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Marine Science

Application now available for Summer 2023 and Fall 2023!

A limited number of spots are available in each course in order to maintain a low student-instructor ratio. Please apply as soon as possible to receive consideration for a spot in your desired program(s). For inquiries, please email UCSD Pre-College Programs ( and

The following programs are designed to empower high school students to share learning, network with peers, and become environmental advocates. The goal of this program is to develop problem solving, organization, creative thinking, communication, collaboration, and leadership skills that will support future career goals and aspirations.

Tier 1 courses offer students a foundation in ocean sciences, specifically marine biology and related disciplines. Students will explore the diversity of life and how biological, chemical and physical processes drive ecosystem dynamics in a marine environment. Each course is designed to target relevant, contemporary environmental issues while providing a pathway for students to participate in our Tier 2, research workshops. Tier 1 courses are also designed for students who are simply interested in learning more about the marine environment and associated marine science career pathways.

Tier 1 Courses are currently offered online. These 4 or 8 week courses are designed to acclimate students to a university summer and quarter systems, respectively. Each week, students will have 2 asynchronous, interactive and gamified lessons. Synchronous sessions are designed for student collaboration and discussion, guest speaker interactions, and guided virtual lab experiences. These courses are aimed to foster next generation critical thinkers, communicators, creators and stewards of the ocean environment.

Tier 2 courses offer students a multidisciplinary practical research experience in collaboration with Scripps Institution of Oceanography graduate students and other active marine science researchers in various industries. Students will partner with researchers and can participate in, design and run their own projects on California Coastal Ecology, Coral Reef Ecology and Restoration, Animal Physiology, Thermodynamics, Metabolics, and Fisheries Science to name a few. Field-based excursions to intertidal zones, salt marshes, and other marine ecosystems in San Diego are an integral part of this program; however, some projects are also adapted with an at-home lab component for non-local students.

Tier 3 courses offer students that have participated in one or more Tier 2 courses the opportunity to practice critical literacy skills specifically needed in scientific writing and publish studies in our Marine Science Research Scholars Journal. The purpose of Tier 2 and 3 workshops is to participate in scientific studies that generate data needed to advocate for the environment and the communities that rely on a healthy system.

Tier 1 Courses

Heat Spies: Using Infrared Cameras in Marine Ecology (Spring 2023 - Online)

Heat Spies: Using Infrared Cameras in Marine Ecology (Click here to apply)

Dates:  April 3, 2023 – April 26, 2023
Course Delivery: Online
Grade Level: 9-12th grade
Instructors: Sonya Timko and Nicole Yen

  • Synchronous 
    • Zoom Session: Monday; Wednesday (4-5 PM PST) 
  • Asynchronous  
    • 2-3 hours of additional work/week 

Organisms need the sun for warmth and energy, but how hot can they get before it’s too much to handle? Thermal imaging cameras record infrared radiation (IR) and convert it to a visible image, even if it is too dark to see with your own eyes! The primary source of IR is heat or thermal radiation - the warmer something is, the more infrared radiation it emits. How will climate change impact these organisms that need to beat the heat? Students will get an introduction to how heat transfers between organisms and their environment and analyze various thermal images using FlirTools and Image J.  

This course is a prerequisite to participate in Tier 2, Advanced Life on the Edge that will be offered in-person during Summer 2023. This course is available for 2 pre-college units.      

Topics Include: 

  • Thermal Processes 
  • Scientific Method 
  • FLIR Thermal Cameras and Equipment 
  • Analyses Software (FlirTools, Image J) 
  • Biostatistics Introduction (Using Excel) 

Introduction to Marine Science (Fall 2023 - Online)

Introduction to Marine Science (Click here to apply)

Dates: September 26, 2023 - November 16, 2023 (8 weeks)
Course Delivery: Online
Grade Level: 9-12th grade
Instructor: Nicole Yen

  • Synchronous - Tuesday, Thursday (4-5:20 PM PST)
  • Asynchronous - 2 lessons / week

The Introduction to Marine Science course is designed to expose students to the processes, functions, and life forms of Earth’s incredible ocean environment. Students will develop a comprehensive foundation in biological, chemical, and physical oceanography by examining major taxonomic groups of marine organisms, important marine ecosystems and habitats, and by exploring current research and applied careers. Through interactive lectures, labs, and discussions, students will gain a basic understanding and appreciation of the ocean community and how it relates to their own lives. This course is available for 4 pre-college units.

