Graduate Programs

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab offers diverse opportunities for graduate study in the marine sciences, focusing on the oceanography and ecology of estuaries and near-coastal communities and ecosystems. While the DISL serves as the focal point of graduate education in marine science in the state of Alabama, it is not a degree-granting institution, and graduate degrees are offered through ten of the 22 DISL Member Schools.

Dylan Kiene holds flounder as part of graduate research.

The Graduate Program at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab is carried out year-round in both our academic and summer terms. Graduate courses are taught on the DISL campus by resident faculty.

Graduate students opportunities include taking part in grant-funded expeditions. These expedition opportunities coincide with current DISL faculty research topics. Recent expeditions include the Ross Sea in Antarctica, the Mariana Forearc, and the New England Shelf.

Approximately 50 graduate students are in residence at the DISL on a year-round basis. Students generally undertake many of their formal course requirements during the first three semesters of study, at which time they also develop their thesis prospectus and initiate their research.

In addition to stipend support, the DISL provides significant support for students to carry out their thesis research (e.g.vessel and vehicle use, materials and supplies, and analytical support) as well as travel to regional and national meetings.

Lab photo from Ross Sea, Antarctica Expedition of Rachel Weisend, Dr. Brandi Kiel Reese, Caleb Boyd.

How to Apply

  1. Find a MESC School. Ten of our MESC schools offer graduate programs.
  2. Find your MESC School Liasion and register with that school.
  3. Register at DISL.
  4. Confirm your registration with your MESC School and DISL.
  5. Find funding and scholarship opportunities..
  6. Join the Marine Science Graduate Student Organization.

MESC Graduate Schools

Students interested in applying should contact potential advisors, the University Programs Registrar, or a campus liaison to learn more on how to apply.

The MESC schools listed below offer graduate programs in the field of marine science. The DISL curriculum is designed and integrated to meet the requirements of these member institutions program requirements. Degree emphasis includes Marine Science and Enviromental topics including fisheries, aquaculture, and conservation.

Registration at DISL

  1. Complete the online DISL graduate application.
    • You will need to provide proof of registration with your home MESC school.
    • Complete the vessel release and medical release forms. Notary required on each. You will upload these forms during the application process.
  2. Once you complete your application, you will receive a login to Populu via email.
    • Login to Populi to register for the classes you want to take under the student tab.
    • Click the + or - icons to add or delete a class.
    • Press save when you have your preferred courses selected.
  3. Select the my profile tab, then the registration tab.
  4. Email your proof of registration to DISL UP Registrar.

Confirming your DISL & MESC Registration

Research Faculty

The listing below highlights the research focus of our faculty and their students.

Ronald Baker, Ph.D.

  • Coastal Nursery Grounds
  • Fish Ecology
  • Coastal Seascapes
  • Shoreline Restoration

Ruth Carmichael, Ph.D.

  • Water Quality
  • Bioindicators of Human Influences
  • Shellfish Ecology
  • Marine Mammal Ecology

Brian Dzwonkowski, Ph.D.

  • Coastal Estuarine Hydrodynamics
  • Extreme Events in Marine Systems
  • Coupled Physical-Biogeochemical Processes

Kenny Hoadley, Ph.D.

  • Climate Change Biology
  • Coral Reef Algal Symbioses
  • Phytoplankton Physiology

Jeffrey Krause, Ph.D.

  • Water column silicon biogeochemistry
  • Benthic silicon biogeochemistry
  • Phytoplankton physiology

Sean Powers, Ph.D.

  • Fisheries
  • Habitat Restoration

Brandi Kiel Reese, Ph.D.

  • Life in Extreme Environments
  • Carbon Cycling
  • Sediment and Water Biogeochemistry
  • Microbial Ecology

Alison Robertson, Ph.D.

  • Harmful Algal Blooms (benthic HABs, pelagic HABs, cyanobacterial HABs)
  • Chemical and Behavioral Ecology
  • Ecotoxicology (linking environmental exposures to organism health, food web dynamics, and human health)
  • Toxinology (how and why marine toxins are produced and under what environmental/physiological conditions)

Lee Smee, Ph.D.

  • Marine Ecology & Conservation
  • Oyster Reef Restoration
  • Chemical & Sensory Ecology

Andrea Tarnecki, Ph.D.

  • Oyster Health and Disease
  • Seafood Safety
  • Oyster Aquaculture

Benjamin M. Titus, Ph.D.

  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Marine Invertebrate Biodiversity
  • Phylogenetics and Molecular Ecology
  • Symbiosis
  • Sea anemones
  • Coral Reefs

Stipend and Funding

Student stipend support is available through both university and DISL fellowships, university and DISL-funded teaching assistantships, and grant-funded research assistantships.

Over the past several years, more than 95 percent of our students have been fully-funded. Tuition varies based on the student’s home institution, although at many schools, funded students in good academic standing are also provided with tuition fellowships that can cover 100 percent of tuition costs.

Current DISL stipend rates are:

  • $18,000 - $19,000 MS students
  • $20,000 - $21,000 for Ph.D. students who have been admitted to candidacy.

At many schools, funded students in good academic standing are also provided with tuition fellowships that cover 100 percent of tuition costs.

Research Assistantships

Numerous graduate students are funded through extramurally-funded research assistantships that are available through individual faculty through their research programs. In general, teaching and research assistantships require a commitment of 20 hours per week (one-half time) by the students, although some research assistantships are funded on an hourly basis.

Most students obtain research assistantships through their faculty advisor, however, in some cases students may be able to obtain assistantships through other DISL faculty who are in need of help with their research projects.

Interested students should contact prospective faculty directly to obtain information on prospective funding opportunities that have not yet been formally announced. Find current opportunities at

DISL-FDA Graduate Fellowships

The deadline to apply for Fall 2025 is December 31, 2024, and on this date each year after that, contingent on funding availability.

Fellowships are open to incoming and existing graduate students working under the direction of a DISL resident faculty member and FDA researcher. Students must have applied to or be currently enrolled at a DISL member school. Interested applicants should contact Dr. Ruth H. Carmichael for more information.

Additional Information for Awardees

Marine Science Graduate Student Organization

2022 to 2023 MSGSO Officers

Marine Sciences Graduate Student Organization (MGSO) is a community of graduate students who are currently in the process of completing graduate degrees in the marine science field at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

The MSGSO works to facilitate communications between the faculty and administration of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and the graduate students. In addition, the group helps with DISL events (such as Discovery Day), works with other graduate student organizations to promote the annual Graduate Student Symposium, promotes community awareness, and plans fun events for our members throughout the year.

2024/2025 Officers

  • President - Zoey Hendrickson
  • Vice President - Bethany Kiley
  • Treasurer - Adam Jung
  • Social Events Coordinator - Sophia Corde
  • Service Events Coordinator - Jenny Duncan
  • Public Relations Officer - Jessica Hilliker
  • PhD Student Rep - Dottie Byron
  • MSc Student Rep - Anna Reimer

For membership and more information about the Marine Science Graduate Student Organization email