Marine, Estuarine and Freshwater Biology Major (B.S.)

The Major in Marine, Estuarine, and Freshwater Biology is intended to give students interested in the fields of marine and freshwater biology the background and direct hands-on experience needed to pursue productive careers, including potential advanced study.  This strategically cross-disciplinary major builds on a broad set of science courses in high-impact areas of study for today’s world, represented by a core curriculum in math, chemistry, physics, and biology.  The core background is strengthened by a series of required and elective courses in a diverse range of aquatic sciences spanning watersheds to oceans, providing opportunities for study from organismal to ecosystem scales. Designed to provide a solid foundation of knowledge in freshwater, estuarine, and marine biology, the MEFB Major allows flexibility and encourages students to focus on particular areas of interest from molecular biology to ecosystem and policy studies.  Students will have the opportunity to specialize in areas of their own interest, such as aquaculture and fisheries, animal behavior, ecological restoration, or management. While MEFB students must complete rigorous course requirements, our students are encouraged to tailor their elective courses within and across departments and colleges as needed to build their own, unique cross-disciplinary path.

The University of New Hampshire is uniquely located for the study of aquatic organisms and their habitats. We are centered between the Great Bay Estuary and the Gulf of Maine, with easy access to diverse marine environments as well as the freshwater habitats of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region and the White Mountain National Forest. We boast three Marine Laboratories that provide exceptional opportunities for our student’s research and educational needs, including Jackson Estuarine Laboratory (JEL), the Coastal Marine Lab (CML; part of the larger Judd Gregg Marine Research Center), and the Shoals Marine Laboratory (SML), as well as strong affiliations with the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.  While JEL is located on Great Bay in Durham, CML is in nearby New Castle at the Seacoast, and SML is located seven miles off the coast. SML provides summer undergraduate programing with field-based marine courses that fulfill major electives, as well as internships and research opportunities for advanced study. In addition, UNH’s campus maintains two fish aquaculture facilities, a world-class genomics laboratory, and the State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, which provide hands-on opportunities for undergraduates.  There is also an active diving program with courses at both beginner and advanced levels. A major strength of the MEFB program is the hands-on approach to learning combined with an emphasis on involving undergraduate students in mentored research opportunities.

Off Campus Coursework and Study Abroad Opportunities

It is strongly recommended that students consider participating in a summer, semester, or year-long study abroad program. UNH’s Shoals Marine Laboratory (, in conjunction with Cornell University, offers a host of marine biology-related college level courses that meet many degree requirements of the MEFB major over the summer on our island campus in the Isles of Shoals. SML offers both Merit and Need-based Scholarships, multi-course discounts, as well as competitive Research Internships offering summer stipends. UNH Global is the definitive resource for Study Abroad opportunities for undergraduates ( UNH Global can provide information on programs of study, while students’ academic advisors can assist in course selection options that provide equivalencies to requirements in MEFB so progress toward degree is not compromised.  In addition, Ecoquest, run by the Department of Natural Resources, offers summer and semester programs of environmentally oriented courses in New Zealand ( These are just some of the many opportunities available for MEFB students and we encourage you to explore more.

Pre-health Professional Program

MEFB majors who wish to pursue postgraduate degrees in the health care professions should visit the premed advising website (

Degree Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement: 128 credits
Minimum Residency Requirement: 32 credits must be taken at UNH
Minimum GPA: 2.0 required for conferral*
Core Curriculum Required: Discovery & Writing Program Requirements
Foreign Language Requirement: No

All Major, Option and Elective Requirements as indicated.
*Major GPA requirements as indicated.

Major Requirements

A minimum grade of C- is required in all biological science courses that are counted toward the requirements for a degree in MEFB. Students who expect to compete successfully for post-baccalaureate programs should attain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher by the end of the sophomore year and maintain it at that level.

