May 29, 2024  
2021-2022 Catalog 
2021-2022 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Marine and Coastal Science, BS

Marine and Coastal Science, University Interdisciplinary Programs

107 credits


The B.S. in Marine and Coastal Science (MACS) is a cohort-based, interdisciplinary, and experiential program designed to provide students with the opportunity to engage in coastal and marine-focused research. Students and faculty at Western engage in research and education through a wide array of programs and partnerships, cooperating across fields of study, working in the lab and in the field.

Marine and Coastal Science is a joint program of the Shannon Point Marine Center (SPMC), and the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Geology, and Environmental Sciences. We are advancing the state of knowledge about the oceans, coasts, and their ecosystems for the scientific community and for the communities we call home. Our students are learning to understand these systems, engage deeply with them, and become the creative problem solvers of tomorrow. The program brings together expertise on physical, chemical, geological and biological concepts in marine science. Our courses allow students to explore and interpret fundamental observations about our coasts and oceans. Students develop an understanding of the process of science while gaining practical skills in an equitable and inclusive learning environment.

The program has a focus on place-based learning that emphasizes connections to people and communities. Each student begins the program with a short intensive research and learning experience at the marine center (1-2 weeks). All the preparatory and core courses for the major are offered on the main Bellingham campus. Many electives are taught on main campus, but some courses, depending on their field and lab needs regularly visit SPMC in Anacortes, Washington. Other courses are offered entirely at SPMC, generally meeting all day, one day a week to cut down on commuting time and increase compatibility with other course schedules. Most students are based in Bellingham, but short-term housing is available in dorms at SPMC.

Why Consider a Marine and Coastal Science major?

Study Marine Science across disciplines

The MACS program is a partnership between Shannon Point Marine Center and the WWU departments of Biology, Environmental Science, and Geology. Students have unique opportunities to study marine science in an environment of interdisciplinary collaboration.

Learn, work, and thrive together

Study marine science as a cohort, beginning with research experiences in your first or second year, continuing through your third year in core course series, and culminating with a capstone experience.

Gain research experience

Students have opportunities to engage in mentored, hands-on research opportunities during their freshmen or sophomore year through immersive study at Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes, Washington, about an hour south of Bellingham.

Access to marine labs and research vessels

Students spend time in the field, on oceanographic vessels, and in learning laboratories. 

 Contact Information


 Sample Careers

Naturalist | Marine Scientist | Aquarist | Geological Survey Scientist | Water Quality Specialist | Shellfish Biologist | Hatchery Technician | Shoreline Manager | Marine Natural Resources Manager | Fisheries Observer | Marine Environmental Educator

 Major/Career Resources

How to Declare (Admission and Declaration Process):

Once a year, the program admits a cohort of students into the major. Admission to the MACS program is selective. Current Western students can apply to the major in late fall, typically during fall quarter of their second year, and are notified of admissions decisions prior to spring quarter course registration. Upon acceptance, MACS students take the introductory research course in the spring and begin the core series (MACS 301, MACS 302, MACS 303) the following fall.  

Transfer students interested in applying to the major, apply to the program in the spring, while simultaneously applying to Western. Upon acceptance into the major, transfer students enroll in an introductory research course in the fall alongside the first of the core courses. 

To apply, students submit an online application (, which asks for basic demographic information, academic history, student goals and experience. The program utilizes this information to make holistic admissions decisions in an effort to create diverse and vibrant learning communities.

To be eligible to apply for admissions into the MACS program, prospective students will need to have completed or be on track to complete by end of spring quarter of the year they are applying in, all of the major preparatory courses listed below with a grade of C – or better. 

While not required to apply for the major, if schedule allows, students are encouraged to complete either BIOL 205 and BIOL 206 or PHYS 162 and PHYS 163 at the same time as the preparatory courses.

Grade Requirements

A grade of C- or better is required for a student’s major or minor courses, and supporting courses for majors and minors.


Electives (24 credits)

Choose a minimum of 24 elective credits from 300-400 level ESCI, BIOL, GEOL, and MACS courses (2 credits of MACS 111 - Current Topics in Marine Science I  and 3 credits of MACS 112 - Current Topics in Marine Science II  for a total of 5 credits may be applied towards the elective requirement). Courses in addition to those listed below may be acceptable under advisement. 

Note: 60 credits of upper-division coursework is required by Western to graduate, additional upper division credits above major requirements may be needed. Specific courses listed below may not be available to MACS students until phase II registration. Check with MACS advisors when planning course of study.  

Marine and Coastal Science

Capstone (6 credits)

Must complete 6 capstone credits. MACS 496 Communicating Marine Science, 2 credits (It is required for all students) and one of the three options listed for 4 credits.