Master of Science in Oceans and Fisheries (M.Sc.)

This M.Sc. degree program is expected to take two years, although faster progress is encouraged.

Students are required to conduct research towards their degrees. Although research conceived independently of the student’s supervisor is encouraged, the minimum requirement for the M.Sc. degree is to successfully complete directed research. The student is expected to develop their own thesis research project with the guidance of the supervisor. However it is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure that the student takes on a thesis research project of publishable quality that can be completed within two years. Thesis research is expected to address gaps in knowledge in the fields of research associated with oceans and fisheries and offer an original contribution. The focal area of the thesis could address some theoretical or applied ocean, fisheries, aquatic resource management, conservation problems, or academic questions.

The M.Sc. in Oceans and Fisheries (OCF) requires a combination of coursework and research for a minimum total of 30 credits.

This may be achieved by one of two possible streams.

Two streams

12-credit thesis

For a 12-credit Master’s thesis (FISH 549A), it is expected that a minimum of one chapter of novel research is completed that offers an original contribution. The chapter of novel research must:

  1. address at least one overarching thesis research question,
  2. document well-designed experiments, surveys, or a rigorous data compilation from previous experiments or surveys, and
  3. document analyses of the data obtained within the thesis research that rigorously address the focal thesis research question.

The completed chapter of novel research should also “contain [an] original contribution”.

Students must also complete 18 credits of coursework, including two required courses:

Nine (9) additional credits must be taken from three of the six categories listed below.

18-credit thesis

For a 18-credit Master’s thesis (FISH 549B), it is expected that at least two chapters of novel research, each focusing on separate but closely related thesis research questions, which also yield “original contributions“.  Students completing a 18-credit thesis must complete 12 credits of coursework, including one required course:

Nine (9) additional credits must be taken from three of the six categories listed below.

Categories of elective courses

  1. Ocean and Fisheries Assessment and Scientific Methods, e.g., EOSC 410, EOSC 478, FISH 504, FISH 505, FISH 506H, FISH 509, FISH 510, EOSC 573, EOSC 578, EOSC 510.
  2. Ecological, Biological, Economic & Social Studies, e.g., FISH 501, FISH 502, FISH 506G, FISH 508, EOSC 575, RES 510
  3. Governance & Policy, e.g., FISH 503, FISH 507, RES 586, FISH 520 (if the student is in the 18 credit thesis stream (see above).
  4. Aboriginal Ocean and Fisheries Management, e.g., FISH 506F.
  5. Conservation Science, e.g., BIOL 416, RES 506, RES 509/ZOOL 509
  6. Science Communication, e.g., ANTH 478, FRST 544, FRST 545.
Other requirements
Masters’ students must register in required courses and electives prior to their first winter term. For the first summer term, and subsequent winter terms and summer terms students are expected to register in FISH 549(A/B). Masters students may register in elective courses in their second year with approval from their supervisory committee. A minimum of 68% must be obtained in any course taken by a student. However, up to 6 credits of coursework with grades of 60-67% may be counted towards a master’s program without penalty.

Students have some flexibility in their choice of courses including graduate and senior undergraduate courses in Zoology, Oceanography, Microbiology, Fisheries, Genetics, Conservation, and Earth and Oceans Sciences, as well as several other departments. Students may also design their own courses in the form of ‘Directed Studies’ supervised by an IOF faculty member.

No more than 3 credits at the senior undergraduate level (300- or 400-level) taken while in the MSc program and 3 credits in a Directed Studies (e.g., FISH 548 (1-3)) may count towards the 30 credits required to complete the M.Sc.

Students’ academic program must be approved by the supervisory committee and the IOF graduate advisor.


At the end of their two year program, M.Sc. students are expected to complete an oral defense of their Master’s thesis.

First month

  • Meet with supervisor to discuss expectations of the student, and supervisor, degree requirements, policies and timelines. Sign the IOF letter of agreement.
  • Discuss coursework, composition of the committee, and research plan with supervisor.
  • Register for coursework, see requirements.

Within the first three months

  • Introductory meeting with supervisory committee (minimum attendance: supervisor and one committee member), to discuss coursework, composition of committee, research plan.

First year

  • Full committee established. There should be at least three faculty members including the supervisor, and at least two of the members should be from the IOF (exception can be made with approval: see Supervisory Committee section for details). Students should check with the Graduate Program Officer to determine if committee members fulfill the IOF and UBC requirements.
  • Begin coursework. Depending on the stream that the student is in this means that 12 or 18 credits must be completed. Note: 12 credits must be completed within the first 18 months if student is transferring to Ph.D. (G+PS/IOF requirement).
  • Apply for scholarship funding, if necessary
  • Identify research project. If this has not occurred within first 8 months, IOF requires that the supervisor must provide a project that can be completed in a reasonable (<18 months) time.
  • Convene committee meeting to discuss proposed research. The meeting should occur before the end of the Winter term and no later than April. (Note: G+PS requires at least one committee meeting every 12 months).
  • Begin research.

