Anatomy & Function of Marine Vertebrates

Course Dates

June 17, 2024 to July 1, 2024


One semester of college-level biology or equivalent.

Equivalent Note

Cornell students: Biology & Society majors, this course fulfills the (II) Foundation Courses > (C) Biology Foundation > Biological Diversity requirement.

Course Description

students in Anatomy and Function class dissecting a fish

In this course, students will study structure, evolution, physiology, and biomechanics to investigate how vertebrates use anatomy to interface with the marine environment. Activities include marine mammal necropsies, trawling, whale watching, trips to the intertidal, and visits to nearby seal and seabird colonies. Each student will complete an independent research project on a topic within the field of anatomy and function.

Learning outcomes for this course include:

  • Identify structural adaptations of marine vertebrates from the various anatomical systems;
  • Demonstrate good dissection technique;
  • Understand mechanisms of animal movement by integration of structural mechanics, muscle physiology, kinematics and fluid mechanics;
  • Examine evolutionary pathways and selective pressures for the development of anatomical systems to function in the marine environment.

Internship opportunity: This course is a recommended experience for SML's Marine Mammal Internship.

"This two-week course prepared me more for med school than any other college class I took!" - Maya Koretzky (AFMV '11, AFMV TA '12)



Course Numbers

Cornell: BIOSM 3210 (3 Credits)
UNH: MEFB 754 (4 Credits)

Sample Syllabus

Tuition & Fees

Financial Support



Dr. Nicholas Gidmark

image of Nicholas Gismark, holding a marine mammal bone

Assistant Professor, Biology Department, Knox College





Emily McParland

Headshot of Emily Brown, smiling

PhD student, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Brown University

Check out this article (and video) about mummichog locomotion conducted by Dr. Stacy Farina and Noah Bressman (SML '11, '13, Cornell '16). Noah began this project as a student in Anatomy & Function of Marine Vertebrates, and it turned into an undergraduate thesis and a published scientific paper.

Read: "Back-Flipping Fish Look Before They Leap Across Land"