50th Anniversary

Academics at Prescott College

Marine Studies

Exploring the relationships between humans and marine environments

Marine Studies

Exploring the relationships between humans and marine environments

Marine Studies at Prescott College has a strong focus on the ecology of the marine environment (physical oceanography and marine ecology) and on the relationships between humans and the marine environment. Students graduating with a competence in Marine Studies have a foundation in life sciences, physical sciences, human ecology, conservation, and resource management, as well as a broad scope of supporting courses in literature, politics, economics, and humanities.  Direct field experience further establishes a student's understanding and respect for the power and vastness of the world's ocean. Most Marine Studies students follow one of two main paths: marine ecology/field research/natural history or marine conservation/resource management/policy. 

Many Marine Studies courses take place at Prescott College's Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies in Bahia Kino, Sonora, Mexico, on the coast of the Gulf of California. The Kino Bay Center sits amid the diverse Sonoran Desert on the coast of the Midriff Island region of the Gulf of California, an area rich in marine habitats, seabirds, marine mammals, fish, mangrove estuaries, and other coastal flora and fauna. Our relationships with the local Mexican fishing community and the native Comcaac village enables us to explore a variety of marine environments, study human interactions with the sea, and participate in cooperative marine conservation research projects. Marine Studies students are also encouraged to broaden their experience by participating in an Eco-League exchange with either College of the Atlantic or Alaska Pacific University.

Marine Studies Emphasis Guidelines

Marine Studies at Prescott College has a strong focus on ecology of the marine environment (physical and biological oceanography) and on the relationships between humans and the marine environment. Students graduating with a competence in Marine Studies should have a foundation in life sciences, physical sciences, human ecology, conservation and resource management, as well as a broad scope of supporting courses in literature, politics, economics, and humanities. Direct field experience rounds-out a student's understanding and respect for the power and vastness of the world's ocean.

Competence: Environmental Studies with an Emphasis in Marine Studies

(16 course minimum; 8 UD minimum)
• 4 distribution courses and ecology course required for ES competence.
• 5 Marine Studies core courses.
• 2 Science Foundation courses.
• 2 Conservation Foundation courses.
• 2 Supporting courses.
• 1 Independent Study.
• Senior project.
NOTE: some courses may simultaneously apply to more than one of the categories listed above

Resident Bachelor of Arts

Ecological literacy forms an essential part of the foundation of any Environmental Studies and Sustainability Competence.  By its very nature, ecological literacy demands expansive, synthetic inquiry rather than narrow specialization – a searching for connections and wholes, rather than isolated parts. Ecology weaves together the earth and life sciences, providing vocabulary for studies of human society and human nature, as well as many of the concepts these studies address (or need to address).

Program courses offer one way to develop ecological literacy. Through activities inside and outside of the classroom, and through direct experience with nature, informed by reading and interaction with others, students advance their literacy throughout their time at the College.

We offer one Competence, "Environmental Studies and Sustainability." Although it is not required, you may choose an emphasis within your ESS Competence. Whether you do a general Environmental Studies and Sustainability Competence, choose to follow the guidelines of one of the emphases, or create your own competence (possibly interdisciplinary), the same level of rigor applies.

Students can consider formulating competences that bridge Environmental Studies and Sustainability with other realms of study. In some cases, formalized bridges already exist (ESS and Adventure Education); in others it is up to the student and the Individual Graduation Committee to develop a coherent, meaningful program. For example, students often bridge ESS and Cultural and Regional Studies or Arts & Letters.

Academic Elements

Academic Elements


Each fall and spring, new Prescott College students find themselves in “the classroom,” the breathtaking, sometimes raw, always diverse terrains and environments of the Southwest.  New Prescott students are introduced to the natural environment of the Southwest, learn about themselves and each other, and experience the educational philosophies of Prescott College during Orientation, thus beginning the journey of developing relationships with their new home, community, and academic career.

For most students, Orientation will mean a three-week Desert, Mountain and Canyon Expedition (aka Wilderness Orientation). Students, as a small community of engaged learners, will be backpacking throughout ecologically diverse locations in Arizona. Studying - Connecting - Growing.  Other students will participate in a Base Camp Orientation, or Community-Based Orientation.

