Marine Biology (Ph.D.)

Marine Biology (Ph.D.)
Easton White at Shoals Marine Lab with students

Why pursue a Ph.D. in marine biology at UNH?

Our marine biology Ph.D. program will help you advance your career as you seek to understand and protect marine and estuarine ecosystems and the organisms that inhabit them. Faculty in our program use marine organisms as model systems for molecular phylogeny, cellular metabolism and neurobiology, and study the structure and function of marine ecosystems. You’ll have the opportunity to focus on basic research or work in more applied areas such as aquaculture and fisheries. Our graduates now lead agencies involved in managing valuable marine resources, teach marine biology in academic and public settings, own aquaculture companies, and work in research.

Program highlights

Our location, faculty and laboratories makes UNH one of the best institutions from which to obtain a graduate degree in marine biology. Our faculty have expertise ranging from molecular biology to ecology and fisheries, and their research programs often span disciplines and use a variety of methods and technologies to address marine-related questions and issues. The main UNH campus in Durham is located about five miles from the Great Bay Estuary, home of the UNH Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, and 30 miles from the coastline and the UNH Coastal Marine Laboratory. Each of these laboratories supports a number of research vessels used by faculty, staff and students. Students can become certified research divers through our strong dive program. Finally, there are several state-of-the-art research resources on campus, including a DNA sequencing facility, an aquaculture laboratory, and various microscope and instrumentation centers.

Potential career areas

  • Academia
  • Aquaculture
  • Aquarium industry
  • Environmental consulting
  • Environmental protection and resource management
  • Fisheries management and research
  • Habitat restoration
  • Marine/environmental outreach
  • Marine policy
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Research
  • Research diving

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  • A photo of Marine Biology phd student Miguel de Jesus Gomez Garcia. He's wearing diving gear and behind him is a sunken wreck.
    Non parametric models for the study of marine ecosystems
    Miguel de Jesus Gomez Garcia believes that modern quantitative methods can significantly enhance our comprehension of ecosystems and help address complex conservation and management questions that have proved challenging thus far.
    Learn More
  • Mikayla Cote, a student in the Biological Sciences program at COLSA
    Microzooplankton Grazing and Marine Aggregates
    Mikayla Cote examines the influence of marine microzooplankton grazing on the production/consumption of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) and marine aggregates in general.
    Learn More
  • A photo of Biological Sciences graduate student Grant Milne in diving gear out on NH's Great Bay Estuary
    Acoustic and Genetic Indicators of Coastal Acoustic
    Grant Milne explores the use of passive acoustic monitoring and metabarcoding of seawater samples as methods of measuring soundscape properties and detecting marine taxa to identify indicators of the underwater acoustic environment in temperate coastal habitats.
    Learn More
  • Alyssa Stasse scuba diving
    Genetic assessment of eastern oysters and their pathogens
    Alyssa Stasse's dissertation work focuses on using genetic techniques, such as genome and transcriptome sequencing, to determine differences between populations of eastern oysters.
    Learn More
  • A photo of Marine Biology Ph.D. student Kyrie Newby
    Environmental Stressors on Blue Mussels
    Kyrie Newby is studying the effect of different environmental stressors, including ocean acidification, ocean warming, the presence of invasive species, and more on the blue mussel Mytilus edulis.
    Learn More

Curriculum & Requirements

The Marine Biology (MB) option is intended for students interested in marine, coastal, and estuarine ecosystems, and the organisms that inhabit them, at all levels of inquiry. Some UNH faculty use marine organisms as model systems for molecular phylogeny, cellular metabolism, and neurobiology, while others study the structure and function of marine ecosystems. Some faculty members focus primarily on basic research; others work in more applied areas such as aquaculture and fisheries; many combine the two. Students who have earned advanced degrees at UNH lead agencies involved in managing valuable marine resources, teach marine biology in academic and public settings, own aquaculture companies, or earn a living as researchers. In addition to on­-campus facilities, UNH owns the Coastal Marine Laboratory and the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, and a range of research vessels. UNH has an excellent SCUBA diving program for students interested in becoming certified to dive as part of their research. The Marine Biology option is also affiliated with UNH’s School of Marine Sciences and Ocean Engineering.

Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Students work with their advisor and their Doctoral Guidance Committee to plan a program of study including the required core courses and competencies, and develop a viable research proposal. The Guidance Committee is normally established by the end of the first semester, and should meet by the end of the second semester. The student presents to the Guidance Committee a preliminary research proposal in which the soundness, originality, and feasibility of the planned research are clearly described. The Guidance Committee is responsible for approving the proposal, and also oversees the qualifying examination through which the student is admitted to doctoral candidacy. The Doctoral Dissertation Committee is established at this point. To earn the Ph.D. degree, students must complete an original dissertation project, present the results at a public seminar, pass an oral dissertation defense consisting of questions from members of the Dissertation Committee, and have the dissertation approved by the Dissertation Committee and accepted by the Graduate School.

Number of Credits Required

There is no specific credit requirement for the Ph.D., though students must take required core courses and meet competency requirements. The Biological Sciences Program specifies 2 credits’ worth of required coursework (BIOL 901 Introductory Graduate Seminar); most students use 6 more credits to satisfy the competency requirement in experimental design/analysis (BIOL 811 Experimental Design & Analysis or ANFS 933 Design, Analysis, and Interpretation of Experiments, 4 credits) and recommended coursework in writing/communication (BIOL 902 Writing and Publishing Science or BIOL 950 Scientific Communication, 2 credits). Other graduate coursework approved by the student’s committee can substitute for any of these courses except BIOL 901 Introductory Graduate Seminar.

Up to 8 credits of graduate credit from another institution may be transferred, provided the credits were not counted toward another degree, and the course grade was a B or higher. Petitions requesting transfer credit must be supported by the advisor and graduate committee, and approved by the UNH Graduate School.

Required Courses, Competencies, and Electives

All students in the Biological Sciences Graduate Program are required to take Introductory Graduate Seminar (BIOL 901) and fulfill all applicable competency requirements (these may vary by option). Those with teaching assistantships (TAs) must enroll in College Teaching (LSA 900) before or concurrent with their first teaching assignment.

  1. Core Course. Introductory Graduate Seminar (BIOL 901). This first-­semester course focuses on key information and skills for a successful transition into the graduate program, familiarizing students with program requirements and faculty and providing an opportunity to meet others in their cohort.
  2. Competency in experimental design and analysis. This may be fulfilled by previous graduate coursework (as determined by the student’s advisor and committee), or by taking one graduate-level course. Two advanced courses in experimental design and analysis are offered, normally in alternate years. The first is Applied Biostatistics II (BIOL 811), and the second is Design, Analysis and Interpretation of Experiments (ANFS 933). Either course, or an equivalent approved by the student’s advisor and committee (e.g. NR 909 Analysis of Ecological Communities and Complex Data), can be used to fulfill this competency requirement.
  3. Electives. Students will work with their advisor and committee to identify additional courses appropriate for their area of specialization and their career objectives. Recommendations often include coursework in professional writing and communication: Scientific Writing (BIOL 902) is taught fall semester, and open to students at any stage of the program. Scientific Communication (BIOL 950) is usually taught in spring. A course in Grant Writing (NR 905) is offered by the Department of Natural Resources.

Additional Information/Requirements

All students in the Biological Sciences Program are expected to present their research in public seminars (including the UNH Graduate Research Conference), and acquire teaching and/or mentoring experience.

A summary degree requirements is available at, along with the program’s graduate handbook, which includes expectations, guidelines, and detailed policies.

  • Students will demonstrate expertise in quantitative skills including (a) basic math and statistics; (b) spreadsheet software; (c) graphical presentation of quantitative data.
  • Students will demonstrate writing skills that enable them to prepare a scientific research paper in standard format for their field.
  • Students will demonstrate competency in experimental design, including the ability to articulate a testable hypothesis and design an appropriate experiment to test it.
  • Students will demonstrate communication skills including the ability to clearly explain scientific information to both professional and general audiences.
  • Students will demonstrate broad understanding of fundamental areas of biology, especially areas relevant to their research project.

Apply now


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

  • Fall: January 15 (priority*); August 1 (final) *Applications completed by Jan. 15 will be given priority consideration for admission and financial support. Applications completed after Jan. 15 will be considered based on openings and funding.
  • Spring: N/A
  • Summer: N/A
  • Special: N/A

Application fee: $65; Underrepresented U.S. minority applicants to this program may be eligible for an application fee waiver. Please contact Dr. Dovev Levine ( for more details

Campus: Durham

New England Regional: No

New England Regional: VT

Accelerated Masters Eligible: No

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.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply early if they wish to be considered for financial and priority consideration.

