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Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

School Overview

116 Fishery Sciences

The School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS) encompasses multi-disciplinary programs at the interface between the traditional fields of natural history, environmental biology, and natural resource management. Primary foci are the management of sustainable fisheries of commercially important species; biocomplexity and ecosystem-based management; and sustainable aquaculture. In addition, human-induced effects on natural ecosystems (including habitat change and restoration, impacts of climate change, emerging diseases, the effects of invasive species, and processes affecting endangered species and declining populations) are major areas of research. In pursuit of these objectives, a variety of basic sciences are used, including ecology and evolution, population biology, behavior, physiology, microbiology, and genetics. The scope of aquatic systems ranges from watersheds, rivers and lakes, to estuarine and near-shore shelf, open ocean systems and culture facilities. Graduates of the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences are uniquely qualified for careers in universities as well as other educational settings, natural resources management agencies at the local to international levels, environmental consulting, and non-profit organizations with an environmental focus.

Undergraduate Program

116 Fishery Sciences, Box 355020
(206) 543-7457

The School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS) offers the following programs of study:

  • The Bachelor of Science, with a major in aquatic and fishery sciences
  • A minor in aquatic and fishery sciences
  • An interdisciplinary minor in marine biology
  • An interdisciplinary minor in quantitative science

The school's undergraduate program has been substantially modified in recent years to reflect student and faculty interests in ecology and conservation biology, as well as more traditional fields such as stock assessment and fishery management. Faculty dedication to teaching, substantial benefit gained in close faculty contact within a relatively small program, and significant experiential training and research have made SAFS an appealing major that has doubled in recent years. The bachelor of science degree provides an underpinning in sciences such as biology, chemistry, and mathematics/statistics, then adds a core curriculum within aquatic sciences. Students study within areas of individual interest, grouped in three primary areas: aquatic ecology, conservation and management of aquatic resources, and biology and culture of aquatic animals.

Bachelor of Science

Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: Recommended courses for first year students: English composition; calculus; CHEM 120 or CHEM 142, and CHEM 220; BIOL 180; and FISH 250 and/or FISH 101. Recommended courses for second year students: BIOL 200 and BIOL 220; Q SCI 381; FISH 310 and/or FISH 311; and any additional courses that meet the College general education requirements. Students should start FISH core courses as soon as they meet the appropriate prerequisites.

Department Admission Requirements

Students in good academic standing may declare this major at any time, including on their application for admission to the UW. After notification of admission and before registration, new students should visit or email the Student Services Office for help in planning their programs.

Graduation Requirements

180 credits

General Education Requirements

All majors must satisfy the College of the Environment general education requirements.

Major Requirements

  1. Foundation Courses (50-55 credits)
    1. Mathematics (15 credits): either MATH 124 and MATH 125, or Q SCI 291 and Q SCI 292; Q SCI 381
    2. Chemistry (9-10 credits): either CHEM 120 or CHEM 142; either CHEM 152, CHEM 220, CHEM 223, or OCEAN 295
    3. Biology (15 credits): BIOL 180, BIOL 200; either BIOL 220 or FISH 270/OCEAN 270/MARBIO 270
    4. Physics (4-5 credits): either PHYS 114 or PHYS 121
    5. Two of the following (7-10 credits): either PHYS 115 or PHYS 122; either PHYS 116 or PHYS 123; OCEAN 210; GEOG 205; ATM S 211; OCEAN 230/ESS 230; OCEAN 285; FISH 330/ENVIR 330; ENVIR 313/ESS 315. See adviser for other acceptable courses in this category.
  2. Core (minimum 29 credits)
    1. FISH 290; FISH 300/OCEAN 300/MARBIO 300; FISH 310; FISH 311/BIOL 311
    2. Minimum 15 credits from three of the following: FISH 312, FISH 323, FISH 324, and FISH 340/BIOL 340
  3. Electives (minimum 16 credits, four courses): 400-level courses from within the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences for the major, excluding FISH 453/OCEAN 453, and FISH 477BIOL 477/OCEAN 477
    1. Maximum 3 credits total from FISH 479/BIOL 479/OCEAN 479, FISH 492/FHL 492/MARBIO 492, FISH 498, FISH 499
    2. Maximum 5 credits from each of FISH 489 and FISH 491
  4. Capstone (7-13 credits): FISH 493, FISH 494, FISH 495
  5. Minimum 2.00 cumulative GPA in all core, elective, and capstone courses applied to the major.

