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‘Clear path’

New program offerings boosting Memorial's strength in oceans

Teaching and Learning

By Kelly Foss

This September, students can begin studies in one of three brand new science majors: ocean sciences, ocean sciences (environmental systems) and marine biology.

Marine biology is a revamped version of the former biology (marine) program, and is now co-administered by the departments of Biology and Ocean Sciences. The other two are the first majors offered by the Faculty of Science’s newest department, the Department of Ocean Sciences.

The department was approved by the Board of Regents in 2012 and in 2015 began offering its first academic programming with minors in oceanography and sustainable aquaculture and fisheries ecology.

“Always been here”

“The challenge has been to carve ourselves a space in the program scenery, because we’ve always been here. We’re not really new,” said Dr. Annie Mercier, ocean sciences’ deputy head.

“We’re actually an old unit that’s now a department. So, our programs had to be carved inside a space that we were already occupying. Ocean sciences had always had a large role in delivering the biology (marine) program, but we revisited it and came up with a truly joint program.”

One new course will be a ship-based field course offered to students in their second year.
One new course will be a ship-based field course offered to students in their second year.
Photo: David Howells

The department is now in the process of developing the honours component of their degrees.

They are also working actively with the Marine Institute’s School of Fisheries with the hope of formalizing a joint major in fisheries and aquaculture.

Innovative courses

Dr. Mercier says the programs are going to be strong because of the department’s location in the Ocean Sciences Centre in Logy Bay.

“Because we’re right on the shore, our students will be physically exposed to the ocean, and have the benefit of our incredible infrastructure. The fact that we have collaborations with other departments is also a strength and the new courses we are developing are very innovative.”

Science students can now begin studies in one of three brand new majors: ocean sciences, ocean sciences (environmental systems) and marine biology.
Science students can now begin studies in one of three brand new majors: ocean sciences, ocean sciences (environmental systems) and marine biology.
Photo: OSC Field Services

One of those new courses will be a unique, ship-based field course that will be offered to students in their second year. The department is also continuing to explore new teaching approaches and technologies for its other courses, such as blended and flipped classes.

Dr. Mercier says she’s also gotten requests from other universities around the world with a marine-oriented program to develop exchange programs with Memorial. She says she intends to explore potential linkages with those institutions.

Ocean engagement

Dr. Mercier believes the Department of Ocean Sciences’ new academic programming is a good tie in with the department’s popular public education and school programs, which draw thousands of visitors and students to the Ocean Science Centre annually. She also says there is great momentum in ocean-related education.

“The path will be much clearer for people to follow.” — Dr. Annie Mercier

“Our public education program and our school programs with the Oceans Learning Partnership are very healthy. Technology is helping us reach more and more students, whether they can come here physically or not.

“Our undergraduate programs are a very good fit with this development of ocean engagement and stewardship,” she continued.

“Between the public education and school programs, our minors, majors and previously established graduate programs, everything will now be pushing in the same direction and feeding into one another. The path will be much clearer for people to follow, where it was disconnected before. Overall, I think Memorial’s strength in oceans is going to be getting a great boost.”


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