URI Marine Biology Program

College of the Environment and Life Sciences


The Marine Biology Program involves over 200 students in the B.S. Marine Biology degree program, which is administered by the Department of Biological Sciences. Most of our students are from out-of-state, and they have come to us from 15 states (including Florida, Texas, California, and Hawaii) and internationally (Germany, Phillipines, India, Netherlands, Mexico, China; see freshman class profiles). The curriculum for the BS in Marine Biology is designed for those students who plan to work in marine biology, marine ecology, biological oceanography, marine conservation, marine education, or related fields at a professional level, and those who wish to apply their training to a wide range of other exciting careers. The program allows students to explore the vast world of marine biology while providing an important foundation in modern biological sciences, chemistry, math, physics and oceanography. We encourage an interdisciplinary approach that could include study in other marine-related areas, such as Aquaculture and Fisheries, Geology and Geological Oceanography, Marine Affairs, Marine Environmental Economics, Marine Archaeology, History and Literature, Ocean Engineering, and/or involvement in URI’s Honors Program. Students majoring in marine biology may also choose to complete a minor or double major in one of these areas (or others), depending on their interests. Other students with an interest in Marine Biology may pursue a BS in Biological Sciences or a BA in Biology (with appropriate marine-related courses), or may complete a Minor in Marine Biology.

We have hired SIX new faculty in Marine Biology and Related Areas in the past two years: Marine Animal Physiology (Dr. Hollie Putnam, CELS), Evolution of Marine Organisms (Dr. Jon Puritz, CELS), Coral Reef Ecology (TBA, CELS), Biogeochemistry (Dr. Jamie Palter, GSO), Phytoplankton Ecology/Coastal Oceanography (Dr. Colleen Mouw, GSO), Hydrothermal Vent/Methane Seeps (Dr. Roxanne Beinart, GSO).

Check out our Facebook page: “URI Marine Biology

Congratulations & Announcements

  • Welcome to New Marine Biology Faculty:
    • Dr. Hollie Putnam has joined the Department of Biological Sciences (Jan. 2017). She works on the impacts of global change on the physiology of corals and other invertebrates. Click here to see her website and here to read more.
    • Dr. Jon Puritz will be joining the faculty in Biological Sciences in Fall 2017. Dr. Puritz studies anthropogenic effects on the evolution of marine populations. Click here to see his website.
  • Daniel Achilles (Junior, MBio) is on a cruise with the Rynearson Lab (GSO) in the Antarctic (Dec./Jan. 2017). Here’s the link to their blog – Daniel wrote the latest posting: http://www.gso.uri.edu/rynearson-lab/blogs/
  • Dr. Jacqueline Webb (BIO) has been appointed as the first George and Barbara Young Chair in Biology, the sole endowed chair in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences (Press Release).
  • Whale Watching at the Mystic Aquarium – Dr. Justin Richard and some of our Marine Biology majors have been doing research on the Belugas at the Aquarium. Read about it here.
  • In Fall 2016 we welcomed 74 incoming freshmen who came to URI from 14 states; 59 from New England and the Middle Atlantic States, and another 15 students from IL, VA, MD, MI, MN, TX and CA.
  • URI Marine Biology Alumni at the Joint Meeting of IMG_2374Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in New Orleans in July 2016!  All of these alums are now graduate students at other institutions around the country and gave presentations at this national conference. From left to right: Charles Bangley (Class of ’06, now at East Carolina University), Ashley Stoehr (Class of ’10, now at UMass Dartmouth), Dr. Jacqueline Webb, Amber Lisi (Class of ’12, now at UMass Dartmouth), Callie Crawford (Class of ’10, MS College of Charleston).