Continuation Policy

All students must make satisfactory academic progress in the major. Failure to do so results in probation, which can lead to dismissal from the major. For the complete continuation policy, contact the departmental adviser or refer to the department website.


Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Minor Requirements: Minimum 28 credits to include three courses (two of which must be at least at the 300 level) from FISH 101, FISH 250, FISH 310, FISH 311, FISH 312, FISH 323, and FISH 324; Q SCI 381 or Q SCI 482; minimum two upper-division FISH courses totaling at least 8 credits. Maximum 11 credits may overlap with a student's major.

Marine Biology

The minor in marine biology is sponsored jointly by the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, the School of Oceanography, and the College of Arts and Sciences, and is designed to immerse students in the study of marine organisms and ecosystems, starting in the freshman year. Because the experience of marine sciences cannot be taught entirely within the classroom, the minor is structured to provide ample opportunity for fieldwork and research within the coursework. A description of the minor can be found under the Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Program section of the catalog.

Quantitative Science

Students interested in quantitative skills applied to biological and ecological fields should consider minoring in quantitative science, an interdisciplinary minor supported by the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and the School of Enviromental and Forest Sciences. More information may be found on the Center for Quantitative Science website.

Student Outcomes and Opportunities

  • Learning Objectives and Expected Outcomes: Aquatic and fishery sciences is a life science major designed to provide students a broad framework of knowledge and sets of skills for employment in a variety of areas (e.g., natural resource management, environmental consulting, fish or aquatic wildlife biology, aquaculture). In addition, students receive excellent preparation for graduate study in a number of life science fields. Expected student outcomes include:
    1. Skills in written and oral communication, data analysis, field and laboratory skills. Skill sets have been integrated into all core and flagship courses.
    2. Exposure to career paths in the field and interaction with professionals. Skills gained allow students to obtain an entry-level aquatic scientist position or admission to graduate school.
    3. Emphasis in one of three focus areas (aquatic ecology, conservation and management, aquatic biology and culture); students get a broad overview, then may specialize in one of the three areas.
    4. Strong encouragement to pursue multiple internship and research experiences, including opportunities like FHL research apprenticeships and Alaska Ecological Research Program.
    5. Understanding not only of the science, but also the socio-political-economic environment and its impact on the field of aquatic and fishery sciences.
    6. All students participate in a capstone experience that requires them to demonstrate acquired skill sets (including public presentation in an undergraduate research symposium).

    SAFS graduates pursue careers in the private sector (environmental consulting firms, private companies), the public sector (state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, non-governmental agencies, education), and many continue into graduate programs in either research or policy. The undergraduate degree prepares students for either direct employment in a number of fields within public and private sectors, or for competitive entry into applicable graduate programs worldwide.

  • Instructional and Research Facilities: The School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences is housed in several buildings on the University of Washington campus. In addition, the school maintains various facilities off campus, including field research stations in Washington State and Alaska.
  • Honors Options Available: With College Honors (Completion of Honors Core Curriculum and Departmental Honors); With Honors (Completion of Departmental Honors requirements in the major).
  • Research, Internships, and Service Learning: SAFS scientists work closely with employers in both the public and private sectors, leading to opportunities for undergraduates to receive both internship and research experience. Scientists from area agencies (NOAA, National Marine Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Sciences Center, National Marine Mammal Lab, the U.S. Forest Service, the Student Conservation Association, and the Seattle Aquarium) come to the school to attend weekly SAFS departmental seminars; undergraduates are encouraged to attend. The School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences is second only to the UW Medical School in federal research dollars brought to the UW campus, providing many paid hourly student positions within the department.
  • Department Scholarships: Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit, financial need,and other factors. The annual application process for continuing students begins in spring; check with the Office of Student Services for applications and deadlines. All undergraduates, both freshmen and transfers, are considered for recruitment scholarships if they have declared AFS as their major on their application to the University of Washington.
  • Student Organizations/Associations: SURF (Society for Undergraduate Resources in Fisheries) organizes social, career, and educational activities for undergraduates in aquatic and fishery sciences. SURF also prints t-shirts, welcomes new students to the program, represents the program at events, and collaborates with student groups in other related departments on events.

Of Special Note:

  • The School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences has sent a small group of students and three faculty members to two Alaska Salmon Field Stations for a six-week course in aquatic ecology. These students receive education in ecology, limnology, population modeling, field techniques, scientific writing, and presentation skills.