Topics Include

  • Fundamentals of Oceanography
  • Introduction to Organismal Biology
  • Marine Ecosystem Diversity and Services
  • Marine Conservation and Marine Science Careers 

Organismal Biology Lab (Fall 2023 - In-Person)

Organismal Biology Lab (Click here to apply)

Dates: September 30, 2023 - November 18, 2023 (8 weeks)
Course Delivery: In-Person
Grade Level: 9-12th grade
Instructor: Nicole Yen

  • Synchronous - Friday, September 29 (1 hour online); every Saturday (9 AM - 12 PM PST @ SIO, Aburto Lab)
  • Asynchronous - 1 lesson / week

Have you ever wondered what makes you related to the “immortal” jellyfish – what similarities and differences can be uncovered by zooming into our tissues under the microscope? The Organismal Biology Lab course is designed to expose students to the incredible and rich diversity of life in the oceans through engaging and fun in-depth lab practicals and dissections. Identify the invisible life in the oceans such as marine plankton under the microscope and even dissect a dogfish shark and lamprey in partnership with Aburto Lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography! The major focus of this course is diversity through the lens of an evolutionary and functional biologist, since evolutionary processes enrich our understanding of how genes, genomes, and finally species evolve. Students will learn about the basic characteristics of major animal groups, amazing adaptations, and complex behaviors and interactions that drive speciation. Such knowledge is essential for understanding biology in general and provides the tools for our stewardship of the planet’s biota and the sustainability of the ecological services we take for granted. This course is available for 4 pre-college units.

Topics Include

  • Animal Diversity, Evolution, Systematics, and Phylogenetics
  • System Evolution through Comparative Lab Practicals 
    • Classification by Symmetry and Developmental Pattern
    • Integument
    • Skeleton and Muscles
    • Digestion and Excretion
      • Mouthparts and Teeth
    • Circulation and Respiration
  • Invertebrate diversity with microscopy and/or dissections [Porifera, Cnidaria, Platyhelminthes, Nematoda, Annelida, Mollusca, Arthropoda, Echinodermata
  • Vertebrate diversity with microscopy [Mammals, Reptiles, Birds] and dissections [Fish]

Tier 2 Courses

Advanced Marine Biodiversity: Life on the Edge (Summer 2023 - Residential) - COURSE IS FULL

Advanced Marine Biodiversity: Life on the Edge (Click here to apply)

Course Dates: July 10 - July 28, 2023 
Check-In Date:
July 9, 2023 - Students must check-in on July 9th. 
Check-Out Date: July 29, 2023 - Students must check-out by 2pm. 
Course Delivery: Residential
Course Tuition:
Residential Fee: $1,700
Grade Level:
9th - 12th grade

Monday - Friday
9:00am - 11:30am (Class/Lecture/Lab)
11:30am - 1:30pm Lunch
1:30pm - 4:00pm (Class/Lecture/Lab)

The rocky intertidal is one of the most accessible marine coastal environments teeming with an incredibly diverse living community. Because of this unique quality it has immense commercial, recreational, and educational value to communities worldwide. However, this quality also makes these habitats highly susceptible to changing ocean conditions such as sea-level rise, invasive species, and pollution.

Thermal imaging cameras record infrared radiation (IR) and convert it to a visible image. The primary source of IR is heat or thermal radiation - the warmer something is, the more infrared radiation it emits. Infrared thermography (IRT) is being increasingly utilized by ecologists and physiologists to observe and investigate small-scale thermal variability and thermal stress on the distribution and abundance of marine species.

Monitoring intertidal ecosystems becomes increasingly important as we continue to see global climate changes. In this Tier 2 course, students will be part of ongoing research in partnership with the National Park Service at Cabrillo National Monument. Students will explore how heat transfers between organisms and their environment using a FLIR thermal camera. We will relate our data to organismal anatomy, physiology, thermoregulation, species adaptability, ecology, and/or climate change.

See archived project from SU22.


Option 1: Take our Tier 1 Heat Spies: Using Infrared Cameras in Marine Ecology 

Option 2: Have taken an advanced biology, environmental science, or marine science course prior to the start of our program.

*The Advanced Marine Biodiversity: Life on the Edge is strictly a residential program. Students will not be able to check-in and out during the duration of the program. Students will be housed with Academic Connections students in Muir College. More information will be available once we get closer to the program dates. 