  • Ashley Marranzino (MS Student, Webb Lab) won the Stoye Award (best student presentation) in Genetics, Development and Morphology for her presentation on the sensory biology of deep sea fishes at the annual meeting of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in July 2016. The URI Press Release about Ashley is here.
  • Congratulations to the Marine Biology Class of 2016!  See our Alumni Page to see what some of our graduates will be doing after Graduation.
  • Renee Bakker (Class of 2016) was awarded the 2016 Academic Excellence Award in Marine Biology at Graduation.
  • Dr. Justin Richard (Sartini Lab, FAVS) who works on reproductive physiology of whales, has recently completed his PhD (2016)  and will be staying at URI as a Post-Doctoral Fellow and will be contributing to the Marine Biology Program. Dr. Richard has worked with the beluga whales at the Mystic Aquarium and has involved 11 URI undergraduates, including many Marine Biology majors, in this work. Click here for press release.
  • Congratulations and Bon Voyage to Dr. Jason Ramsay (BS Biological Sciences 2004; PhD BioSci 2012; current lecturer in BioSci, faculty advisor for MBio) who has accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Biology at Westfield State University, Westfield, MA.
  • Johann Becker (Marine Biology/Ocean Engineering double major, Class of 2018) is a recipient of a 2016 NOAA Hollings Scholarship. He is the 20th URI student to receive this prestigious, nationally competitive scholarship.  Click here for URI press release.
  • Dr. Susanne Menden-Deuer (GSO) has been elected as a Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Fellows. The ASLO Fellows program was initiated this year to honor ASLO members who have advanced the aquatic sciences via their exceptional contributions to the benefit of the society and its publications, meetings, and other activities. Click here for URI press release.
  • Dr. Carol Thornber (BIO), Principal Investigator of Rhode Island EPSCoR, has been named by Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to the Executive Climate Change Science and Technology Advisory Board. Dr. Peter August (NRS) has been appointed by the Governor to serve as Chair of the Advisory Board.
  • Marine Biology Faculty received >$5.5 million in new research grants in 2015:
    • Dr. Bethany Jenkins (CMB) and colleagues at Old Dominion U. and U. South Florida have received a $1 million grant from the NSF Division of Polar Programs that seeks to understand the biological control of iron and its role in phytoplankton productivity, carbon cycling, and climate regulation. This project, which will take Dr. Jenkins and her colleagues to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean, focuses on diatoms, an important group of photosynthetic algae, and the roles that associated bacterial communities play in modulating their growth. The project combines trace metal biogeochemistry, phytoplankton cultivation, and molecular biology to address questions regarding the production of iron-binding compounds and the role of diatom-bacterial interactions in this iron-limited region of the world’s oceans. A high school teacher will be participating in this research, and will be a member of the team going to the Southern Ocean.
    • Drs. Emi Uchida (ENRE), Art Gold (NRS) and colleagues received a $500,000 grant from NSF’s Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) program, entitled: “Poverty Traps and Mangrove Ecosystem Services in Coastal Tanzania”. More than 35% of mangroves worldwide have been degraded or lost entirely in the past 20 years, and this has significant consequences for human wellbeing. Work will be conducted in coastal Tanzania where mangrove resource degradation and persistent poverty continue to be significant challenges. This project will inform stakeholders involved in coastal resource management and poverty alleviation how changes in mangrove ecosystem services are associated with poverty and vice versa, and examine new approaches to break the vicious cycle of resource degradation and poverty.
    • Dr. Chris Lane (BIO) and colleagues at several other institutions have received a $2.5 million NSF grant, one of five awards made in NSF’s new GoLife program. This work will focus on the biodiversity and evolution of a large and diverse group of microbial eukaryotes that includes the Apicomplexa (e.g. malarial parasites), oomycetes (e.g. parasite water molds) and diatoms (e.g. ecologically important phytoplankton). Most species of eukaryotes are microscopic and are less well-studied with respect to morphology, evolutionary relationships, and genetic variation when compared to more familiar eukaryotes (plants, animals and fungi). Thus, this work will make major contributions to our understanding of biodiversity on Earth, and how we interpret cellular and evolutionary biology in the broadest sense.
    • Dr. Serena Moseman-Valtierra and Dr. Marta Gomez-Chiarri have received a $200,000 grant from Rhode Island Sea Grant for a project entitled “Pathogens, nitrogen, and changing climate: Understanding impacts of multiple stressors on Narragansett Bay shellfish”.
    • Dr. Jacqueline Webb and colleagues at Boston U. and U. Miami have received a $1.2 million grant from NSF’s Biological Oceanography Program entitled “The Role of Larval Orientation Behavior In Determining Population Connectivity”.  Pelagic fish larvae face great challenges in finding suitable settlement sites. This project asks fundamental questions about how the sensory capabilities of the larvae of a coral reef species (a sponge goby) contribute to their navigation behavior. Work on the developmental anatomy and functional morphology of sensory systems is being done in the Webb Lab; behavioral work is being carried out in the field in Belize. A new post-doc, Dr. Yinan Hu, has joined the Webb lab to work on this project.
  • Johann Becker (MBio) worked with Dr. Brad Wetherbee this summer and their shark tagging activities were covered by NBC10. To find out more click here.
  • Heather Chan (MBio), Jaclyn Friedman (MBio), Katie Lynch (MBio), and Ryan Quinn (Bio), all undergraduates working in the Moseman-Valtierra lab, were invited to present their research at the URI Leadership Summit hosted by President David M. Dooley, the URI Foundation, and the URI Alumni Association.
  • Welcome to the 85 freshmen in the Class of 2019 and our new transfer students!!
  • The Marine Biology Peer Mentor for 2015-2016 is Steve Tadros (MBio Class of 2016). He can be reached at mbmentor@etal.uri.edu, and will hold office hours in the CELS Student Affairs Office (see the Advising and Mentoring page for hours).
  • URI at SEAProfs. Tracey Dalton (MAF) and Jacqueline Webb (BIO) attended the Final Symposium of the Sea Education Association’s program in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (MBC) in June, which focused on the Sargasso Sea. Peg Brandon, President of SEA, realized that there was a disproportionately large URI presence at this event.URI at SEA - 2015Left to Right:  Peg Brandon, BS ’80, MMA ’97 (President of SEA), Tundi Agardy, MMA ’85, PhD ’87, William Botta, BS ’15 (URI MBio student in the SEA – MBC program) , Jacqueline Webb (URI faculty – BioSci), Tiffany Smythe, MMA ’07, PhD ’11, Chris McGuire, MMA ’11 (former SEA Captain), Tracy Dalton (URI faculty – MAF), Paul Joyce, PhD ’88 (Dean of SEA).
  • Congratulations to Jessica Freedman (MBio Class of 2017) and Jamie Schicho (OCE Class of 2017), the 2016 recipients of the NOAA Hollings Scholarship; 19 URI students have won Hollings Scholarships since 2009.

For more news, see the Kudos and Congratulations page.

Photo Credits throughout the Marine Biology website: Drs. Jacqueline Webb, Brad Seibel, Carol Thornber, Ms. Jillian Hesse (Class of ’07),  Ms. Sara MacSorley (Class of ’08),  Ms. Emily Field (Class of ’09)

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