Second year

  • Convene committee meeting to discuss research results from first year, possible further research, timeline to thesis completion. (G+PS requirement: at least one committee meeting every 12 months).
  • Complete research.
  • The student will complete writing their thesis by the end of the second year.
  • If the student and supervisor would like the student to transfer to a PhD, ensure that the student has completed the necessary requirements within first 18 months.

After 24 months

  • The student will complete writing the thesis by the end of the second year
  • Receive thesis approval from supervisor.
  • Submit to supervisory committee members, at least two weeks before approval by the committee is required.
  • Obtain approval by supervisory committee.
  • Identify members of the examining committee with help from the Graduate Program Officer (supervisor, one other member from supervisory committee, and departmental examiner). Schedule thesis defense date and time
  • Submit approved version to members of the M.Sc. examining committee at least two weeks before defense date
  • Defend thesis.
  • Submission of signed thesis approval form and final thesis.

The M.Sc. thesis serves as an essential review of the candidate and their research, and is a fundamental component of the program.

It is important that discussions related to how to do the research and what will be expected from the dissertation take place early in the graduate student's program. The specifics of the various sections will vary by the nature of the research topic, the graduate student and the supervisor/supervisory committee, so it is suggested that these discussions be regularly revisited at formal meetings of the graduate student’s supervisory committee.

Structure of an OCF M.Sc. Thesis

Though ‘how’ research is done may vary, the basic structure of the Masters' thesis is, in general, the same as in any graduate program.

  • a statement of an issue
  • a rationale of the significance of the issue
  • a set of research questions (these may be presented as hypotheses, objectives, questions, propositions)
  • a set of methods or tools from various disciplines that will be brought to bear to address the research questions
  • a discussion of theoretical and analytical frameworks relevant to the issue
  • research tools selected
  • expected results
  • a summary and/or conclusions of the research, and
  • a discussion of how the research has contributed to the overall issue

More guidance on structure and preparation can be found on the G+PS site:

Process for M.Sc. Thesis Submission

After approval by the Supervisor, copies of the thesis must be distributed to the members of the student’s Supervisory Committee for approval, with at least two weeks allowed for reading and comments.

After the thesis has been approved by the Committee the exam may be scheduled. All M.Sc. exams are scheduled by the Graduate Program Officer. A minimum of two weeks must be allowed between submission of the thesis to the Graduate Program Officer and the examination.

The examining committee will comprise the Research Supervisor, one Committee member, a Departmental examiner, and an independent exam Chair. The Chair acts as moderator of the exam and should be an IOF faculty member who has not been involved in the M.Sc. candidate’s thesis research.

For more information see: IOF Graduate Student Handbook

The M.Sc. Examination

The M.Sc. examination serves as a departmental review of the candidate and his/her research. An audience is welcome and encouraged. The examination will proceed as follows:

  1. The student will present a brief summary of the thesis (not to exceed 25 minutes in length).
  2. This will be followed by an oral examination in the general area of the thesis, with each examiner asking questions.
  3. Members of the audience will be asked if they have any questions for the candidate.
  4. Following the examination, the candidate and audience members will be asked to leave the room and the Committee will hold an on-camera session. The Supervisor will give an opinion of the student and the student’s performance during the examination.
  5. It will be at the discretion of the other Committee Members to ask the supervisor to submit either a pass or fail grade and leave the room. If the Supervisor is asked to leave, the written grade will not be revealed to the other Committee Members before they each offer theirs, but will be included in the final determination.
  6. Each of the remaining members of the Committee will then assign either a pass or fail for the thesis. The examining Committee may recommend that the thesis is acceptable in the form presented, or it may request changes be made to the thesis. Responsibility for ensuring that such changes are made will lie with the Supervisor.
  7. If the thesis is deemed "outstanding" a note should be made in the Chair's report that the Committee feels the thesis should be put forward for a thesis award and the rationale for doing so.
  8. A fail will be assigned if at least two of the three examiners assign a failing grade and must be accompanied by a written summary outlining the reasons for this decision. There is no recourse for a student who fails the exam.
  9. The Exam Chair will then recall the student (and Supervisor) and announce the decision. The Committee members may ask that the student make required revisions, or sign the Thesis Approval Form.
  10. The Exam Chair will complete a M.Sc. Examination Report and submit it, with the Supervisor’s signature, to the Graduate Program Officer within five working days of the examination day.
  11. After all members of the Examining Committee have signed the Thesis Approval Form, the candidate will submit their thesis electronically as a single .PDF file to UBC Library's electronic repository, cIRcle, where it will be available 'open access.' In addition, a .PDF file copy must be submitted to the OCF Graduate Program Officer who will commit the file to the OCF thesis file repository.
  12. The thesis grade will not be entered until the final copy of the thesis is received.

For more information see: IOF Graduate Student Handbook