Biological Sciences Core
BIOL 412Introductory Biology: Evolution, Biodiversity and Ecology4
BIOL 411Introductory Biology: Molecular and Cellular4
BIOL 541WEcology0 or 4
BMS 503
BMS 504
General Microbiology
and General Microbiology Laboratory
GEN 604Principles of Genetics4
CHEM 403General Chemistry I4
CHEM 404General Chemistry II4
CHEM 545
CHEM 546
Organic Chemistry
and Organic Chemistry Laboratory
BMCB 658AGeneral Biochemistry3
MATH 424BCalculus for Life Sciences4
or BIOL 633 Data Analysis for Life Science
or BIOL 711 Experimental Design & Analysis
BIOL 528Applied Biostatistics I4
PHYS 401Introduction to Physics I4
PHYS 402Introduction to Physics II4
MEFB Required Courses
MEFB 401Marine Estuarine and Freshwater Biology: Freshmen Seminar1
MEFB 503Introduction to Marine Biology4
Choose one Plant Survey course:4-5
MEFB 625Introduction to Marine Botany5
or MEFB 747 Aquatic Plants in Restoration/Management
Choose one Freshwater course:4
MEFB 717Lake Ecology4
ZOOL 708Stream Ecology4
Choose one Physiology/Function course:4-5
Principles of Animal Physiology
and Animal Physiology Laboratory
Physiology of Fishes
Choose one Marine or Estuarine course:4
Marine Ecology
Biological Oceanography
Choose one Animal Survey course:
ZOOL 542Ornithology4
or MEFB 628 Marine Invertebrate Evolution and Ecology
or ZOOL 710 Sharks and Bony Fishes
BIOL 780Capstone Companion Course1
MEFB Electives: Choose 3 1
Evolution, Systematics and Biodiversity
BIOL 566Systematic Botany4
BIOL 706Data Science with R for the Life Sciences4
GEN 713Microbial Ecology and Evolution4
MEFB 500Coastal Habitat Field Research Methods (SML)4
MEFB 510Field Ornithology (SML)4
MEFB 530Evolution and Marine Diversity (SML)4
MEFB 535Marine Mammal Biology (SML)4
MEFB 625Introduction to Marine Botany5
or MEFB 747 Aquatic Plants in Restoration/Management
MEFB 628Marine Invertebrate Evolution and Ecology5
MEFB #630Biodiversity and Biology of Marine Invertebrates (SML)4
MEFB 741Sharks: Biology and Conservation (SML)4
MEFB 754Anatomy and Function of Marine Vertebrates (SML)4
MEFB 747Aquatic Plants in Restoration/Management (C)4
NR 504Freshwater Resources4
NR 712Mammalogy4
ZOOL 518Comparative Morphology and Biology of Vertebrates4
ZOOL 542Ornithology4
ZOOL 690Evolution4
ZOOL 710Sharks and Bony Fishes4
Fisheries and Aquaculture
MEFB 702Sustainable Marine Fisheries (SML)4
MEFB 755Biological Oceanography (C)3
MEFB 772Fisheries Biology: Conservation and Management4
MEFB 773Physiology of Fishes4
ZOOL 610Principles of Aquaculture4
ZOOL 710Sharks and Bony Fishes0 or 4
Marine, Estuarine and Freshwater Ecology
BIOL 720Plant-Animal Interactions4
ESCI 501Introduction to Oceanography4
GEN 713Microbial Ecology and Evolution4
MEFB 500Coastal Habitat Field Research Methods (SML)4
MEFB 508Marine Ecosystem Research and Management (SML)4
MEFB 625Introduction to Marine Botany5
MEFB 628Marine Invertebrate Evolution and Ecology5
MEFB 674Ecology and Marine Environment (SML)4
MEFB 714Field Animal Behavior (SML)4
MEFB 717Lake Ecology4
MEFB 721Aquatic Invasive Species4
MEFB 725Marine Ecology4
MEFB 741Sharks: Biology and Conservation (SML)4
MEFB 747Aquatic Plants in Restoration/Management (C)4
MEFB 751Research in Marine Biology (SML)4
MEFB 755Biological Oceanography (C)3
NR 703Watershed Water Quality Management4
NR 744Biogeochemistry4
ZOOL 708Stream Ecology4
ZOOL 733WBehavioral Ecology0 or 4
Physiology, Behavior and Cell Biology
ANSC 701Physiology of Reproduction4
BIOL 701Plant Physiology4
BMCB 605Principles of Cell Biology4
BMS #716Public Health: Food- and Water-borne Diseases4
MEFB 504Field Wildlife Forensics (SML)2
MEFB 506Marine Parasitology and Disease (SML)4
MEFB 714Field Animal Behavior (SML)4
MEFB 773Physiology of Fishes4
ZOOL 625
Principles of Animal Physiology
and Animal Physiology Laboratory
ZOOL 733WBehavioral Ecology0 or 4
ZOOL 736Genes and Behavior (C)4
ZOOL 777WNeuroethology4
Restoration Management and Policy
MARI #405Introduction to Marine Mammal Science and Policy3
MARI 705Introduction to Marine Policy: Understanding US Ocean, Coastal and Great Lakes Policy3
MEFB 505Introduction to Applied Science Communication (SML)4
MEFB 702Sustainable Marine Fisheries4
MEFB 747Aquatic Plants in Restoration/Management (C)4
MEFB 772Fisheries Biology: Conservation and Management4
ZOOL 610Principles of Aquaculture4
Research and Special Projects 2
BIOL 795Independent Investigations in Biology1-4
BMS 795Investigations in Biomedical Science1-8
BIOL 799HHonors Senior Thesis2-8
MEFB 403Investigative Marine Biology Laboratory (SML)2-4
MEFB 500Coastal Habitat Field Research Methods (SML)4
MEFB 600Field Experience in Marine, Estuarine, and Freshwater Biology1-4
MEFB 730Underwater Research (SML)4
MEFB 751Research in Marine Biology (SML)4
MEFB 770Senior Seminar in Marine, Freshwater, and Estuarine Biology (C)2
MEFB 795Independent Investigations in Marine, Estuarine, and Freshwater Biology1-4
TECH 797Undergraduate Ocean Research Project (C) 32
MEFB 799HHonors Senior Thesis in Marine, Estuarine, and Freshwater Biology2-4

