Marine Science


Some Reflections on the Origin, Challenges and Contributions of Marine Science Degree Programs at Savannah State University

by Matthew R. Gilligan, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus
Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences, Savannah State University, October 2017



Mission Statement

The mission of the Marine Sciences Program at Savannah State University is to provide research, education, and outreach programs which contribute to a vital, technically qualified, intellectually thoughtful, and ethnically diverse community of individuals capable of creatively solving problems and answering questions related to coastal and ocean ecosystem health, environmental quality, and fisheries sustainability. (Approved by faculty of marine sciences on 12/1/2004)


B.S. Degree

University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the proposal for a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology in 1979. The Marine Biology building was dedicated on April 21, 1989. On March 13, 1998, administrative approval was granted to change the name of the B.S. degree program major in Marine Biology to Marine Science. The change was made as a result of growth in the degree program, growth of supporting co-curricular research and outreach activities, and as a result of curriculum changes related to the conversion of all University System units from the quarter to the semester system in August 1998 causing the revised curriculum to align more closely with programs of that name elsewhere in the country. The new name also more accurately reflected the broad-based academic training in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology as well as specialized curricular elements related to understanding the oceans as a unified dynamic system and the study of its living components and resources.

M.S. Degree

In the fall of academic year 1994-95 Savannah State University was granted planning authority for a masters degree in marine sciences and the invitation to submit the formal proposal was granted on November 11, 1999. The formal proposal was submitted on December 8, 1999, and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents authorized Savannah State University to offer a master's degree in marine sciences at its September 2001 meeting.


Center of Excellence

Based upon a comprehensive academic program review, a faculty senate recommendation that the Marine Science program be designated a center of excellence was approved by the administration in 2002.


There have been 221 marine sciences degrees awarded since 1985: 173 B.S and 48 M.S.). Notably, 19% of Bachelor's degree graduates entered or completed Master's degree programs or Doctoral degree programs and 30% of Master's degree graduates entered Doctoral programs.

Though SSU is a historically Black University with 93% of fall 2010 enrollment African American, enrollment and graduation rates in the marine sciences are 47% African American and 53% non-African American (white, international, Asian, Hispanic, and multi-ethnic). The program has had a national impact on preparing underrepresented groups for success in marine and ocean sciences: 33% of Master's degrees in marine/ocean sciences earned by African Americans in the U.S. from 2004-2007 were earned at SSU and 10% of African American Master's and Doctoral students in marine/ocean sciences in in the U.S. in 2007 were either enrolled in the Master's program at SSU or were former SSU students enrolled in Doctoral programs elsewhere.