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Freshwater and Marine Sciences

Administrative Unit:Freshwater and Marine Sciences Program
College/School: College of Engineering
Admitting Plans:M.S., Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.S., Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor

Faculty: Loheide (chair) (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Bahr (Geoscience), Cardiff (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Carpenter (Zoology), Desai (Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences), Fratta (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Ginder-Vogel (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Goldberg (Pathobiological Sciences), Graham (Botany), Gratton (Entomology/Zoology), Hotchkiss (Botany), Hurley (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Krysan (Horticulture), Kucharik (Agronomy/SAGE), Lee (Zoology), Liu (Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences), Mcintyre (Zoology), McKinley (Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences), McMahon (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Potter (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Remucal (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Stanley (Zoology), Vander Zanden (Zoology), Wu (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Zedler (Botany)


The program offers curricula leading to the master of science and Ph.D. degrees or a doctoral minor in freshwater and marine sciences. The program is administered by the College of Engineering and sponsored jointly with the College of Letters & Science. Interdisciplinary in nature, each individualized program of study provides graduate training in aquatic sciences and integrates related sciences. Faculty members in atmospheric and oceanic sciences, botany, civil and environmental engineering, environmental chemistry and technology, food science, geology and geophysics, and zoology supervise graduate student activities in the program.

The UW–Madison is recognized worldwide as a leader in the field of limnology and aquatic ecology. The Limnology and Marine Sciences Program was begun in 1962 as the Oceanography and Limnology Program. The program combines research and teaching from several fields and departments to develop a greater understanding of aquatic systems—their origins, inhabitants, phenomena, and impact on human life.

This graduate program emphasizes limnological studies and is based on the premise that limnology and marine sciences are integrated fields requiring a broad base in the fundamental disciplines. Students may specialize in limnology or in marine sciences, or they may focus on processes common to both environments.

Facilities for freshwater and marine research and instruction in the biological, chemical, and physical areas of limnology and marine sciences are available at UW–Madison through the Center for Limnology, the Water Science & Engineering Laboratory, and the departments of faculty participating in the program. The Center for Limnology also maintains a year-round laboratory at Trout Lake. This facility is a well-equipped biological field station in the Northern Highlands lake district of Wisconsin. Several research vessels are available for research on the Great Lakes. Ships belonging to other institutions are used for oceanographic field research.

Study plans are individually tailored for each student by a guidance and evaluation committee composed of at least three faculty members including the major professor, another professor from the major field of interest, and a third from another discipline. At least two must be from the limnology and marine sciences faculty, one from the biological sciences, and one from the physical sciences. The committee guides the student in developing study plans, research, and career goals.

All Ph.D. candidates are expected to obtain a broad background in aquatic sciences and depth in their research area. The background should include biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. The major, by the nature of the program, includes advanced courses in several subdisciplines in limnology and marine sciences. The minor may be used to obtain tools of research, focus in greater depth on a single discipline within limnology and marine sciences, or open additional areas related to the field, such as the social sciences.

Doctoral Minor 

Students working toward a Ph.D. degree with a major in another department may elect to minor in freshwater and marine sciences. A minor program of at least 12 credits, developed individually for each student, should strike a reasonable balance of physical and biological courses and include at least one semester of the limnology and marine sciences seminar. The proposed minor must be approved by the Limnology and Marine Sciences Graduate Committee.

Financial Aid 

Various types of financial-assistance programs are available to qualified students in the form of research assistantships, teaching assistantships, fellowships, and special grants. Decisions regarding financial support are based on letters of recommendation, grades, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, and, for research assistantships, the matching of interests or experience of the applicant to the research program. For research assistantships, the applicant's interests and experience must match the needs of the funding project. Students are encouraged to seek outside funding.


Applicants to the program must have at least one year of college-level biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus. In addition, applicants should highlight their substantive experiences and career goals in limnology and marine sciences. It is strongly recommended that prospective students make direct contact with prospective faculty advisors. Admission depends upon finding a match between the skills and interests of the applicant and the needs of a suitable faculty mentor.


Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

661 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I or II, 3 cr
662 Air-Sea Interaction, 2 cr
718 Fundamentals of Atmospheric and Oceanic Convection, 2 cr
750 Problems in Oceanography, 3 cr
773 Boundary Layer Meteorology I or II, 3 cr
801 Topics in Theoretical Meteorology, 2–3 cr
861-862 Problems of Viscous/Problems of Turbulent Flow, 2 cr
911 Oceanography and Limnology Seminar, 1 cr
960 Seminar—Oceanography, 1–2 cr


460 General Ecology, 4 cr
631 Marine Botany, 2 cr
802 Physiological Plant Ecology, 3 cr
911 Oceanography and Limnology Seminar, 1 cr

Civil and Environmental Engineering

411 Open Channel Hydraulics, 3 cr
415 Water Resources Engineering, 3 cr
511 Ocean Dynamics, 2 cr
512 Air-Sea Interaction, 2 cr
514 Coastal Engineering, 3 cr
552 Remote Sensing of the Environment, 3 cr
610 Water Motions in Lakes and Reservoirs, 2 cr
611 Hydrodynamics, 3 cr
618 Special Topics in Hydraulics and Fluid Mechanics, 1–3 cr
629 Special Topics in Environmental Engineering, 1–3 cr
711 Problems of Viscous Flow, 2–3 cr
712 Problems of Turbulent Flow, 2–3 cr
810 Problems in Oceanography, 3 cr
811 Theory of Water Waves, 3 cr
911 Oceanography and Limnology Seminar, 1 cr

Environmental Chemistry and Technology (see also Civil and Environmental Engineering)

501 Water Analysis Intermediate, 2 cr
502 Environmental Organic Chemistry, 3 cr
503 Water Analysis Laboratory, 1 cr
609 Special Topics in Water Chemistry, 1–3 cr
700 Chemistry of Natural Waters, 3 cr
701 Analytical Techniques in Environmental Chemistry, 3 cr
810 Problems in Oceanography, 3 cr
908 Water Chemistry Seminar, 1 cr
909 Water Chemistry Research Seminar, 1 cr
911 Oceanography and Limnology Seminar, 1 cr
999 Advanced Independent Study, 1 cr

Geology and Geophysics

590 Applied Geophysics, 3 cr
627 Hydrogeology, 3–4 cr
630 Physical Sedimentology, 3–4 cr
732 Geochemistry of Sediments, 3 cr
740 Micropaleontology, 3 cr
750 Problems in Oceanography, 3 cr
911 Oceanography and Limnology Seminar, 3 cr
999 Advanced Independent Reading, 1–3 cr

Plant Pathology

606 Colloquium in Environmental Toxicology, 1 cr


315-316 Limnology Conservation of Aquatic Resources, lab 2 cr, lecture 2 cr
460 General Ecology, 4 cr
510-511 Ecology of Fishes, lab 2 cr, lecture 2 cr
515 Plankton Ecology, 3 cr
516 Plankton Ecology Lab, 2 cr
535 Ecosystem Analysis, 2–3 cr
725 Ecosystems Concepts, 3 cr
750 Problems in Oceanography, 3 cr
911 Oceanography and Limnology Seminar, 1 cr
955 Seminar: Limnology, 1 cr

Related Courses in Other Departments 

Chemical and Biological Engineering

440 Chemical Engineering Materials, 3 cr
620 Intermediate Transport Phenomena, 3 cr


827 International Law, 2–3 cr
830 Land Use Controls, 3 cr
845 Water Rights Law, 2–3 cr
846 Environmental Litigation, 3 cr
918 Selected Problems in International Law Seminar, 2–3 cr
937 Law, Technology and Society Seminar, 2–3 cr
988 Selected Problems in Environmental Law Seminar, 2–3 cr

Political Science

512 Science and Government, 3 cr
865 The Supreme Court and the Constitution in American Politics, 3 cr
999 Independent Work, 2–3 cr

Urban and Regional Planning

821-822 Resources Policy Issues: Regional and National, 2–3 cr
843 Land Use Policy and Planning, 3 cr
865 Water Resources Institutions and Policies, 3 cr
999 Independent Work, 1–3

For more information: Admissions, Freshwater and Marine Sciences Program, 122 Limnology Lab, 680 North Park Street, Madison, WI 53706; 608-890-2075; mcpossin@wisc.edu; www.engr.wisc.edu/interd/limnology/.