MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The University of South Alabama has now added both a marine and environmental science major to its list of bachelor’s degrees for undergrad students.  

Tuesday morning, the university welcomed 28 new students to their first-ever marine science major class.

Originally, South Alabama only offered minor and master programs in these fields but, in March they were approved to finally add the major.

The marine science major offers a semester by the sea where students will take classes at the Dauphin Island sea lab to gain hands-on experience.

Tabor Smith, was initially a biology student with a concentration in marine sciences at South Alabama. With the newly added marine science major, he can solely focus on his dream career but he says it’s not just a good thing for him but for future students as well.

“I’ve always wanted to go into marine sciences, I knew that has always been a path that I wanted to take,” said Smith, a junior and president of the marine science club. “There wasn’t a major so that was kind of a bummer to me but now that we have that, it’s going to be a great marketable thing. We are the closest to the coast and the closest to the sea lab so why would you not go to South Alabama for marine sciences.”

Director of the school of marine and environmental sciences, Dr. Sean Powers, said the $5 million investment to establish the school, represents about a decade of work to ensure students have the resources needed to succeed in this profession right on campus.

Powers told us how important it is to have both new majors and what it means for student’s future careers

“Even though we have a relatively small coast, the impact of tourism and all of that is based on the fact that we have healthy oceans and a healthy ecosystem, couple that with obviously we have climate change, sea level rise and some legacy pollution problems that have to be addressed and that all requires a well-trained workforce,” said Powers.

Marine Science Instructor, Dr. Amy Sprinkle said having this new major will allow students to connect with the coastal community and realize what they do matters to the marine ecosystem.

“Whether or not they’re from Mobile, those two to four years that they’re here at South they’re part of a coastal community so they can take part in sharing the beach, the sea turtle nesting program or the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network,” said Sprinkle.

Collaborations with local organizations, a marine science club, International travels and sea lab training are just a few of the opportunities the degree in marine science will provide for interested students.