GRE Not Required:

The GRE (general or topical) is NOT REQUIRED for admission by any of the programs in the Department of Biological Sciences.

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.

Inquire with the Department about Research Interests

As part of your application process, we recommend touching base with the academic department or specific faculty about your research interests, fit with the department, and available space. You can Submit an Extended Inquiry and we will inform your desired academic program about your interest. By submitting an inquiry form, you are not guaranteed to hear back from specific faculty. This can be a helpful step before going through the full application process.

Explore Program Details

If you are interested in a MS or PhD program within UNH’s Department of Biological Sciences (options of Integrative and Organismal Biology or Marine Biology), it is important to contact potential thesis mentors (professors) before applying to our program. You can find a directory of relevant mentors in the “FACULTY DIRECTORY.” It is never too early to contact potential thesis mentors, but we suggest contacting them between August and October of the year before you expect to start your degree (for example, contact a mentor in September 2020 if interested in applying by January 2021 for full consideration to begin as a graduate student in Fall 2021). However, you should never be afraid to reach out to a prospective mentor as graduate opportunities can open throughout the year.

How do you contact potential advisors? After identifying professors whose interest align with yours, send them an email to introduce yourself and your interests. This email should contain the following:

  • A brief introduction of who you are and your current status
  • Your interests broadly
  • Why you are interested in this professor’s work and how it aligns with your own interests
  • Attachments of CV or resume, and unofficial transcripts

Still intimidated? Use the text below labeled “Email Template” to help you contact a professor.

Can I contact more than one professor in the Department of Biological Sciences or at UNH? Absolutely! Graduate positions are very competitive, and often a professor can only take on one or two students each year (if any). Thus, it’s important to contact as many professors as possible, provided that their research aligns with your interests. You can let professors know who else you are contacting within the department or university when you contact them (see template below).

What if I don’t get a response? Try again! Professors are very busy, and can receive hundreds of emails a day. Sometimes this results in slow reply times, or simply emails getting missed or lost. Wait at least a week, and then try to send again. If after three tries you still do not get a response, this likely means the professor is not taking on any graduate students in the near future.

Other general tips and advice for applying to graduate school: Take time to think about why you want to go to graduate school and conduct research (and communicate this clearly when reaching out to prospective mentors). Before contacting prospective mentors, take some time to learn about their research (either via webpages, their publications, or other resources). Get help from advisors, your university career centers, and others for updating your resume or CV, ensuring that you highlight any research or scientific experiences, important courses taken, skills, and awards received.

Email Template

If you are potentially interested in working with one or more professors towards a MS or PhD in Biological Sciences at the University of New Hampshire, you can use this template email to introduce yourself to these potential advisors.

Please note that you should contact each professor individually (it’s okay to contact more than one faculty member in our department!); individualize your responses to each professor, particularly paragraphs #2 and #3). Also know that this is simply a template; prospective students do not need to follow these instructions exactly when reaching out to prospective mentors. We just hope this helps you get started and give you confidence in contacting faculty!

Dear Dr. [insert professor’s full name here]:

Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself! State your name, educational status and history (including GPA and major and/or degree. If you have graduated, include when you graduated and your current position.), and what semester and year you are aiming to start your graduate studies.

Paragraph 2: Discuss your relevant qualifications and experience that make you an ideal candidate for our graduate program. This may include specific skills you have, research experiences, internships, publications or presentations, and relevant coursework.

Paragraph 3: Describe your specific interests within the field of Biological Sciences? How do these interests align with this professor’s work? What about this professor’s work excites you? Be specific when possible, demonstrating your own efforts to understand this professor’s research.

Thank you for your time in reading this email and your consideration. I have attached my [resume/CV; make sure to attach!] and unofficial transcripts [attach]. I would enjoy an opportunity to chat with you further about potential opportunities as a graduate student in your research group.


[Insert your full name here]

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Undergraduate student on campus
A view of T-Hall on the UNH campus.
A female student at UNH gets help on her resume