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, students must live within an 8-hour driving proximity of UC San Diego in order to be picked up within 8 hours of a positive covid test. We will not be accepting international students. Out-of-state students will be accommodated on a case-by-case basis. Please view the Residential Covid Policies here

Advanced Seafood Fraud Detectives (Spring 2023 - Hybrid)

Advanced Seafood Fraud Detectives (Click here to apply)

Dates: April 4, 2023 – May 25, 2023 (Hybrid)
Tuition: $3,000 
Grade Level: 9-12th grade 
Instructors: Nicole Yen, Sonya Timko 
Advisors: Hayley Nuetzel

  • Virtual Meetings (2 weeks)  
    • Live/Recorded Sessions
    • Tuesdays; Thursdays (4-5 PM PST) 
  • Hybrid Meetings (6 weeks)  
    • In Person Sessions: Saturdays (9 AM - 12 PM PST); Optional make-up days during weekday  
    • Live/Recorded Sessions: Thursdays (4-5 PM PST) 
  • Asynchronous Schedule
    • 2-3 hours/week of additional work 

What is your favorite seafood meal – lobster rolls, New England clam chowder – how about beer-battered fish tacos? Seafood is an important protein source worldwide and thus susceptible to a variety of fraudulent practices. Seafood mislabeling (substituting an inexpensive species for one of higher value) is surprisingly common in both domestic and international markets. Fish fraud has long been a known problem worldwide; however difficult to regulate. Past studies using DNA barcoding have reported alarmingly high rates of mislabeling, especially in Southern California. Because large quantities of seafood are imported to the U.S., some portion of mislabeling may originate from foreign supplies – as a result, the FDA is particularily interested in and readily updates a guide on proper practices for industry. In this study, students will be part of a long-term monitoring project of seafood fraud in San Diego and learn the technical skills used in molecular biology and conservation careers.

Topics Include: 

  • Scientific Method 
  • Phylogenetics and Systematics 
  • DNA Extraction, PCR and gel electrophoresis  
  • Phylogenetic Analyses Tools and Interpretation 

Course Prerequisites and Requirements: 

  • Have taken an advanced biology, environmental science, or marine science course prior to the start of our program.
  • Tier 1 Seafood Fraud Detectives (highly recommended)
  • Able to attend in-person meetings at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  

Tier 3 Courses

Introduction to Scientific Writing (Fall 2022 - Online)

Introduction to Scientific Writing (Click here to apply)

Dates:  September 26, 2022 - November 16, 2022  (Online)
Tuition: $2,000
Grade Level: 9-12th grade
Instructor: Nicole Yen and Sonya Timko

  • Synchronous 
    • Mondays and Wednesdays (4-5:20 PM PST)

Introduction to Scientific Writing is designed for students who have already taken a Tier 2 course and would like to translate their research project to an original manuscript. Students will publish in our Research Scholars, Marine Science Journal and develop the skills to become effective technical writers and communicators. Students will give a virtual Flash Talk and convey their research project in three minutes or less to a diverse audience. 

This course is only open to our Summer 2022 Advanced Life on the Edge Cohort. 

 Topics Include 

  • Principles of Effective Writing and Reading in Science
  • Organization and Formatting Manuscripts
  • Preparation of Figures and Citation Style
  • Communicating Science to a Diverse Audience

Other Program Information

Marine Science Application

Students can access the application from the "Apply Now" tab here.

Marine Science Acceptance

Students will be notified of acceptance within 10 days of submitting their application until the program is full.

Marine Science Cancellation/Refund Policies


Cancellation or withdrawal for any reason 2 weeks prior to the course start date.

Refunds for cancellation or withdrawal after the 2 weeks deadline be issued for serious illness (doctor's certificate is required) or extenuating circumstances only. Tuition is not refunded for students who are dismissed from the program.



All refund requests must be made in writing to Maysoon Dong, Associate Director for the Education & Community Outreach Department at: You will receive a confirmation of your request. Refunds will take approximately 4-6 weeks to process. Refunds are issued in the same method of payment (check or charge) of payment to UC San Diego Academic Connections.

COVID Policies

For our students attending in-person programs, please keep in mind that all students and employees are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 (or submit an exemption) two weeks before arriving on campus for work or classes, per University of California policy. Public health is a collective effort. The UC San Diego community is expected to follow campus safety requirements to help prevent infection. These include masking indoors, daily symptom and exposure screening, testing, and vaccination.

To Learn More About UCSD’s Covid Policies and Return to Learn Updates please visit: UCSD Return To Learn

*If UCSD changes their policy on covid, we will shift our in-person courses to online. 

