Academic Catalog


Department of Ocean & Earth Sciences

406 Oceanography and Physics Building 
Norfolk, VA 23529

Rodger Harvey, Interim Chair
Richard Zimmerman, Graduate Program Director


The Department of Ocean and Earth Sciences acquires and disseminates knowledge of the earth system, including the relationships among the biological, chemical, geological, and physical components of our planet. It is critical that we understand both natural and human-induced processes that change this system so we are prepared to meet present and future challenges to our society. With curiosity, creativity, scholarship, and respect as cornerstones of our philosophy, we strive to increase scientific knowledge and literacy through excellence in research, education, and service to the Commonwealth of Virginia and society in general.

General Description of Graduate Degrees

Two graduate programs are offered:

  • Master of Science, Ocean and Earth Sciences
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Oceanography

The Master of Science degree has both thesis and non-thesis options. The Ph.D. degree follows the traditional path of original research in the field of oceanography. For both degree paths, areas of emphasis are biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography, and the earth and geological sciences. Interdisciplinary studies are emphasized and an integral part of the student experience. The curricula are designed to prepare graduates for professional practice in their area of interest. Official transcripts, 3 letters of recommendation, TOEFL scores (international students), and a statement of goals and interest for graduate study should all be submitted to the Office of Admissions by January 1 for full consideration.

The department receives support from the Commonwealth and local philanthropic sources, as well as from private industry, and considerable support from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation.  Establishment of the Virginia Graduate Marine Science consortium by the General Assembly in 1979 demonstrated the Commonwealth’s determination to achieve excellence in marine science. The purpose of the consortium is to advance marine science instruction, research, training, and advisory services and to enhance Virginia’s position in seeking funding to carry out these activities. Charter members of the consortium ­are Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and the College of William and Mary. The Samuel L. and Fay M. Slover endowment to Old Dominion University in 1986 significantly accelerated the program of oceanographic studies. In 1991, a Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography (CCPO) was established at Old Dominion University by the Commonwealth of Virginia. The center is a Designated Center for Excellence.

The Department of Ocean and Earth Sciences is housed in two buildings. The Oceanography/Physical Sciences Building contains state-of-the-art teaching laboratories, computer facilities, and research laboratories for geological sciences and biological, chemical and geological oceanography. The Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography is located in ODU’s Innovation Research Park and contains most of the department’s physical oceanography laboratories. The Department maintains a 55-foot research vessel, R/V Fay Slover, primarily for estuarine and coastal studies. In addition to R/V Slover, the Department has a number of small boats suitable for near-shore investigations.