Freshwater and Marine Science Graduate Degree Program


Website: Freshwater and Marine Science Graduate Degree Program's website

Phone: 608-262-2742

B154 Birge Hall
430 Lincoln Drive
Madison, WI 53706


The Freshwater and Marine Sciences (FMS) Graduate Program offers curricula leading to the master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees or a doctoral minor in freshwater and marine sciences. Interdisciplinary in nature, each individualized program of study provides graduate training in aquatic sciences and integrates related sciences. Students enrolled in the program are advised by faculty in several departments in the College of Letters & Science, the College of Engineering, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the School of Veterinary Medicine.

UW–Madison is recognized worldwide as a leader in the field of limnology and aquatic ecology. The FMS Program began 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.

The FMS 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.

Study plans are individually tailored for each student by a guidance and evaluation committee composed of at least five faculty members including the major professor. 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 may include biology, chemistry, data science, geology, physics, or other related fields. The major, by nature of the program, includes advanced courses in several subdisciplines in freshwater and marine sciences. The minor may be used to obtain tools of research, focus in greater depth on a single discipline within freshwater and marine sciences, or open additional areas related to the field, such as the social sciences.


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 typically 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 freshwater and marine sciences. Prospective students make direct contact with potential faculty advisors. Admission depends upon finding a match between the skills and interests of the applicant and the needs of a suitable faculty mentor.