Residential Programs COVID-19 Policies

Pre-Academic Connections Residential Program Requirements:

  • All eligible students must be fully vaccinated AND boosted for COVID-19 at least two weeks prior to the start of the program.  Proof will be required to be submitted to the program.
  • All students and staff will need to provide a negative COVID test before arriving to the program.  A negative test result must be submitted to the program and acceptable forms include either:
    • A PCR test 48 hours before the residential move-in / start of the program
    • A rapid-antigen test completed 24 hours before arrival that is administered by a third-party such as a pharmacist or doctor or an at-home Telehealth Certified test (Abbot BinaxNOW emed test or Quest Diagnostic) and official documentation submitted the program.
    • Photo of an at home test taken on your own WILL NOT be accepted.
  • In addition to the pre-travel test, parents or guardians must purchase a total of 6 Telehealth Certified/reported rapid antigen tests to be used during the program.  We recommend Abbot BinaxNOW emed test or Quest Diagnostic tests because each box of these products is cost effective, reliable, comes with 2 tests, and 6 telehealth-guided procedures and reporting of official results. 
    • While we are still in a state of health emergency, insurance companies will often reimburse a portion or all of the cost of these tests.  We recommend that parents/guardians purchase these tests prior to May 1, 2023 to take advantage of any insurance benefit.  The out-of-pocket cost for 3 boxes (6 tests) of the BinaxNow EMed Test is $210 and 3 boxes (6 tests) of the Quest Diagnostic is $210.
  • Parents or guardians must purchase or acquire at least 20 individually packaged KN95 or 10 N95 masks to send with their students to the program.
    • Many pharmacies or medical offices currently give these away for free.  Contact your local pharmacy, urgent care, or clinic to request a supply.  


Travel to the Academic Connections Residential Program:

  • If students or their travelling companions are feeling symptomatic, do not travel to the program.  Contact and we will provide options.
  • People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States. Please review the CDC’s Travel During COVID-19 page.
  • If using shared transportation like airlines, buses, public transportation, students and families must wear a tight, well-fitted KN95 or N95 mask while travelling.
  • A well-fitted KN95 or N95 mask must be worn by students and their travelling companions while checking in and while inside any residential facility or auditorium on move-in day.  Masks will not be provided for students or their guests.


During the Program:  Phase I:  Sunday, July 9, 2023 – Friday, July 14, 2023 at 11:59P

  • In line with the University’s Phase I residential protocol, from move-in through Friday, July 14, 2023, while in any residential facility or transportation (e.g., bus), students must wear a well-fitted KN95 or N95 mask that fully covers their mouth and nose.  This is to protect everyone following the initial travel period, to stabilize the population, and to get through the first 2 rounds of rapid antigen tests to gauge any viral activity.  The only exceptions to this initial period is to remove the mask briefly while eating, drinking, showering, brushing teeth, while in the resident’s room, while in the classroom, or while outside.
    • Masks are not required in the classroom, but are required in residence because the residential environment mixes much more than the classroom.
  • No room to room visitation (i.e., students not contracted to a specific room) will be permitted during this time period.
  • Students should eat and socialize outdoors as much as possible.
  • Students must complete a Telehealth Certified COVID test (Abbot BinaxNOW emed testor Quest Diagnostic) and official documentation submitted to the program each Tuesday and Friday.  
  • Students will be reminded of regulations during the first day of the program (Sunday, July 10, 2023), but if they are not following these regulations after that date, they will be documented and guardians will be notified.  As public health is essential to the program, multiple documentations (i.e., 2+) will result in dismissal from the program with no opportunity for a refund.


During the Program:  Phase 2:  Midnight, Saturday, July 15, 2023 – end of program

  • Masking is not required but is STRONGLY ENCOURAGED for everyone throughout Phase 2.
  • Masks must be worn in exposure situations.  For example, if a person in a room tests positive for COVID-19, that person will go into an isolation setting until their parents/guardians can pick them up (within 8 hours of a positive test).  Their roommates will have to mask while in residential facilities and the classroom for 10-days following their roommate’s positive test.
  • Students must complete a Telehealth Certified COVID test (Abbot BinaxNOW emed testorQuest Diagnostic) and official documentation submitted to the program each Tuesday and Friday.
  • Students should eat and socialize outdoors as much as possible.


Closing Day:  Saturday, July 29, 2023

  • For the safety of everyone, we are planning for graduation to take place outdoors and will only use an indoor location in the event of inclement weather.
  • Students and their travelling companions are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to wear a well-fitted KN95 or N95 mask while in the residential facilities.  Masks will not be provided for students or their guests.



  • All eligible staff must be fully vaccinated AND boosted for COVID-19 at least two weeks prior to the start of the program.
  • Program staff will following the same masking and testing requirements as the students.
  • During time-off, staff are expected to wear masks indoors while in public settings and eat outside to limit any possible exposures.

Learn More

You can also learn more about the program by visiting our Research Scholars Marine Science website here