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Students line up beside the research vessel Point Sur.

Marine Science (Hydrography)

Hydrography is an emphasis area within Marine Science focused on mapping and charting of the oceans, seas, coastal areas and other bodies of water.

Follow in the Footsteps of the Great Explorers

The oceans are a very fragile environment whose exploitation must be carefully managed. It is the work of the hydrographer to chart this great frontier and to provide the expertise for their exploration and development.

Traditionally, the hydrographer has been associated with making the nautical charts that allow ships to navigate the world in safety but, as a science and profession, hydrographic surveying has evolved into an exciting, multi-disciplinary, and well-paying occupation.

The hydrographer is involved with every aspect of the collection, analyses, and management of oceanographic data that has applications for:

  • Safety of navigation from inland coastal waters to the deeps of the ocean trenches
  • Exploration for oil and gas
  • Engineering of ports, waterways, trans-oceanic cables, and offshore wind farms
  • Natural disaster and sea level rise inundation studies
  • Delineation of maritime boundaries
  • Underwater archaeology
  • Habitat mapping
  • Ocean circulation models
  • National marine spatial data infrastructures
  • Naval warfare


As a specialty area within the Marine Science undergraduate program, students take the following categories of courses:

  • General Education Courses (24 credit hours) – English, humanities, aesthetic values, and social and behavioral science electives
  • Prerequisite courses (41 credit-hours) - biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, and linear algebra
  • Marine Science degree courses (32 credit hours) – physical, geological, chemical, and biological oceanography, field methods, marine data management, marine GIS, acoustics, waves and tides, and ocean policy
  • Hydrography specialization (27 credit-hours) – 3-D positioning, electronic charting, nautical science, remote sensing, field methods, data analyses, field project, offshore construction, law for hydrographers, and hydrographic capstone

Degree Options

There is one Bachelor of Science (BS) degree available.

More about this Major


Students learn how to drive a small boat; receive hands-on training in hydrographic equipment and software; to collect, analyze and manage large data sets; and receive in-depth knowledge of advanced concepts in 3-d positioning and sonar portrayals of the ocean floor.

Graduates of this program obtain jobs with NOAA, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, foreign hydrographic services, international survey companies, and geophysical exploration companies. They work with a team of professionals that makes a difference for safety of life at sea, the maritime transportation infrastructure, energy independence, coastal development, or national security.

This brand new program is the only undergraduate degree program in hydrographic science in the USA. The related hydrographic science graduate degree program has graduated 187 students from 24 countries and has a record of 100% job placement.

Courses You Might Take

MAR 416: Nautical Science

Southern Miss faculty on the water for a field expedition

Introduction to navigation including rules of the road, nautical charts and navigational publications; overview of safety and seamanship, including safe practice and ship behavior

HYD 304: 3-D Positioning

Geodetic systems, coordinate systems, methods for static and dynamic GNSS, positioning, angular and distance measurements

HYD 420: Field Methods for Hydrography

Research personnel looking at data onboard a research vessel

Best practices for tide gauge installation, the use SB and MB echo sounders for hydrography, principles and geometry of side-scan sonars, and integration of GNSS and motion sensors

HYD 421: Hydrography Field Project

Research personnel checking a piece of equipment

Students working as a hydrographic survey team must demonstrate capabilities in all facets of hydrography in the completion of a small project.

HYD 422: Hydrographic Data Analyses

Data readout on a research vessel

Students working as a hydrographic survey team must demonstrate practical capabilities to process and analyze collected data that meet international and national standards for quality survey data.

Meet Some of Your Professors

Maxim Van Norden

Coordinator & Instructor, Hydrographic Science

Favorite Course: MAR 412

Expertise: Hydrographic Science

Dr. David E. Wells

Professor Emeritus

Dr. Stephan D. Howden

Associate Professor

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