Oceanography Ph.D.

rock islands protruding from ocean shore
Oceanography Ph.D.

Program Overview

The Oceanography (OCE) graduate program has a diverse set of faculty, staff, and students who examine ocean processes in broad fields of physical, biological, chemical, and geological oceanography and geophysics  Basic and applied research of an experimental, numerical, and analytical nature is conducted in oceanic settings that range from shallow nearshore and estuarine waters to the deep ocean and span all ocean basins on earth including the Arctic. 

OCE offers programs leading to M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees.  These interdisciplinary programs prepare students for professional careers in ocean-relate fields.  In addition, students can also pursue an ocean mapping option within the Department of Earth Sciences and carried out within the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping.

Research and Facilities

The oceanography graduate program within the Department of Earth Sciences and the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering (SMSOE) is enhanced by the ocean engineering and marine biology graduate programs, and by other departments and institutes at UNH, including the civil and mechanical engineering and biology departments; the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS); the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM); and the Ocean Processes Laboratory (OPAL). Other related programs include the N.H. Sea Grant Program, the Center for Collaborative Science, and the Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center, Coastal Response Research Center (CRRC), Northeast Consortium (NEC), and the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP). Oceanographic laboratories at UNH include the Shoals Marine Laboratory (SML) on Appledore Island, the Coastal Marine Laboratory (CML) in Newcastle, the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory (JEL) at Adams Point on the Great Bay, and the Chase Ocean Engineering Laboratory (COEL) on the main UNH campus. Additional laboratories for the oceanography faculty are located on campus in James, Morse, Rudman, and Spaulding Halls. The SMSOE operates a marine support facility and two UNH research vessels moored in Portsmouth Harbor at the UNH pier, the R/V Gulf Challenger and the R/V Gulf Surveyor, as well as a number of small boats. The SMSOE also supports the UNH Diving Program and oversees a shared­ use Instrumentation Pool for student and faculty use.


Department of Earth Sciences
56 College Road
214 James Hall
Durham, NH 03824

P: (603) 862-1718
E: earth.sciences@unh.edu

Curriculum & Requirements

Ph.D. Requirements

Students plan a program of study in conjunction with a faculty guidance committee (FGC). Students entering the program without a master's degree are expected to complete a minimum of 36 credit hours. Students with an M.S. degree in oceanography or related field in physical science from UNH or another university should first demonstrate (through accredited transcript or the qualifying examination) acceptable mastery in the basic core areas. Those deficient in any discipline will be required to complete the respective course.

All students must complete at least one course from each of the following categories: natural sciences, methods, ethics/policy/law, and seminar. Please see below for a list of courses that meet these specifications (other courses may qualify and should be approved by the FGC).  Additional credit hours are determined by the FGC (typically 15 credit hours). Foreign language requirement is determined by the FGC. Students must complete a Coursework Approval Form, which summarizes all courses to be taken, and obtain signatures from their adviser, committee members, and the OCE program coordinator once the coursework is completed.

Students wishing to be admitted to doctoral candidacy will undergo a qualifying examination by the guidance committee designed to test the student’s in-depth knowledge in their major field and their ability to conduct independent and original research in oceanography. Qualifying students will present to the guidance committee a research proposal in which the soundness, originality, and feasibility of the investigation are clearly stated, and which when approved based on a proposal examination by the committee, will form the basis for the doctoral dissertation.

Students are advanced to candidacy after successfully completing the comprehensive exam, proposal exam, and all coursework required by the guidance committee. Students must complete a dissertation, present their results at a public seminar, and pass an oral examination by the thesis committee.

Although not a strict requirement, all graduate students are encouraged to obtain teaching experience, preferably as a teaching assistant.

All students are required to spend time in the field, even if their research project and interests are primarily based on analytical research, modeling studies, or laboratory experiments. The field requirement could include extended time at sea onboard one of the UNH, UNOLS, NOAA, or similar oceanographic research vessels, or include field experiments at locations in New Hampshire, the U.S., or around the globe, and includes possible nearshore and estuarine studies, Antarctic expeditions, or other land­-based studies related to oceanography. Successful completion of the field requirement will be determined by the guidance committee.

Natural Sciences

ESCI 850
Biological Oceanography
ESCI 852
Chemical Oceanography
ESCI 858
Introduction to Physical Oceanography
ESCI 859
Geological Oceanography


CHEM 862
Instrumental Methods of Chemical Analysis
EOS 895
Topics (Model & Anal. Biogeochem Cycles)
ESCI 801
Quantitative Methods in Earth Sciences
ESCI 871
Geodesy and Positioning for Ocean Mapping
ESCI 764
Spectral Analysis of Geophysical Time Series Data
ESCI 874
Integrated Seabed Mapping Systems
ESCI 875
Fundamentals of Ocean Mapping II
ESCI 972
Hydrographic Field Course
ESCI 996
Advanced Topics (Ocean Modelling)
IAM 940
Asymptotic and Perturbation Methods
ME 807
Analytical Fluid Dynamics
MATH 835
Statistical Methods for Research
MATH 839
Applied Regression Analysis
MATH 845
Foundations of Applied Mathematics I
MATH 853
Introduction to Numerical Methods
OE 810
Ocean Measurements Laboratory

Ethics, Policy, and Law

ECON 908
Environmental Economics: Theory and Policy
NR 801
Ecological Sustainability and Values
NR 818
Law of Natural Resources and Environment
NR 820
International Environmental Politics and Policies for the 21st Century
NR 824
Resolving Environmental Conflicts
NR 902
Ecological Ethics and Values
NR #915
Coastal Challenges Sci-Policy
NR #916
Linking Decision-making and Coastal Ecosystem Science
GRAD 930
Ethics in Research and Scholarship
POLT 880
International Environmental Politics, Policy, and Law

Seminar and Proposal Development

OE 990
Ocean Seminars I
OE 991
Ocean Seminars II
ESCI 997
Seminar in Earth Sciences
ESCI 998
Proposal Development
BIOL 997
Graduate Seminar in Biology

Other Relevant Graduate Courses

CEE 822
Introduction to Marine Pollution and Control
EOS 896
Topics (Bio-Optics & Primary Production)
EOS 896
Topics (Dyn. of Global Marine Ecosystems)
EOS #844
EOS 895
Topics (Climate and Fisheries)
ESCI 834
ESCI 841
ESCI 845
Isotope Geochemistry
ESCI 847
Aqueous Geochemistry
ESCI 854
ESCI 856
ESCI 762
Glacial Geology
ESCI 860
ESCI 865
ESCI 896
Topics (Nearshore Processes)
ESCI 994
Advanced Seminar (Ocean)
ESCI 995
Advanced Topics (Geophysical Fluid Mechanics)
ME 807
Analytical Fluid Dynamics
ME 812
Waves in Fluids
ME 909
Viscous Flow
ME 910
OE 853
Ocean Hydrodynamics
OE 854
Ocean Waves and Tides
OE 857
Coastal Engineering and Processes
OE 895
Special Topics (Underwater Acoustics)
OE 995
Graduate Special Topics (Coastal Sediment Transport)
ZOOL 810
ZOOL 872
Fisheries Biology

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