Follow this link for detailed information on these Orientation options: Orientation Details 

First Year Experience

In their first semester, freshmen will enroll in courses addressing the concerns and challenges of being a college student.  First Year Students will choose from an array of immersive semester courses - like Water in the West, Art and Ecology, Foundations of Leadership, and Introduction to Psychology and Yoga - which continue to build community, forge relationships with faculty advisors, and develop academic inquiry.

In their first semester at Prescott College, transfer students participate in Crises of the 21st Century: Research Methods & Theories.   Students from environmental and social disciplines, the arts, and humanities will be introduced to theoretical and research approaches that foster ways of integrating their questions through class discussions and personal research.  Students enrolled in this course will be given individual support in creating a degree plan organizing courses they are transferring with into a pathway for graduation in their chosen fields.

Degree Plan

During the first semester of their junior year, students create a degree plan, with the assistance of their faculty adviser, which sketches the academic map of their journey.  It includes an overview of courses and credits earned; brief descriptions of competence, breadth, and liberal arts areas; lists of courses completed and those to be completed; a tentative Senior Project plan and description; and additional honors or experience that contribute to competence or breadth.  The Degree Plan is a living document that continues to evolve throughout the student's final three terms.

Senior Project

Prescott College requires every student, not just designated "honors" students, to design and carry out an ambitious Senior Project.  This Project functions as both a demonstration of competence and a culmination of the undergraduate experience.  It may take the form of an ambitious research project, a collection of original creative writing, a curriculum plan and implementation, a studio art exhibition, a performance, a case or field study, or a challenging internship.  Another way of thinking about the Senior Project is as a bridge between a student's undergraduate career and work after graduation. The Senior Project stands as a calling card that proclaims to graduate schools, prospective employers, and the world, "Look, this is what I'm capable of doing."


Life & Career Outcomes

Life & Career Outcomes
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Attorney/ Lawyer
  • Fisheries Ecologist
  • Graduate School
  • Marine Biologist
  • Marine Conservationist
  • Marine Policy Advocate
  • Natural Resource Specialist
  • Outdoor Program Administrator
  • Seabird Ecologist

Academic Resources

Academic Resources

Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies

Environmental Studies Students Watching Dolphins in Kino Bay

The Kino Bay Center is Prescott College’s field station on the shores of the Gulf of California in Sonora, Mexico. Each year the Kino Bay Center hosts over 450 researchers, students, resident fellows and community visitors from dozens of institutions and community groups from Mexico, the United States and other parts of the world.

The Kino Bay Center facilitates, supports and integrates collaborative efforts promoting sustainable use and conservation of resources in the culturally and biologically rich Midriff Island Region of the Gulf of California. The mission of the Kino Bay Center is to protect priority species and habitats through the integrated application of science, education, information exchange, and community participation. The Center provides high quality opportunities for experiential and field-based education to contribute to research and conservation in the region and to build capacity within local communities for participation in conservation and sustainable development. The Center promotes and models collaborations between people from different cultures and institutions to co-create solutions to complex conservation challenges. 

More Information

Natural History Institute

Natural History Institute Mural

The Natural History Institute at Prescott College is dedicated to the multi-disciplinary study of natural history. All students, visitors, and area residents are invited to utilize the Institute as a place to collaborate on projects, share information, pursue research questions and ecological curiosities, and become inspired to better know the world around them.

Resources offered to students and community patrons of the Natural History Institute include:

• Exhibits on art, science, and culture, including the Josephine Michell Arader Natural History Print Collection of historically significant natural history art
• Guest lectures
• Research support
• Outdoor programming
• Archives of field notes and slides from the binational Southwest
• Digital and physical collections of plant, insect, bird and rock specimens of the Mogollon Highlands and adjacent ecoregions

More Information Video: Natural History Institute Collections

The Eco League

The Eco League Student Exchange offers undergraduate students access to study in environments ranging from the Pacific to Atlantic coasts and from the subtropics to the subarctic. Students in any field can take advantage of working with talented faculty in a broad array of disciplines at other institutions. The six small, student-centered colleges in the Eco League share the goals of seeking solutions to contemporary environmental problems and of raising environmental awareness. The institutions also share similar missions and values regarding social change and in preparing students to build sustainable communities.  The Student Exchange, which is for a maximum of two, non-consecutive semesters, is open to any student who has successfully completed at least his/her freshman year and who can clearly articulate in the application how he/she would benefit from this opportunity.

Eco League Member Institutions

Tuition & Fees

Tuition & Fees

Resident Undergraduate Program Tuition and Fees