A single course cannot be used for both a core requirement and an elective (e.g., ZOOL 542 cannot be used to fulfill the animal survey requirement and as an elective).


Primary focus of the project must be Marine, Estuarine and/or Freshwater. A 600, 695, 795, or 799 experience may substitute for one elective with academic advisor approval, but only if taken for at least four credits. These four credits may be spread over multiple semesters if they are consecutive and with the same faculty mentor.


This class requires enrollment in both fall and spring sections, 2 credits/semester for a total of 4 credits.

Capstone Experience

As part of the University of New Hampshire’s Discovery Program requirements, all students must complete a capstone experience during their senior year (after earning at least 90 credits). The capstone experience for students majoring in MEFB consists of BOTH (1) an approved individual experience AND (2) the successful completion of the BIOL 780 Capstone Companion Course. Students will not be approved for graduation until capstone certification has been granted.

1) The individual experience

The individual experience may be satisfied through various forms of experiential learning (e.g., Honors thesis, mentored research project, internship) or a course denoted with a “(C)” in the courses listed above. The individual experience must fulfill at least one of the University’s capstone criteria:

  • synthesizes and applies disciplinary knowledge and skills
  • fosters reflection on undergraduate learning and experience
  • demonstrates emerging professional competencies
  • applies, analyzes, and/or interprets research, data, or artistic expression
  • explores areas of interest based on the integration of the prior learning

Before beginning any capstone individual experience, students must submit a completed capstone approval form to their Program Coordinator.
Students can obtain this form on the Department's Capstone page or from their Program Coordinator. Here they will describe their proposed individual experience and how it fulfills at least one of the University’s capstone criteria listed above. If the student is selecting a “C” course for their individual experience, they should obtain the course syllabus from the instructor for information about the course’s content and learning objectives.

2) Enrollment in BIOL 780 Capstone Companion Course

Students will also be required to enroll in BIOL 780 (1 cr.) during the semester of their individual experience. BIOL 780 is offered every Fall and Spring semester.

  • If the individual experience is a two-semester thesis, BIOL 780 should be taken during the second semester.
  • If the individual experience occurs during the summer (e.g., internship), BIOL 780 should be taken during the Fall semester that immediately follows.
  • Note: Because BIOL 780 is not offered during the summer, students cannot complete their individual experience during the summer and graduate during that same August. Summer experiences could only be used as individual capstone experiences if completed the summer before the student’s senior year.

  • Show the ability to synthesize diverse sources of information and communicate it effectively.
  • Demonstrate a broad understanding of the unique characteristics, as well as the similarities, governing freshwater, estuarine and marine systems.
  • Have a broad understanding of biology from the molecular to the ecosystem with a particular appreciation for the abiotic and biotic factors relating to diverse aquatic ecosystems.
  • Demonstrate the ability to describe basic principles of scientific inquiry and the importance of scientific study for understanding the natural world.
  • Demonstrate the ability to design and experiment, collect data, analyze and graph it appropriately, and summarize the significant findings.
  • Demonstrate an ability to critically and objectively evaluate data, develop hypotheses, plus interpret biological experiments and studies.
  • Demonstrate an ability to communicate clearly and explicitly, both orally and in writing, following conventional scientific formats.
  • Demonstrate a broad understanding of major groups of prokaryotic and eukaryotic aquatic life.