physical oceanographic and tidal processes that result in expertise focused on applications of hydrography to determine the configuration of subsea and adjacent land topography and geomorphology of oceans, lakes, rivers, harbors, and other water bodies.
  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of how hydrography and ocean mapping interact with other related disciplines.
  • Demonstrate specialized knowledge of ocean mapping sufficient to conduct substantive supervised research.

Research Methods and Analysis

  • Identify and demonstrate knowledge of a range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies typically used in ocean mapping research.
  • Discover and critically read published research in the Earth sciences and related fields of mathematics, statistics, physics, chemistry, and biology.
  • Frame empirical research and/or theory guided by prior knowledge.
  • Implement a rigorous study using appropriate methods, measures and techniques.
  • Critically evaluate and systematically analyze data to reach appropriate findings and interpretations.

Scholarly Communication

  • Structure a coherent argument that rigorously presents and evaluates evidence to support claims.
  • Review and cogently synthesize relevant literature.
  • Write at a level and in a style of English consistent with that found in leading academic journals.
  • Understand and properly use styles of citing, referencing, and formatting found in leading academic journals.
  • Clearly convey research findings through oral presentation supported by appropriate digital media.
  • Cogently summarize research and its significance to non-specialist audiences.

Professionalism and Pedagogy

  • Prepare manuscripts that meet the standards of academic and research journals and respond appropriately to recommendations for revision.
  • Demonstrate collaboration, leadership and teamwork.
  • Create a welcoming environment that is supportive, inclusive and equitable.
  • Make effective contributions to university, community and professional service.
  • Communicate effectively to groups in a lecture format.


Applications must be completed by the following deadlines in order to be reviewed for admission:

  • Fall: Jan. 15 (for funding); April 1 (final)
  • Spring: Dec. 1
  • Summer: N/A
  • Special: N/A

Application fee: $65

Campus: Durham

New England Regional: No

Accelerated Masters: Yes (for more details see the accelerated masters information page)

New Hampshire Residents

Students claiming in-state residency must also submit a Proof of Residence Form. This form is not required to complete your application, but you will need to submit it after you are offered admission or you will not be able to register for classes.


If you attended UNH or Granite State College (GSC) after September 1, 1991, and have indicated so on your online application, we will retrieve your transcript internally; this includes UNH-Durham, UNH-Manchester, UNH Non-Degree work and GSC. 

If you did not attend UNH, or attended prior to September 1, 1991, then you must upload a copy (PDF) of your transcript in the application form. International transcripts must be translated into English.

If admitted, you must then request an official transcript be sent directly to our office from the Registrar's Office of each college/university attended. We accept transcripts both electronically and in hard copy:

  • Electronic Transcripts: Please have your institution send the transcript directly to Please note that we can only accept copies sent directly from the institution.
  • Paper Transcripts: Please send hard copies of transcripts to: UNH Graduate School, Thompson Hall- 105 Main Street, Durham, NH 03824. You may request transcripts be sent to us directly from the institution or you may send them yourself as long as they remain sealed in the original university envelope.

Transcripts from all previous post-secondary institutions must be submitted and applicants must disclose any previous academic or disciplinary sanctions that resulted in their temporary or permanent separation from a previous post-secondary institution. If it is found that previous academic or disciplinary separations were not disclosed, applicants may face denial and admitted students may face dismissal from their academic program.

Letters of recommendation: 3 required

Recommendation letters submitted by relatives or friends, as well as letters older than one year, will not be accepted.

Personal Statement/Essay Questions

Prepare a brief but careful statement regarding:

  1. Reasons you wish to do graduate work in this field, including your immediate and long-range objectives.
  2. Your specific research or professional interest and experiences in this field.

Important Notes

All applicants are encouraged to contact programs directly to discuss program-specific application questions.

International Applicants

Prospective international students are required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or equivalent examination scores. English Language Exams may be waived if English is your first language. If you wish to request a waiver, then please visit our Test Scores webpage for more information.

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