Marine Science

HPU offers two Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree programs in the marine sciences: Marine Biology and Oceanography . While these two programs share many aspects, they each have a different focus.

What is Marine Biology?


Marine biology is the study of life in the oceans -- from microscopic plankton to the largest animals on earth, the blue whales. Like biology, marine biology has many, diverse fields of study contained within it including the study of the molecules within cells (molecular biology), the functions and adaptations of organisms (physiology), and populations of organisms and their interactions with each other and their environment (ecology). What unites these areas as marine biology is the saltwater environment, whether it be the coastal wetlands and estuaries, rocky shorelines and beaches, coral reefs and kelp forests, or the vast open-ocean habitat and abyssal sea. Marine biology draws on other sciences such as chemistry, physics, geology, and oceanography, and includes disciplines such as marine microbiology, phycology (the study of algae), marine toxicology, fisheries and aquaculture, deep-sea ecology, invertebrate zoology, ichthyology (the study of fish), marine mammalogy, and marine conservation biology.

BS Marine Biology Degree

What can you do with a Marine Biology degree?

A Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from HPU provides the skills and strong academic foundation that can lead to a variety of career options. Our students are prepared for positions in marine and aquatic science careers as field and data technicians in research laboratories and government agencies, aquarists or outreach/education specialists in aquariums and zoos, or for a myriad of other positions in aquaculture, fisheries science, environmental analysis, marine policy, and many others. Students who aim to become leaders in marine biology, or ultimately direct their own research, will have the necessary background to pursue a master or doctoral degree in their chosen field. HPU even offers a  Master of Science in Marine Science program for students who wish to pursue a graduate degree with us.

Marine Science Careers

Why study Marine Sciences at HPU?

  • Our dedicated marine science faculty’s expertise covers a broad range of disciplines, producing a well-rounded experience for our students.
  • HPU’s small class sizes foster constructive interactions between faculty and students, and guarantee individualized attention.
  • In addition to a rigorous classroom education, our marine science programs emphasize hands-on learning in laboratory and field courses throughout the degree curriculum.
  • Our location in the center of the world’s largest ocean makes this the perfect place to study marine biology and oceanography!
  • Even as an undergraduate, you’ll have the chance to explore and deploy sampling gear throughout Hawai‘i’s coastal and nearshore ocean environments aboard our 42-foot research vessel, Kaholo, in addition to learning scientific observation and analyses techniques in our laboratories at the Hawaii Loa campus and Oceanic Institute.
  • Students who graduate from our program leave with an in-depth knowledge of marine science and real-world skills for success in their future endeavors.

What is Oceanography?


Oceanography is the interdisciplinary study of the global oceans -- from shallow coastal areas to the deepest ocean trenches, from the tropics to the polar seas. It is usually divided into four sub-disciplines: physical oceanography (the study of waves, currents, tides, and ocean energy); geological oceanography (the study of the sediments, rocks, and structure of the seafloor and coastal margins); chemical oceanography (the study of the composition and properties of seawater and how it is affected by physical mixing processes and interactions with the seafloor, the atmosphere, and ocean life); and biological oceanography (the study of marine organisms and their interactions with the ocean environment). All of these sub-disciplines are highly interrelated, as well as being closely aligned to other fields such as meteorology/atmospheric science, geophysics, and ocean engineering. As you might expect, biological oceanography shares many aspects with marine biology, but is generally more focused on the interactions of specific parameters within the marine environment -- paying particular attention to the affects of chemical, physical, or geographic properties of the ocean -- and marine organism distribution and/or the patterns of biological populations in the sea. HPU’s oceanography program includes all of the sub-disciplines of oceanography.

BS Oceanography Degree

What can you do with an Oceanography degree?

An undergraduate degree in Oceanography from HPU is extremely versatile given the multidisciplinary nature of our curriculum. We provide you with a strong academic foundation in the physical and biological sciences including additional preparation in understanding marine systems. In particular, our B.S. in oceanography will prepare you for an entry-level marine/aquatic science position in a government agency helping to establish marine policy or performing fisheries management; in a research setting as a field or data technician; or in a non-profit or education setting, to name a few. Because the number of students who pursue oceanography is relatively small, many unique opportunities exist -- those who aim to become leaders in oceanography, further specialize, or direct research will have the academic foundation necessary to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in their chosen field. HPU even offers a Master of Science in Marine Science program for students who wish to continue on and pursue a graduate degree.

Marine Science Careers