Subject: Grad schools for marine mammal studies

Jennifer D. Philips (
Tue, 28 Apr 1998 22:08:29 -1000

>Hi, my name is Ann Colburn.  And I'm studying for my Ph.D in marine biology,
>specifically whales.  I was just wondering if you can recommend any good grad
>schools (i'm only a sophmore in college).  Any info or tips would be great.
>Ann (e-mail :

Ann - 

Good schools for graduate work in marine mammal research are defined by the
researchers they have in their employ, much more so than for other
professions, such as law, business or medicine.  So, along those lines, I
can recommend the following schools:

UC Santa Cruz has not only a good, diverse set of courses, but also a large
set of researchers and a coast-based lab (Long Marine Lab) through which
most marine research is run.  Working there are Dan Costa, Ron Schusterman,
and Terrie Williams to name a few.  Randy Wells also works out of UCSC, but
does his research in Sarasota, Florida, with bottlenose dolphins.  

Cornell is big in bioacoustics, especially in birds and whales.  Chris
Clark is the main contact there.

MIT (and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) is a major center in marine
research.  Working with marine mammals there is Peter Tyack. 

Texas A&M has a great program in marine mammal research, working mainly in
the Gulf of Mexico.  Berndt Wursig works there (I believe he is still
affiliated there), and takes on graduate students to do work all over the

Scripps Institute of Oceanography, at UC San Diego, mainly concentrates in
oceanography, but I'm sure they have marine mammal stuff there too.  

University of British Columbia is in Canada ,but John Ford does his killer
whale research through there.  

University of Hawaii has a good program, with researchers Whitlow Au, Paul
Nachtigall, Herb Roitblat, Lou Herman, and others.

But there are many other schools that employ great researchers who take on
graduate students most year.  There are also some schools in Florida, and
the main researchers working there, that I know of, is Denise Hertzing and
Randy Wells.

I would recommend that you look around for the research that interests you,
then find the researchers that are doing that kind of work.  Contact them,
and preperably visit them to let them know that you're interested in their
program   The best way to get accepted into graduate school is to
personally know a researcher at the school to which you want to get
accepted, by visiting them and establishing communication with them.  They
should be willing to sponsor you as their student (hopefully with funding,
but not always), so that you can say so on your application.  University
departments like that, because it means they don't have to worry about
placing you with someone.  The other most important thing for you to do
RIGHT NOW, while you're still in college, is to get experience doing
anything you can in the marine research area.  Get research experience so
you can be more sure that research is what you want to do.  You can't know
for sure unless you have exposed yourself to its hardships.    And it is
definitely hard.  But it is also very rewarding, which makes any of its
hardships bearable.  

Good luck!  I hope this information helps.   



Jennifer D. Philips

Marine Mammal Research Program
HIMB, University of Hawaii at Manoa
PO Box 1106			
Kailua, HI  96734
voice:  (808) 247-5063
fax: (808) 247-5831