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Freshwater and Marine Biology

  • Bachelor of Science Major
  • Erie, Pennsylvania

Gannon’s freshwater and marine biology major is the only one of its kind in the area, situated just a few blocks from Lake Erie, the world’s 11th-largest lake and part of the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem. Students and faculty utilize a 48-foot research vessel - the Environaut - and advanced research facilities for classroom and research activities.

  • GU Possibilities
    •  Gannon’s freshwater and marine biology major is the only one of its kind in the area.   
    • Gannon’s campus is located just a few blocks from Lake Erie, the world’s 11th-largest lake and part of the world's largest freshwater ecosystem.
    • A variety of aquatic environments serve as natural laboratories for coursework and research. These include:
      • 23 major tributary streams to Lake Erie along the Pennsylvania shoreline  
      • French Creek   
      • Presque Isle State Park  
      • small, glaciated lakes  
      • Titus Bog  
    • Research opportunities with faculty in the biology department are numerous. Student presentations, awards and authorship on publications are evidence of our long-standing commitment to undergraduate research.  
    • Students and faculty utilize the 48-foot research vessel, the Environaut, and advanced research facilities for classroom and research activities.  

    You Will Learn

    The freshwater and marine biology major provides students with coursework and hands-on experience to prepare them for employment or graduate training in the field of aquatic science. Our location on the shore of Lake Erie makes Gannon the ideal place to study aquatic systems, gain valuable internship experience and secure job placement following graduation. As water resources become more in demand, the need for aquatic scientists is expected to grow. Our faculty engage students in field-based laboratory research opportunities to allow for the training needed to fill that demand.

    You Will Experience

    Students in the freshwater and marine biology major have a great number of opportunities for field internships with agencies and organizations such as Presque Isle State Park, Pennsylvania Sea Grant, Department of Environmental Protection, Erie County Board of Health, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, The Regional Science Consortium and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Many of these groups have offices in the Tom Ridge Environmental Center located at the entrance to Presque Isle State Park, and all of them are located within a few miles of campus.

    You Will Achieve

    Training in freshwater and marine biology opens the door to diverse career opportunities. As with many other majors, career opportunities in aquatic biology increase with post-baccalaureate training at the master’s or Ph.D. level. Such opportunities include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • aquatic ecologist  
    • aquatic microbiologist  
    • field ecologist  
    • fisheries biologist  
    • environmental analyst  
    • environmental consultant  
    • environmental educator  
    • environmental planner  
    • natural resource manager  
    • park naturalist  
    • university professor   

    You Will Earn

    Salaries in the field vary depending on level of education, experience, geographic location and employer.

    • ecologist: $42,000 - $90,000
    • environmental consultant: $43,000 - $75,000
    • environmental educator: $35,000 - $50,000
    • fisheries biologist: $45,000 - $65,000
    • park ranger: $40,000 - $60,000
    All salary information is compiled from data gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( and/or PayScale ( 

    You Will Study

    Example Course Descriptions

    The program provides broad training in biology, chemistry, environmental science and geology and allows students to choose from a variety of upper-level electives to customize their degree. Students in the program will have the opportunity to utilize Gannon’s 48-foot research vessel, the Environaut, to explore local water resources. The vessel serves as a laboratory for class work and research in conjunction with the newly renovated laboratories of Zurn Science Center. Students in this program will be well-equipped and prepared as they will receive hands-on experience and work side-by-side with faculty who are experts in the field.

    BIOL 385/386: Limnology

    Limnology is designed to acquaint the student with the biota of fresh waters through the use of modern limnological techniques. Special emphasis is placed on Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay.

    BIOL 383: Tropical Marine Biology 

    This course is offered over spring break in the Bahamas, where students investigate ecological systems such as coral reefs, mangroves, beaches, tidal pools and inland habitats.

    BIOL 488/489: Biology Research I and II 

    In this two-course sequence, students work individually with faculty to design and carry out a research project.  This experience takes classroom learning to the next level by providing students the skills and confidence required to be successful in their future careers.

    Liberal Studies Core

    The Liberal Studies Core Curriculum is one reflection of Gannon University's commitment to its Catholic identity. The Core's design offers students a defined, integrated, shared experience as the foundation for their undergraduate program.