Graduate Program

Graduate Program Coordinator
116 Fishery Sciences, Box 355020
(206) 616-5893

The School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, established in 1919, offers courses and conducts research on the conservation, management, and effective use of natural resources. Education and research in the school include studies of aquatic ecology; ichthyology; population dynamics; management of free-ranging stocks; restoration ecology; and effects of human activities on freshwater and marine ecosystems. SAFS is recognized internationally for its graduate programs, especially in the area of quantitative fisheries management, all research programs are well respected.

Students may apply for admission into programs leading to the master of science or doctor of philosophy. Students who apply for the PhD program must hold a master's degree prior to beginning their doctoral studies. All students who receive a master's degree from the school and wish to pursue a PhD are reviewed by the Recruitment, Admissions, and Scholarship Committee before being accepted into the PhD program.

Master of Science

Admission Requirements

  1. A bachelor's degree from an institution of recognized standing with a minimum 3.00 GPA in the last two years (90 quarter credits or 60 semester credits) of college work
  2. Typically at least a 500 on both the verbal and quantitative portions of the GRE and a 5 on the analytic portion (a 500 if taken before October 2002)
  3. If an international student, a minimum TOEFL score of 580 on written examination or 237 on computerized examination, or 70 on Internet-based examintation

Degree Requirements

45 credits as follows:

  1. School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences Core Courses:
    1. Q SCI 482
    2. At least two of the following, for 2 credits each: FISH 510, FISH 511, FISH 512, FISH 513, FISH 514, FISH 578, or QERM 597
    3. FISH 521
    4. FISH 522
    5. 18 credits of thesis research: FISH 700
  2. Additional Course Requirements: At least 12 credits of coursework at the 400 or 500 level, in addition to the SAFS core courses listed above. 4 of the 12 credits must be in 500-level courses. At least 9 of the additional 12 credits must be numerically graded.

Doctor of Philosophy

Admission Requirements

  1. Minimum 3.00 GPA for last two years (90 quarter credits or 60 semester credits) of graded college work
  2. GRE scores of 500 on the verbal and quantitative sections and 5 on the analytical section (500 if before October 2002)
  3. If an international student, a minimum TOEFL score of 580 on written examination or 237 on computerized examination, or 70 on Internet-based examination

Admission to the PhD Program after Receiving an MS Degree from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Students who wish to continue study toward the doctoral degree after receiving a master's from the School must apply to the Graduate Program Coordinator by way of the Student Services Office; the application is considered by the Recruitment, Admissions, and Scholarship Committee and a recommendation is then sent to the director for concurrence or denial. Applications must be submitted by the sixth week of the quarter in which the master's degree is conferred. For more information, refer to the SAFS website.

Bypassing the Master's Degree

Students admitted to the school at the pre-master's level may, under exceptional circumstances, proceed directly to post-master's study. Application should be made to the Graduate Program Coordinator via the Student Services Office for consideration by the Recruitment, Admissions and Scholarship Committee. More information is available on the SAFS website.

Students who bypass the master's degree must complete all PhD requirements within ten years of beginning graduate study, including MS coursework if used to fulfill any PhD requirements.

Degree Requirements

Minimum 90 credits, as follows:

  1. SAFS Core Courses: Same as those required of MS students. Must be taken as part of the doctoral program if they or their equivalents have not been taken during an MS program.
    1. Q SCI 482
    2. At least two of the following, for 2 credits each: FISH 510, FISH 511, FISH 512, FISH 513, FISH 514, FISH 578, or QERM 597
    3. FISH 521
    4. FISH 522
    5. 27 credits of doctoral dissertation: FISH 800 (a maximum of 10 dissertation credits may be taken in any one academic quarter)
  2. Additional Course Requirements: At least 48 credits of coursework at the 400 level or above, including dissertation credits, are required in addition to the required core courses listed above. Of those, at least 9 credits must be numerically graded.

Financial Aid

General information on graduate student support is available from the Office of Student Financial Aid, 105 Schmitz. The majority of first-year graduate students are offered research assistantships by appropriate faculty members, depending on the availability of research funding. The School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences also has a limited number of fellowship opportunities for outstanding entering students. Other students may have their studies supported by the agency for which they work or they may be international students with scholarships from their home countries.

Graduate applicants are urged to discuss their financial needs with professors in their potential major fields during the early stages of the graduate application process. The graduate applicant is automatically considered for any fellowships, research assistantships, or teaching assistantships available from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences when the admission application is submitted.