Marine Science Department

Marine Science Honors Society (HHO) students monitoring the efficacy of marine reserves on a local intertidal zone.​​​​​​​​​​The Marine Science Department at Orange Coast College (OCC) has one of the largest 2-year college marine science programs in the Western United States. The proximity to the Southern California coast allows students from all backgrounds to investigate the far-reaching influence of the ocean through a diverse set of academic and practical courses.  While at OCC, Marine Science students have the opportunity to explore this fascinating career and test their sea legs. Students will gain experience working on boats, taking water samples with oceanic probes, collecting sediment samples for analysis, interpreting oceanic weather information, designing and building aquarium filtration systems, learning how to care for living marine organisms, and discovering the fundamentals of marine navigation and seamanship. Class formats range from traditional lectures to many hands-on field courses that provide practical experience working in both the lab and in the field.

Group of students in boat on gray whale ecology field tripThis unique program strives to prepare students with a wide range of related interests and future goals. For students that know they want to pursue a Bachelor’s or graduate degree in some aspect of marine sciences at a four-year university, they can complete many of their prerequisite courses at OCC at a much lower cost, often with smaller class sizes, and gain hands-on experience with specialized courses to learn what facet of marine science they are most drawn to. For students that plan to earn a Bachelor’s degree in another field (including biology, chemistry, communications, computer science, economics, engineering, geology or law among many other potentially-related disciplines) but would like to strengthen that degree with an applied marine emphasis, we offer specific Courses, Degrees & Certificates that provide students with an advantage after graduation. Community members of all ages and backgrounds can take our specialty courses for personal enrichment or as part of stand-alone qualifications for many local jobs that do not require academic degrees, but where practical experience is important.

Marine Science Courses  Marine Science Degrees & Certificates

Learn about our Marine Science Program
Develop hands-on skills at the Orange Coast College Aquarium
The department has its own "wet" marine laboratory and Public Aquarium where students can get hands-on experience caring for a diverse array of living aquatic organisms and maintaining the systems. The student-run aquarium facility contains over 6,000 gallons of water and consists of systems exhibiting local cold-water environments, tropical organisms, freshwater planted tanks, aquaculture systems, and student research projects.

Students acclimating sharks in to our shark exhibitAre you currently enrolled and looking for additional information? Meet with the Marine Science department faculty for guidance! 

While at Orange Coast College, marine science students are highly encouraged to meet with the full-time department faculty each semester to discuss their specific interests and goals, discuss local internship and volunteer opportunities, and develop a professional resume while enrolled. Easily schedule a meeting online (below) where you can choose a day and time that suits your personal class schedule. A department faculty member will then follow up with you to schedule a meeting on campus or online through Zoom. 


Schedule a Meeting with Marine Science Faculty


The options are endless!

We encourage students to explore the many options marine science has to offer, take part in a wide range of field courses including our Gray Whale Ecology Study Abroad class, work in our student-run aquarium, join our Marine Science Honor Society (Eta Eta Omicron, “HHO”), get advice and contacts from past students through our OCCean Alumni Network, find opportunities through our job and internship board, and get experience on the water at our Maritime Campus.

Learn More:

Gray Whale Ecology Study Abroad Marine Science Honor Society OCCean Alumni Network Waterfront Campus

Students performing a necropsy on a flatfish

Collaboration is Key

OCC Waterfront campusMarine Science students are encouraged to take advantage of the many opportunities available to them in other college departments and nearby affiliates. The Applied Ocean Science & Technology Associate of Science is a collaborative degree offered between the Marine Science Department and the Professional Mariner Program located at the OCC Waterfront Campus in nearby Newport Harbor. Students can also take a myriad of powerboating and sailing courses at our affiliated School of Sailing & Seamanship.

The department also boasts a dedicated aquaponics greenhouse as a collaborative effort between aquarium science and the Horticulture Department. This facility demonstrates one of the practical interdisciplinary applications of aquarium science combining both aquaculture and hydroponics in one integrated system to grow both fish and plants.

The Marine Science Department has unique collaborations with several outside institutions. We work with the Aquarium of the Pacific to offer a dual enrollment course for both high school and college students to learn about the role of aquaria in conservation and community education. The class is held at the Aquarium of the Pacific to take advantage of their staff expertise and world-class resources. One of the primary goals of this collaboration is to provide a path for local or underrepresented high school students to find opportunities within STEM fields.

Aquaponics greenhouseThe American Cetacean Society of Orange County (ACS-OC) holds their monthly meetings in the Marine Science Department building (Lewis Center of Applied Sciences) at Orange Coast College. This collaboration with ACS-OC has given our students the opportunity to attend seminars, get training and experience through the cetacean naturalist course, and gain valuable experience and opportunities through becoming a member.

Aquarium Science students work with Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute to grow, monitor, tag, and release young white seabass to help promote sustainable food production and take an active role in fishery replenishment projects. OCC marine science students can also complete coursework that allows them to learn more about marine mammal conservation and rehabilitation with our partnership with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC). Some future OCC courses will be offered at PMMC to give students the unique opportunity to learn about the challenges of rescuing and rehabilitating injured seals and sea lions.

Additional college-level aquarium courses are available at Edison High School to students interested in aquarium science through a collaborative effort with their Innovation Lab. This gives students the opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school and provides a head-start to students looking to help manage the OCC Aquarium after graduation.